|WA Charters Newsletter|
|Putting Children First||
Time To Choose: Referendum 55 on November Ballot!
Wednesday, September 8, 2004
It's time to choose.
In less than two months, during the Presidential Election on November 2, the voters of Washington State will decide whether they want to join the 40 states that have already authorized the CHOICE of charter public schools.
The choice will be presented in the form of Referendum 55.
ACTION REQUESTED-1: If you know which side you're on, take action! Get involved! The web sites for the two campaigns are below.
ACTION REQUESTED-2: If you are still undecided, get informed! There's more information below and elsewhere on this web site, and on the World Wide Web.
WHAT ARE CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS?
Charter Public Schools are:
WHY DO WE NEED CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN WASHINGTON?
Although our state has many fine public schools, 30% of our students never graduate from high school. For certain minority students, including Latinos, African American, and Native Americans, the high school dropout rate is 50% or more! Every year, tens of thousands of children fall through the cracks of the regular public education system. They just don't thrive in the regular public schools. We need to do more to help these children and their families. Charter public schools represent an important tool -- already authorized in 40 other states -- that can help educators teach these children more effectively.
HOW DID R-55 GET ON THE BALLOT?
In March 2004, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill (Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 2295) authorizing the creation of charter public schools, with an emphasis on schools serving academically disadvantaged students. The bill was passed by the Republican-controlled state Senate, the Democrat-controlled state House of Representatives, and signed by Governor Locke. However, opponents of the law, led by various labor unions, collected enough signatures to suspend the law until voters either approve it, or reject it, in a statewide vote on November 2.
WHAT HAPPENS IF R-55 IS APPROVED BY VOTERS ON NOVEMBER 2?
If Referendum 55 is approved by the voters, qualified, non-sectarian, non-profit organizations will be authorized to propose the creation of up to 45 new charter public schools statewide as well as the conversion of persistently low performing district-run schools to charter public schools. Today, our state has about 2,000 public schools, of which many are “persistently low performing."
WHY ARE THEY CALLED CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS?
Each charter public school operates according to a “charter” or detailed performance contract between the school’s founders (teachers, parents, and community leaders) and elected government officials (either the local school board or the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction).
ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS ACCOUNTABLE?
The charter contract is what makes charter public schools so accountable for achieving their mission of improving student achievement, especially for educationally disadvantaged students. All charter public schools have five years to become as good or better than regular public schools at serving similar students. If this overriding goal is not achieved, or if the charter school is mismanaged or violates any of the promises it made in its charter, the charter must be cancelled, the school closed, and all of the adults who work there must look for employment elsewhere. That’s real accountability; accountability with consequences.
WHAT DOES A CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOL LOOK LIKE?
A proposed charter school design may include just about anything the school’s founders choose, as long as the school fulfills the following basic requirements:
This design flexibility allows charter school founders to tailor their schools to the specific needs of their students and to try new, innovative educational methods.
Examples of charter public schools in other states include:
WILL CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS RAISE OUR TAXES?
Authorizing charter public schools will not raise taxes. Charter public schools will be funded with the same state funds (about $5,500/year) that currently follow children when they move from one school district to another. Charter public schools will NOT receive any local levy funding (about $1,000 - $2,000/year) or capital funding UNLESS the local school board AND local voters approve.
Unlike regular public schools, however, charter public schools will be eligible to receive federal start-up grants, which generally average about $450,000 per school. Charter public schools will also be eligible to receive funding from non-religious charities. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested over $130 million dollars to help create high-quality charter public schools in most of the 40 states where this innovative education reform is already authorized.
As a result, charter public schools should
TIME TO CHOOSE.
Many people think that offering the CHOICE of charter public schools would be great for many children, their families, and talented educators whose hands are often tied by the bureaucracy of the current system. Others disagree. Voters will decide on November 2. Please research the issue carefully, make your choice, and vote!
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