Tonight the Seattle School Board will decide on a resolution against Initiative 1240, the charter school measure, which polls show voters are likely to pass in November. Unfortunately, the Seattle School Board is likely to pass this resolution. This Board has shown an unwillingness to consider innovative changes to the way schools are run, and it strongly opposes any threat to its top-down, central power over the 93 schools in the district.

Charter schools shift power away from centralized bureaucracies and give school principals and teachers real freedom and flexibility to design school programs which best meet the needs of their students. It is this freedom from central district control, plus the talent of the teachers and principals in these schools, that has led to charter school success at erasing achievement gaps between minority and non-minority children in Boston, New York City, Los Angeles and East Palo Alto, Yuma, Arizona and elsewhere.

Under Initiative 1240, parents would be allowed the freedom to seek a charter school education for their children. Parents of two million students now attend charter schools in 41 states, and 610,000 students sit on charter school wait lists. In Seattle, parents are forced to enroll their children in their local neighborhood school, even if that school fails to successfully educate children.

If the Seattle School Board passes this resolution against charter school Initiative 1240, it is likely to be embarrassed on November 6th, when the larger public in Washington state passes Initiative 1240. Passing this resolution may jeopardize the ability of the Seattle School District to later win approval from the State Board of Education to become a charter school authorizer, as the Seattle School Board will have indicated its antipathy to charter schools.

I wonder if the Seattle School Board has fully considered the implications of being left behind as this charter school reform excites and lifts the hopes of parents and students across the state. Initiative 1240, to allow children the option to attend one of forty charter schools, represents the most promising education reform in Washington state in 30 years.


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]