Charter public schools would give us more Eric Pettigrews

January 20, 2012

The air was electric at today’s House hearing on HB 2428.  Everyone in the room knew that this bill, if it passes, would allow the first charter public schools in Washington’s history.  This bill, if it passes, would move Washington state into the vanguard of education reform.  This bill, if it passes, will remove Washington from the list of nine backwater states which currently ban charter public schools. 

The most inspiring testimony came from the courageous sponsor of the bill, Representative Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle), at 58:45, who said:

“My grandfather was a sharecropper.”

“My father received an eighth grade education.”

“I am the first person in my family to get a college education.”

“This education has saved my life.”

“Every year in the Seattle School District, hundreds of children are dropping out of school.”

“We are losing Eric Pettigrews every day.” 

Representative Pettigrew also said that five of the state’s failing schools are in his own legislative district, where schools are run by the Seattle Public School District.  He has seen the children and talked to their parents.  He said they are not getting what they need from their schools.  He said these children need the chance to attend a charter public school now, and cannot wait the 20 years it will take for innovation schools and laboratory schools  to work.   

Other terrific testimony came from the bill’s co-sponsor, Representative Glenn Anderson (R-Issaquah), and by numerous parents, teachers, researchers and other citizens who have seen first-hand how charter public schools can change the course of a life.   

This is what is at stake.  Lives.  The lives of children, of young students.   Good charter public schools change lives.  Providing children a good education allows them the chance to escape a life of poverty and want, a chance to live fruitful and fulfilling lives.   

We need more brave, educated men like Representative Eric Pettigrew.  This bill would allow the young boys who are the Eric Pettigrews of tomorrow to receive a good education, perhaps even next year, at a charter public school. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could have a KIPP charter school in Representative Pettigrew's district? 

Here are the names of the Representatives who joined Representatives Pettigrew and Anderson in co-sponsoring this bill:  Finn, Dahlquist, Eddy, Springer, Harris, Seaquist, Hinkle, Zeiger, Wilcox, Hargrove, Fagan and Condotta.  The sponsors in the Senate of the companion bill are Senators Tom, Litzow, Baumgartner, Kastama, Hobbs, Fain, Ericksen, Hill, Becker, Delvin, King, Hatfield, Hewitt, Sheldon, Swecker, and Pflug.

They can all stand tall today.   They stand by Representatives Pettigrew and Anderson. 

The old guard rose up to try to obstruct and oppose the bill.  They include the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Washington Education Association, the Washington Association of School Administrators, the Washington State School Directors Association, the Association of Washington School Principals (which testified in opposition at the Senate hearing on the companion bill), the League of Women Voters, the King County Democrats, and the 37th District Democrats.    

Even so, I have a good feeling about this.  The hearing I watched today just might mean that a new day has dawned for our young Eric Pettigrews out there.