Saturday, August 11, 2012

WSPTA opposes charter school initiative

“We need local oversight”
August 11, 2012

Bellingham, WA – Washington State PTA will oppose I-1240, the initiative that would authorize charter public schools in Washington. Nationally, PTA has conditional support for these independent schools, and the state association has twice backed the concept in the past year. But ultimately the board decided this initiative didn’t meet its criteria for local oversight.

“This wasn’t a decision about the value of charter schools. This was a decision about whether this initiative met our criteria,” said Washington State PTA president Novella Fraser.  The decision was made during a board meeting preceding the association’s annual Leadership Conference, being held this weekend at Western Washington University.

Fostering strong community connections to schools is a core principle of PTA.  The board decided the ballot measure did not have sufficient protection in place to ensure maximum citizen involvement and oversight in local schools.

“Every school has to be well-governed and able to meet the kids’ needs,” said Fraser. “Successful schools work with families to make that happen. They respond when the community speaks up. If that’s not happening, the community needs a way to make a change.”

In the initiative, charter schools could be authorized by either a local school board or a new state charter school commission made up of nine appointees. Authorizers are in charge of reviewing the charter schools and ensuring they are meeting performance expectations. The potential of bypassing local oversight conflicted with a long-held position of the association: local tax dollars should be managed by locally elected school boards. Also troublesome for the association is that there are no requirements for parents to serve on charter school boards. Advocating for strong partnerships with shared decision making at every level – classroom, building, district, state and national – is a cornerstone of the association.

The vote came after extended discussion both at the August 10 board meeting and among PTA advocates in communities across the state.

At the same meeting, the board voted to actively oppose I-1185, the initiative that reinstates a two-thirds legislative majority to raise taxes and fees, including ending tax exemptions.

“Kids need support, now more than ever. Hungry and sick kids don’t learn,'” said Fraser. “Earlier this year the state supreme court ruled that Washington isn’t meeting its legal obligations to pay for education. The state must move $2 billion or more into K-12 while not hurting children’s services. And they may end up needing to supplement twice that amount. Now is not the time to tie legislators’ hands,” Fraser said.

At the same meeting, the WSPTA board of directors voted to advance more than a dozen proposals for delegates to consider placing on the association’s 2013 legislative platform. These include closing the opportunity gaps, advancing education reforms, and increasing revenue for schools and children’s programs.

ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE PTA: Washington State PTA is the largest volunteer organization in Washington, with more than 142,000 members.  Founded in 1905, the association speaks of behalf of children and provides training and support to more than 900 local PTAs across the state.


  1. Thank you! This is wonderful news :)

  2. Yes, I'm glad to see that WSPTA's core principal of fostering strong community connections to schools over-rode its conditional support of charters.

  3. I'm glad to see the change of heart, but I am curious over the reasons why, particularly since I was raked over the coals in regards to charters by a high ranking WSPTA person who has closely allied herself with Students First/DFER/LEV people.

  4. They probably changed their mind because people have had time to actually read this initiative and research how charter schools have functioned in other states.

  5. Thank you WPTA!! Your focus and goals are in the right place. Washington state's children need you now more than ever before, and your decision will invigorate the organization toward TRUE education reform.

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  7. To clarify, the association did not change its position on charter schools. Nationally, PTA has qualified support for these independent, public schools. This decision was whether or not to support this particular initiative -- mainly if the measure aligned with our criteria for ALL schools.

    I-1240 does align a number of WSPTA's criteria. But ultimately the board decided it did not include sufficient provisions for local oversight. In particular, WSPTA has a resolution that calls for education funds to be managed by locally elected school boards. The initiative would allow some charter schools to answer directly to an appointed state commission.

    Also, while the initiative includes references to parent involvement plans, it does not establish a requirement that those plans include shared decision making -- that is, parents need to be included in charter school boards, or site councils, or some similar governance partnership.

    Under this measure, it is possible that charter schools could be formed in which there is no shared decision making at the building level, and that these schools would then answer to a state-appointed commission.

    That scenario does not align with WSPTA's foundational work to promote strong partnerships between parents and community and the professionals hired to provide all children a great education.

    It doesn't follow that charter schools couldn't meet our criteria, just that this initiative doesn't provide the structure WSPTA looks for in all public schools, be they traditional, option/choice, or charter.

    - Ramona Hattendorf, WSPTA goverment relations coordinator