Thursday, March 10, 2016

WA: Yet Another Charter Solution

Washington State has been scrambling to solve its charter school problem, leading to some creative solutions indeed.

The Washington courts found the charter school law (pushed through the state with a giant ramrod made of tightly wrapped charter fan money) unconstitutional, because charter schools spend pubic tax dollars with absolutely no oversight from taxpayer-elected officials. A public school is not a public school if the only thing public about it is the public dollars given to private organizations to run it (ironically, this is a variation on the argument used by Eva Moskowitz to successfully argue that the state could not audit her charters).

Despite the ruling that they were essentially operating illegally, the nine charter schools of Washington state went ahead and opened anyway.

That led to a solution that danced around both the spirit and the letter of the court decision. In a maybe-not-technically-illegal-but-certainly-shady mechanism (described in well-documented and painstaking detail by Dora Taylor at Seattle Education), the Gates Foundation enlisted the Mary Walker School District and the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to launder both private and public money and keep it flowing to the charter schools. It helped that Mary Walker's superintendent is Kevin Jacka, former Washington State Charter Commission member.

Meanwhile, charter fans like Robin Lake kept beating the drum for a rules change so that these outstanding schools (because the charters had somehow managed to prove their awesomeness in just five months) could stay open.

Please note-- the court ruling had made the route for charter rescue clear. The court ruled the charter law unconstitutional because charters fail the definition of public, or common, schools by having no elected public official oversight. Charters in Washington could be saved instantly just by instituting oversight by a publicly elected representatives of the taxpayers whose money is being spent.

But that, apparently, is a bridge too far for charter fans. Slap charters with whatever regulations you like, but don't ever suggest that they should be accountable to the taxpayers for how they spend taxpayer money.

And so the legislature is floating yet another solution.

The bill "aiming to fix" charter funding is actually a bill aiming to give charters a completely different funding source. According to the SeattlePI:

The proposal would re-establish a statewide charter authorizing commission and use lottery money to pay for the schools. But it would not give them access to local levy dollars.

The bill (Senate Bill 6194) that passed the House on Wednesday is close to the original Senate bill which also passed. Now they just have to iron out the bumps.

Of course, critics point out that one bump is that the bill doesn't actually address the findings of the court, since it still leaves the charter schools in the control of unelected boards. It does leave the state funding and operating two entirely separate schools systems which  is a really inefficient and wasteful creative choice.

One has to admire the massive ballsiness of Washington state charter pushers. They shoved through a law that was ruled unconstitutional, and then thumbed their noses at the court by opening their charters anyway, claiming that keeping the illegal charters open was everyone else's problem, while at the same time running a money-laundering scheme to fund the schools.

Now they will find more state money to fund the schools, which would be only medium ballsy except don't forget this-- the Washington Supreme Court last summer hit the state government with a fine because they refused to fully fund the public school system they already have. So Washington state is kind of like a guy who won't make his mortgage payments, but sells off the furniture so he can buy a second house.

But for the profiteers of Washington, the most important thing is to get that charter industry up and running. Their standing argument is that they need the charters (currently serving about 1,200 students) to meet the individual needs of the students, because obviously a large school with a large staff and a wide variety of different programs is just a "one-size-fits-all" school, while a small school with a small staff if perfectly poised to meet a wide variety of needs. But charter pushers in Washington will not rest until they can meet the most important needs of all-- the needs of charter operators to be able to set up shop and collect public money without having to answer to anyone. 

1 comment:

  1. One-size-fits-all doesn't seem to bother education reformers one bit when it comes to standardized testing.