08 September 2015

In Your Face Bill Gates

Basically, they said that the structure of charter schools, public funds but no public review or public accountability, violate the state constitution:
The Washington State Supreme Court, in a late Friday surprise, delivered a ruling that the state’s voter-passed, billionaire-backed charter school initiative is unconstitutional.

The high court’s 6-3 ruling found that the independently organized schools do not pass muster as common public schools and therefore cannot receive public funding.

“We hold that provisions of Initiative 1240 that designate and treat charter schools as common schools violate article IX, Section 2 of our state Constitution and are void,” Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote in the majority opinion.

“This includes the Act’s funding provision, which attempts to tap into and shift a portion of moneys allocated for common schools to the new charter schools authorized by the Act. Because the provisions designating and funding charter schools as common schools are integral to the Act, such void provisions are not severable …”


I-1240 passed by a 1 percent margin in 2012, after charter schools had previously been rejected three times by Washington voters. Ninety-eight percent of its $10 million-plus war chest came from just 21 individuals. Bill Gates put up $3 million, Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton gave $1.7 million, Vulcan Inc. (Paul Allen’s development company) was good for $1.6 million, and liberal entrepreneur Nick Hanauer donated $1 million. The father of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos gave $500,000.


In another telling passage from Madsen’s opinion, the court stated: “Under the Act (I-1240), charter schools are devoid of local control from their inception to their daily operations.”

“The Supreme Court has affirmed what we’ve said all along — charter schools steal money from our existing classrooms and voters have no say in how these charter schools spend taxpayer funds,” said Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association.
(emphasis mine)

Of course, over at Curmudgucation, Peter Green offers a modest proposal* to deal with this ruling:

So, find ways to rewrite the law so that charter money can stay in its own little lock box in its own big silo. This seems a bit overthought and overwrought. The court's decision, as I understand it, is based on the idea that charter schools cannot receive "common school" public funds because they are not overseen by an elected school board. And if that's the case, charters can fix this very easily. Are you paying attention, charter operators? I have your solution right here.

Just submit to being overseen by an elected school board.

Act like the public schools you claim to be. Make your finances and operation completely transparent to the public.

And allow yourselves to be overseen by an elected school board instead of a collection of individuals who are not answerable to the voters or the taxpayers.

I mean-- what's more important to you? Providing a strong educational alternative for those 1,200 students, or holding on your ability to do whatever you want without having to answer to the public? Is it so important to you that you not be accountable to the public that you would rather engage in time consuming rewrites of state law, or even just close your doors, rather than let yourself submit to transparent and open oversight by a group of citizens elected by the very taxpayers whose money you use to run your school?
We already know that charter schools are prone to overpaying their founders, forcing kids out who would bring down their test scores through abuse of the disciplinary process, and ignoring federal law on disabilities, so adding oversight to ensure that contracts, discipline, and special education policies is not a bad idea.

The impetus for charter schools have come from two sources, those people determined to destroy teachers unions because they hate unions, and the financial types who see a profit center funded by the general public.

Neither of these groups can tolerate the idea of transparency or due process, because it makes it too difficult for them to accomplish their nefarious goals.

H/t Diane Ravitch for pointing me to Mr. Greene.

*Yes, this is a allusion to Jonathan Swift's essay.


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