Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. View the No on 1240 op-ed here.
As a parent, educator, and former PTA President, I know that a one-size-fits-all approach to education doesn’t work for all students. Parents need more options to find the best learning environment for our kids, and students need more options to find the best pathways to success in school.
That’s why I’m voting YES on Initiative 1240, the statewide ballot initiative that will allow more public school options for parents and students in Washington.
A YES vote on I-1240 will allow up to 40 public charter schools in Washington over the next five years.
While our traditional public schools are working well for many students, too many kids are struggling in traditional school settings — at risk of dropping out, or graduating from high school unprepared to succeed in college or a career. Research shows us that public charter schools can help these struggling students stay in school and succeed.
Charter schools are public schools. They are free and open to all students without restriction, and are independently managed by approved nonprofit organizations.
Public charter schools receive funding based on student enrollment, just like traditional public schools, and teachers in charter schools must meet the same certification requirements as teachers in other public schools. Public charter schools are also subject to the same academic standards as traditional public schools.
But charter schools have more flexibility at the school level — in staffing, budgeting, scheduling, and curriculum — so that teachers and principals can better meet the needs of their students and create customized learning environments to meet the learning needs of individual kids.
In exchange for this school-level flexibility, public charter schools are subject to a rigorous authorization process and are held to strict oversight and accountability requirements.
Public charter schools are overseen by a local school board or a state commission, and are subject to annual performance reviews, plus a comprehensive evaluation after five years.
As a longtime PTA member, I believe that parent involvement in our children’s education is crucial. As parents, we are the most important influence on our child’s success in school.
I-1240 includes specific language to maximize parent participation and oversight:
• At least one member of the Washington charter school commission must be a parent of a Washington public school student
• Local school boards can become authorizers under I-1240
• A charter school application must describe “opportunities and expectations for parent involvement,” must include “evidence of need and parent and community support for the proposed charter schools”, and must include “an organization chart that clearly presents the school's organizational structure, including lines of authority and reporting between the governing board, staff, any related bodies such as advisory bodies or parent and teacher councils”
• The charter application review process must include an opportunity in a public forum including “parents, community members, local residents, and school district board members and staff, to learn about and provide input on each application” and
• The initiative requires that charter schools comply with an annual state performance report that requires, among other things, "a summary of feedback from parents and community members" and "an invitation to all parents and citizens to participate in school activities"
Public charter schools are enormously popular with parents because of the results they are getting for children, and measures of parental satisfaction with charter schools in other states are very high. The ultimate in local control and parental participation is the opportunity to choose the school that best suits your child's needs.
That’s why I hope you’ll join me in voting YES on Initiative 1240. To learn more, please visit YESon1240.com.
Carol Frodge is a parent and former Edmonds public school teacher and principal. She also served as president and treasurer of her local PTA.