Washington State Director of Democrats for Education Reform, Lisa Macfarlane, responds to Justin Baeder’s recent article in Education Week, “Charter Rhetoric Heating Up in WA State.”
What is heating up in Washington State is a desire to do better by our children. It is for that reason why those that have previously opposed charters (including myself) have switched sides to be supportive of this form of public education.
Why is there so much interest now in public charter schools for Washington State?
Because the status quo is keeping our poor and minority kids at an educational disadvantage.
Because it is unconscionable that an African American kid growing up in South Seattle or South King currently has an 11% chance of getting a college degree or career credential. The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that, by 2018, 67% of the jobs in Washington State will require a college degree or a career credential. In the meantime, our region’s high paying jobs are going to kids from other states and other countries.
Our achievement gaps are unacceptable and unconscionable. If we stay on our current path, Washington will close its achievement gaps in 105 years, according to the Center on Education Policy. States more committed to education reform, like Louisiana, will close their gaps in 12.5 years.
Charter school advocates are the first to admit that there are both good and bad charter schools, which are serving a higher proportion of minority and low income students than traditional public schools. But let’s be honest. The high quality public charter schools, like K.I.P.P., Aspire, YES Prep, and Uncommon Schools are making major headway on helping disadvantaged kids succeed. They have given thousands of low-income and minority kids a fantastic education and, as a result, have changed the trajectory of their lives.
Washington has precious few traditional public schools serving the needs of low-income and minority students. A few good high achieving charters serving the kids in our high poverty communities would give us the proof points we so desperately need. The bill that is before the Washington legislature is very different from the ones voters turned down in the past. It focuses on educationally disadvantaged students and it takes advantage of the lessons learned in other states about the need for a strong authorizing environment.