The Washington State PTA says it won’t support the charter school measure, Initiative 1240, that will come before voters in November.
The decision comes despite the fact that the parent volunteer organization has previously endorsed the concept of charter schools.
Charters, already authorized in 41 states, are publicly funded schools that allow significant decisions to be made at a school level, rather than by a school district or state officials. Three times in the past 16 years, Washington voters have turned down charter proposals.
“This wasn’t a decision about the value of charter schools,” state PTA President Novella Fraser said in a news release. “This was a decision about whether this initiative met our criteria.”
PTA’s governing board made its decision Aug. 10, criticizing I-1240 for what it characterizes as a lack of citizen involvement and oversight in charter schools that could result if the initiative passes.
Initiative supporters say the PTA board’s decision is misguided.
“We believe it’s a misreading of the initiative,” said Shannon Campion, director of Washington Stand for Children, one of the groups behind the initiative. “There is strong parent involvement and local control within 1240.”
PTA faults the initiative on several fronts, saying that:
• It permits charters to be authorized either by a local school district or by a nine-member statewide commission made up of political appointees, only one of whom is required to be a public school parent.
• Charters approved by the statewide commission would have the potential to bypass local oversight of how tax dollars are spent.
• There’s no guarantee that a charter school’s governing board would include parents. “There’s nothing prohibiting it, but there’s nothing requiring it,” said Washington PTA director Bill Williams.
Last year, Washington PTA endorsed the idea of charters. And the national PTA also supports charters that meet its standards for accountability, parent engagement and more.
Campion said I-1240 does ensure that parents have a voice. But she said the details are contained in the charter application requirements. She said nonprofit groups that apply to run charter schools would be required to offer a clear plan for family outreach.
Campion said it’s true that the initiative would not require a parent-run school board. But she points out that there’s no current requirement that elected school board members in public school districts be parents, either.
Campion argued that charters by their very nature offer “a ton of parent involvement.” She said that in charter schools around the country, parents are often involved at a higher level than they are in traditional public schools.
“Just the act of sending your child there,” she said. “You have to choose it, do research, opt in.”debbie.cafazzo@ thenewstribune.com 253-597-8635 @DebbieCafazzo