Opinion: On Election Day, School Choice Victories
In a Wall Street Journal, Jason L. Riley writes that election day was a good one “for education reformers in Washington state and Georgia and for anyone who believes in the primacy of school choice.” Washington voters approved Initiative 1240, allowing for the creation of up to 40 new public charter schools. Georgia voters approved Amendment 1, which will allow a state entity to authorize new public charter schools. Riley calls these victories “important for all children” but especially for “inner-city kids stuck in failing schools.”
Source: Wall Street Journal
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Charter Schools Win Approval in Washington State
According to the Seattle Times, Initiative 1240, the measure that will allow up to 40 charter schools to open in Washington state, has passed. Supporters declared victory Saturday with 50.8 percent of the vote. About 90 percent of ballots have been counted. Opponents of the measure have not conceded; they would need to win about 57 percent of the remaining 300,000 votes. The new state charter schools commission will be appointed by March 6; the first charter schools could open as early as next fall. The vote marked the fourth time since 1996 that Washington voters were asked to approve charters, and makes Washington the 42nd state to allow them, 20 years after Minnesota passed the nation's first charter-school law. In the last two decades, around 6,000 charters have opened nationwide. “Washington voters clearly understand that public charter schools across the country are providing more opportunities for student success,” Lisa Macfarlane, Executive Director of Democrats for Education Reform, told the Lake Stevens Journal.
Sources: Seattle Times, Lake Stevens Journal
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Legal Challenges May Be Ahead for Washington’s Charter School Law
According to the Seattle Times and KPLU, Washington state’s recently passed public charter schools measure, Initiative 1240, may face a legal challenge. "You’re creating a new school system, public schools, and it’s overseen by a new agency under the governor’s office. I think that’s circumventing the constitution,” said Randy Dorn, head of the state's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Given that the measure passed narrowly, by about 51 to 49 percent, Dorn said he is inclined to challenge it in court. In addition, University of Washington Law Professor Hugh Spitzer said the law only allows the state to spend money on so-called “common schools,” defined as schools controlled by taxpayers through local school boards. I-1240’s supporters said the measure has been vetted by constitutional lawyers, which defines charters as common schools.
Sources: Seattle Times, KPLU
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Lawsuit Brewing Over Georgia Charter Amendment
According to Education Week, although many see the passage of Georgia’s charter school amendment by 59 percent of the vote as a strong sign of voters’ approval, the state's Legislative Black Caucus will reportedly join a lawsuit filed October 26 alleging that the amendment's wording was misleading. The suit, filed against Governor Nathan Deal, says that the statewide commission that can approve charter schools is not explicitly mentioned in the amendment language presented to voters, nor is the role of the state's top politicians in naming commission members. The ballot language read: "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"
Source: Education Week
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Op-ed: To Build on Tennessee’s Success, Support & Expand High-Quality Charters
In a Tennessean op-ed, KIPP Nashville Executive Director Randy Dowell applauds the “great strides” made in Tennessee’s quest to transform its public schools over the past four years, which has been largely a bipartisan effort. Dowell makes three suggestions to build on this momentum, including supporting public charter schools with proven results for low-income students. “In tough economic times, we must be thoughtful in allocating our scarce public dollars,” Dowell writes. “Investing in high-performing charter schools is one way to make those dollars count. There is no magic potion when it comes to education, but there are many charter schools proving what’s possible for underserved students. In Nashville, STEM Prep, Liberty Collegiate, Nashville Prep, LEAD Public Schools, KIPP Nashville and others are making a difference for students growing up in poverty. By supporting and expanding proven educational models, we can help prepare thousands more students for success.”
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Editorial: More Accountability for Indiana's Charter Schools
A Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial encourages Ball State University to hold the public charter schools it sponsors “to the promise on which the state’s charter law was built: Outperform traditional public schools or close.” Ball State is Indiana’s only public university authorizing charter schools. The Journal Gazette credits Ball State with “exercising more rigorous oversight of the schools in recent years” and expresses concern that the new Indiana Charter School Board won’t heed calls for stronger oversight. “Ball State, however, has the reputation of its Teachers College to maintain…In the end, the test for charter renewal must be what’s best for students. Fort Wayne’s experience suggests that charter school students will be struggling by ninth grade... Ball State shouldn’t wait another five to 10 years for its Fort Wayne charters to match the performance of its traditional public schools.”
Source: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette