Here in Washington State we have the unique opportunity to vote for charter schools (I-1240) on November 6th. Those of us that think education reform is needed, see this as a once in a decade opportunity to improve the education options available to the students that need it the most -- the ones on the less advantaged side of the education divide.
Here are the main data points:
- Charter schools are public schools open to everyone -- if more people apply than can be accommodated, students are picked by lottery. In the 41 states that already have charter schools there are 600,000 students on waiting lists and 2 million students enrolled.
- Charter schools are funded just like public schools (by the student enrolled) -- so this initiative will not increase the cost of education in Washington State.
- Charter schools have the same academic requirements as public schools -- but have the ability to have longer school days, different curriculum, and make other decisions associated with the operations of their schools. The teachers also must be certified -- just like in public schools.
- Charter schools in other states deliver very good results -- opponents often state that charter schools fail too. Any time there are thousands of organizations -- some will perform poorly. But since charter schools have to attract students (customers) and cannot compel them to attend (like regular public schools) --so failing charter schools do close down -- and that is a good thing. Also, it is important to note that most charter schools serve low income students. If even if charter schools only deliver results equal to all public schools, but are serving the disadvantaged students, it is a dramatic improvement. If you divide all students by economic background into four groups, the lowest group graduates 6% from high school, and the top group graduates 89%. (see correction below)
- Charter schools are not run for profit or by religeous organizations -- only qualified not for profit, non religeous organizations can run charter schools. In some cases, existing public schools can become charter schools
So, please join me in voting for Initiative 1240 on November 6.
If you want to read more, here is a great site: YesOn1240
Also, here is a site that covers the charter school movement nationally: Charter School Resource Center
And here is the site of KIPP schools, an amazing example of what we could have.
Here is my review of Work Hard, Be Nice, the book about the founding of KIPP. If you are tired of being depressed about the quality of education in Washington State -- you should really read this book.
LATER: Correction. I did a bit more research on these numbers. Turns out they are about Bachelor's Degree attainment by age 24. Either way, the education divide is getting worse -- much worse. Here is a link to the study.