Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor
Rethink charter-school stance, says The Times
Parent involvement is key
The Times’ editorial on Aug. 20 makes a very important point [“PTA should rethink charter-school stance,” Opinion].
The charter schools that outperform the public schools have one thing in common: parent involvement. Often these schools have a requirement for parent involvement, which is one very effective way of dodging those children who don’t have good support for education at home.
If the school requires parent involvement, then those parents who both work full-time jobs and have long commutes, or those single-parent homes where the parent works two jobs and comes home exhausted simply avoid getting their kids into the lottery in the first place.
Parents from homes that are so dysfunctional that the children are neglected don’t bother to enter their kids in the lottery. More importantly, the school avoids children of parents who are addicted to one drug or another. Those parents don’t want the attention that parent involvement would draw. This is a very effective way of avoiding those deeply wounded, rage-filled children that are such a drain on the school’s resources.
If a charter school can avoid 10 or 12 such kids, then the school can avoid a huge chunk of the work that falls on the staff of regular schools. This is a great help in accumulating the statistics that create the illusion that they are outperforming public schools.
— Tim Young, Bainbridge Island
Charters discourage special-needs, underperforming students
Perhaps The Seattle Times should reconsider its lock-step thinking about charter schools in light of the actual performance of charters in other states and our own state constitution.
Diane Ravitch, education historian and best-selling author, was an early supporter of charter schools when they were first proposed in 1996. However, after researching their enrollment practices, high teacher turnover and overall disappointing results, she changed her view to oppose charters. In addition to “deselecting” students by discouraging special-needs students and counseling underperforming students, charter schools create dissent in communities, especially over scarce resources.
Community dissent is the last thing we need as our Legislature addresses our Supreme Court-mandated school-funding deficit.
Though the initiative proponents claim charters are designed to help low-achieving students and schools, nowhere in the initiative can you find language specifying low-performing schools.
And nowhere is there language requiring charters to enroll special needs and English-language learners at the same rate as our existing schools. Nor is there language assuring a strong parent voice in the management of the charter school or authorizing body.
The initiative also sneaks in the American Legislative Exchange Council-supported (ALEC) parent and teacher trigger allowing a private entity to take over an existing school, even though the parents may not be eligible voters or the teachers residents of the school district.
I thank the Washington state PTSA board for sticking by its principles by opposing not only this initiative but also Initiative 1085 that mandates a two-thirds majority for revenue enhancements and closing loopholes.
— Patrice Griffith, Seattle