Some members of new Charter School Commission may not support charter schools
Government insiders know that a common way to undermine a new program is for its opponents to manage it. The opponents are then in a good position to hamper the program's success or to encourage its failure.
The authors of Initiative 1240, the voter-approved charter school laws, were well aware of this danger. For that reason they included a direction regarding the Charter School Commission under Section 208, now RCW 28A.710.070(3), which says:
"All [commission] members shall have demonstrated an understanding of and commitment to charter schooling as a strategy for strengthening public education."
Last week's announcement of the nine-member commission includes two members who have expressed their opposition to charter schools:
- Kevin Jacka (appointed by Lt. Governor Owen) signed the No on I-1240 petition, here.
- Steve Sundquist (appointed by Governor Inslee) answered "No" to the question, "Do you support charter schools" on the 2011 King County Democrats general election candidate questionnaire.
Sundquist later switched and now says he supports charter schools, but he doesn't have the level of demonstrated commitment of, for example, commissioner Dave Quall, a former Democratic lawmaker who sponsored charter school legislation and worked for its passage.
Some of the worst-performing schools in the state are in Seattle, and parents in south Seattle in particular are desperate to get their kids into good schools. Yet last year the Seattle School Board passed a resolution urging a "no" vote on Initiative 1240, so it is unlikely the Board would take the necessary steps to approve an application to open a charter school for low-income children in the city.
That would leave the state Charter School Commission as the only avenue for reform open to Seattle parents, so the law's requirement that commission members have a demonstrated commitment to charters becomes even more important.
For all these reasons the appointments raise a red flag for charter school supporters, who share a deep concern for ensuring that every child in Washington has access to a good public education. Initiative 1240 is one of the best charter school statutes in the country, and it would be a shame if the cause of helping children should be set back just as the new law is being implemented.
To read more about the commissioner selection process, see Erik Smith's article on the Washington State Wire, here.