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home : opinion : opinion

10/10/2012 2:17:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Give parents more public school options: Vote yes on I-1240

Clyde Bellard

Whether you live in Cashmere or a bigger town like Wenatchee or Yakima, when it comes to educating our children, Washington parents agree that more public school options are a good thing. A school that works for one child doesn't necessarily work for all kids.

That's why I'm voting yes on Initiative 1240, to allow a limited number of public charter schools to be authorized in Washington state over the next five years.

Charter schools are an important educational option available through the public school systems in 41 other states, and every year, these schools are helping more and more students succeed.

Our traditional public schools in our state are working well for many kids, but not for all students. 

Allowing public charter schools as an option for parents and students here in Washington simply makes sense.

It's important for voters to know that charter schools are public schools.

They're free and open to all students, just like other public schools, and they receive funding based on student enrollment, just like traditional public schools.

Teachers in public charter schools are also held to the same certification requirements as teachers in other public schools. And, Initiative 1240 requires that public charter schools operate with strict oversight and accountability, including annual performance reviews. Charter schools are independently managed by approved non-profits, and will be overseen by either a local school board or a newly created charter school commission.

The key difference between a public charter school and a traditional public school is that charter schools are free from many district policies and regulations that limit options in curriculum, budgets and staffing. So, teachers and principals in public charter schools have more flexibility to meet the individual needs of their students.

This is especially important for students who aren't succeeding in traditional school settings, or who need a different learning environment to find success.

As a parent, I know that every child learns differently. Allowing public charter schools in our state will provide more options for parents and students to find the best school environment for our kids.

Because charter schools are public schools, free and open to all students, no money leaves the public school system. I-1240 does not change current state law regarding public school funding, so just like under current law, the money follows the child and stays within the public school system, serving public school students, just as it does now when a child transfers from one school to another.

Let me be clear -- I-1240 doesn't take any money away from our public school system or our public school students.

According to research, public charter schools have achieved outstanding success in other states in helping students succeed in school. States with the strongest charter school laws, like I-1240, are getting the best results for their kids.

I-1240 also has strong language regarding parent and local community involvement. Under I-1240, local school boards can choose to become charter school authorizers.

And, I-1240 requires parent representation on the newly created state charter school commission. It also requires that public charter schools demonstrate community need as well as parent and community support before a charter school can be approved.

While many public schools across our state are serving our kids very well, there are still more than 14,000 kids who drop out of school every year in Washington. Even more who graduate from high school still need remedial help in college or are unprepared to enter the workforce. We need more options in our public schools to help all kids succeed.

A good education is essential for every child to have a chance for a successful future. Whether we are parents, grandparents, teachers or simply voters who care about our communities and our kids, we should do everything we can to provide our children with every opportunity and option for success.

Voting "yes" on I-1240 is one thing we can do. A "yes" vote on I-1240 will improve educational opportunities for kids across our state. As parents, whether in towns big or small, this is something we can all agree is a good thing.

Please join with me in voting yes on Initiative 1240.

Clyde Ballard represented north-central Washington in the state House of Representatives for over 20 years. From 1995-2001 he served as Speaker of the House.

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