Vote 'No' on charter schools

Remember how we twice in the last eight years voted against having charter schools? Our state Legislature thought we didn't mean it.

In the last session of the Legislature, they voted to force charter schools upon us. Luckily, a group of citizens was able to gather the signatures needed to make that law a referendum on this November's ballet. We have a chance to say "No" again.

Referendum 55 does more than permit charter schools. It obligates the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to require any school district to accept charter schools, even if the citizens and their elected school board say the right program is not right for their district. If there are problems at these schools, parents cannot complain to the local school board. No local sponsorship means no local control.

Charter schools are experimental schools. A private agency can use public funds to start a school. There is no performance auditing of these schools for three years. If they fail, as many have, the school board is left to pick up the pieces. This fall in California, school boards had to suddenly find schools for 6,000 students because charter schools went bankrupt and were suddenly out of business.

No new money is allocated for charter schools. Funds for charter schools will be taken from the budgets of already struggling school districts. This will weaken our schools by draining away more than $100 million in the coming years.

Charter schools are not just for struggling students. According to the referendum, admission cannot favor or deny these students. Local districts have already approved alternative education, such as alternative high schools. These are successful because they are held accountable to district and state standards.

There are an estimated 3,000 charter schools in the United States. A recent study by Duke University in North Carolina concluded, "Our study finds that charter-school students perform less well on average in charter schools than they would have in traditional public schools and the negative effects of attending a charter school are large."

If there are charter schools that are doing well, our public schools can study those successes and apply them in our local classrooms. This provides the best of both worlds for our students. They get the benefit of the experiments without enduring the academic and financial negatives.

We have voted for what we know works: smaller class size (Initiative 728) and a qualified teacher in every classroom (Initiative 732). The Legislature thought we didn't know what we were doing and negated those initiatives. Instead, they gave us charter schools.

At the next election, for the sake of all out students, we can reject charter schools again by voting "No" on Referendum 55.

Eleanor Gilmore


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