Washington State [Private] Charters Get Their $14 Million
Four day after the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Washington State charter schools do not qualify as “common” (i.e. public) schools, King5.com reports that the Washington State Charter Association has raised the $14 million from private donors in order to keep the nine charter schools open for a year absent any taxpayer funding.
The nine schools are completely privately funded, yet the media cannot seem to stop referring to the schools as “public” schools. King5.com reporter Janna Hanchard does so (“TACOMA, Wash. — Millions of dollars are being set aside to keep the lights on at public charter schools across the state”), as does Robin Lake of the University of Washington’s Center for Reinventing Public Education (“I guess it’s ironic or something that the only public school that will be open in Seattle tomorrow is a charter school”). However, calling schools that have been barred from receiving public funding “public” schools does not make them so.
The September 04, 2015, Washington State Supreme Court ruling dealt with that issue: Calling charter schools “public” schools does not mean that they are according to the Washington State constitution.
In order to become “common” (i.e., public) schools, Washington State charters would need to answer to an elected school board.
They do not.
Thus, it does not matter if the charters have set up their version of accountability. They need to be held accountable to an elected board to qualify as “common” (i.e., public) schools– and to dip into taxpayer money for their funding.
Of course, the politically-charged battle is on, with the Washington State Charter Association collecting donations and pushing for a special legislative session— though now that the nine charters are now fully privately funded (and are therefore private schools), one might wonder why the Washington legislature would spend taxpayer money on a special session for nine fully-funded private schools.
King5.com reports that Green Dot Charters CEO Mario Putruzzi says that the Washington State Supreme Court “got it absolutely wrong” and that “we” (presumably the nine charters, the Washington State Charter Association, and perhaps the private-funding, pro-charter set that likely includes billionaire Bill Gates in some manner) “plan to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider the case.”
Incidentally, Los Angeles-based Green Dot was founded by Steve Barr, who resigned from the Green Dot board in 2012 because he was just too busy:
Barr, who stepped down from day-to-day operations in 2009, said other school improvement projects are eating up his time.
“I’m the chair of a board for our school in New York,” said Barr. “I’m the chair of the turnaround effort for the school we’re turning around in New Orleans and Green Dot’s board is generally run by an executive committee which I’m not a member of just because I don’t have the time for it.”
Apparently Barr didn’t have time for the school he agreed to renovate in New Orleans, McDonogh High, because he did nothing for two years and then bailed on the project.
No community attachment. A situation “devoid of local control from inception to daily operation”– true of Barr’s McDonogh-that-never-was in New Orleans, and a concern about Washington State charters as noted in the September 04, 2015, Washington State Supreme Court ruling.
The Washington State Supreme Court got it absolutely right.
If Washington State charter schools want public money, let them submit to publicly-elected school boards. Otherwise, let them remain the private schools that they are today.