Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Switching positions . . .

In this series of posts from the Washington Policy Center by Live Finne, Director, Center for Education we get a glimpse of the politics surrounding the charter school initiative.  In this first post we learn that the state PTA Board voted 11 to 6 in August to not support I 1240, thus undoing two general membership votes in support of the November ballot measure.

With this sudden reversal, Executive Director Bill Williams, President Novella Fraser and the rest of the PTA board summarily cancelled two carefully considered votes by the representatives of PTA members. These delegates in good faith had traveled from across Washington to come together and discuss, deliberate and vote on the pressing issue of public school reform. Two years in a row PTA delegates have endorsed allowing charter schools in Washington state.

In this post she shares at the national level how the PTA reaffirmed its commitment to charter schools and how the Washington decision may place the state affiliate in a difficult position with the education reform community. 

Ms. Landers [president of the National PTA] noted that almost 50 percent of public charter schools in operation today are authorized by “alternate bodies” [state and other authorizing entities] and that many local PTAs are already working with those entities. She urged state chapters to become familiar with the policy and make sure their state advocacy efforts complied with it, a step she said was critical to ensuring that the organization’s position on charters remains relevant.

And, in this post she shares how the decision to undo support may result in the PTA being excluded from participation in the state charter school authorizing process.

By overturning the recommendation of PTA convention delegates and coming out against charter schools, the PTA board would not meet the standard of “demonstrating an understanding of and commitment to charter schooling.” Since it would be officially against the charter school initiative as an education reform strategy, the PTA might be making itself ineligible for appointment to the state commission.

Finally, in this post she shares why she thinks I 1240 will give Washington the best charter school law in the country.

Here is link to the state PTA web page giving a rationale for the vote against supporting I 1240.  The spokesperson made it clear the vote was not against charter schools, but instead was a vote driven by the lack of alignment with existing PTA criteria for local control and parent engagement.

In the initiative, charter schools could be authorized by either a local school board or a new state charter school commission made up of nine appointees. Authorizers are in charge of reviewing the charter schools and ensuring they are meeting performance expectations. The potential of bypassing local oversight conflicted with a long-held position of the association: local tax dollars should be managed by locally elected school boards. Also troublesome for the association is that there are no requirements for parents to serve on charter school boards. Advocating for strong partnerships with shared decision making at every level – classroom, building, district, state and national – is a cornerstone of the association.

What are your thoughts related to the PTA Board decision to undo the membership vote to support charter schools?  Why would they do it?  I expect that things will soon heat up as the supporters use their deep pockets to support a yes vote.  What will the anti-campaign look and sound like as they have far fewer dollars to work with?

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