Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Round 2 in Washington State over charter schools | Seattle Education

Round 2 in Washington State over charter schools | Seattle Education:

To Kill a Vampire: The Continued Resurrection of Charter Schools in Washington State


Washington state residents have voted charter schools down three times.
Twice, initiatives were placed on a statewide ballot—once in 1996 and then in 2000—and both were defeated. The same happened with a referendum in 2004. In 2012, charter school proponents were able to place initiative 1240, which is based on a model bill provided by theAmerican Legislative Exchange Council, on a statewide ballot.
The very wealthy—although very few—proponents of the initiative spent a whopping $10.9 million to promote the bill, making it the third most expensive initiative campaign in state history. Six “individuals” collectively spending more than $9 million included the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. Opponents of the measure raised about $700,000. The initiative passed by a 50.69 percent majority vote,the slim victory exposing the lack of support for charter schools in the state.
After the charter school initiative became law, an organized group of residents filed a lawsuit claiming that the state’s charter schools were unconstitutional. On September 4, 2015, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that charter schools are not “common schools” per the state constitution, and therefore cannot be funded by common school funds. The judges noted that charter schools are not publicly governed, subject to local accountability, or under the authority of democratically elected school boards.
But the charter champions weren’t done.
After the court’s ruling, the Washington Charter Association revealed that it had secured $14 million in private funds to keep charter schools open. At the time, there were approximately 800 students enrolled in charter schools throughout the state. Behind the scenes, Bill Gates, via the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Mary Walker School District, approached a rural school district to take on the charter schools through the remainder of the school year. The Mary Walker School District, in the northeast corner of the state, has an enrollment of 508 students. In a letter dated December 9, 2015, the district Superintendent Kevin Jacka announced that his district would be taking on the charter schools scattered around the state (even though this was against the court ruling).
The Washington Charter Association approached Jacka about placing the state’s charters under the umbrella of his district’s Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program. This state program was set up primarily for public school students who for various reasons need to study at home with a student learning plan. In a deal made at a local Starbucks, representatives from the Gates Foundation, the Washington Charter Association, and the Mary Walker School District agreed to terms where the Mary Walker School District would oversee the charter schools and receive $3 million in grants. Representatives from the Gates Foundation wrote the initial grant to be submitted by the Mary Walker School District and had Jacka approve it before it was submitted to the Bill and Melinda Gates Round 2 in Washington State over charter schools | Seattle Education: