October 25, 2004

In Defense of Washington State Referendum 55

I got my hometown newspaper today (it's a bi-monthly that I get by mail a week after it comes out), and they are running a letter to the editor in opposition to R-55. Unfortunately, there will not be another issue put out before election day, so I am writing here instead of placing my own letter in the newspaper. The letter, from Garfield school food services supervisor Cindy Dvorak, notes that charter schools have already been rejected by voters twice in the past eight years, and claims that "it's still bad for kids." I feel the need to respond to this, because charters are NOT bad for kids - they are bad for the unions representing public school employees (since, if the employees of a charter unionized they would form their own collective bargaining unit separate from the rest of the public school employees) and they are bad for legislators in Olympia and Washington, D.C. who want to control education on the state and federal level.

We need to recognize the education system for what it is: A service provided to parents and students. When a service is insulated from market forces, it inevitably reduces it's quality. Ms. Dvorak and other opponents of R-55 bemoan the lack of accountability of charter schools. The truth is, charter schools are more accountable than traditional public schools, because if they lose their students or mismanage their money, there is no one to bail them out. Failing public schools get propped up by public funds - charters don't. We need to restore market forces to the education system by giving parents more choices and allowing there to be an actual difference between those choices. This can only be done by diminishing the amount of regulation schools have to put up with, and allowing parents to choose which school to send their kids to.

Furthermore, the Garfield-Palouse school district does not need accountability to Olympia or DC to make it a success. Parents, teachers, and administrators in the district care about their students and their education system and will do whatever they can to make it the best it can be. We need to free these people to make the decisions that effect their children and students, because they know the needs of those students better than the politicians do. We also need to free the schools from dependence on state and federal funds. For nearly one hundred years, the federal government hasbeen using the threat of reduced funding of programs to force states in ways that it has no Constitutional ability to force them. Now Olympia wants to use the same tactics to manipulate our school system. We need to say no, we need to convert to a charter system, so that the school district can raise money by essentially any means other than charging tuition, and so that we can be free to create the best educational opportunities possible for the needs of our community without being forced to conform to "one-size-fits-all" educational programs like President Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act."

It is also of note that, while charters will take money away from traditional public schools, this is not a problem, because the money is still going to fund education. In fact, more is going to fund education and less to fund bureaucracy.

We need to realize that the goal of our education practices should not be to make sure that every school stays in business, but to make sure that every child has access to a quality education. We need to allow failing schools to fail, and get children out of them and into successful schools. Thus far, Garfield-Palouse has been one of the successful ones, but we need to continue to work to improve the educational opportunities afforded students in our area.

Grafield-Palouse schools worked for me. If you are a resident of Washington and want this school and other small rural schools like it to continue to be successful I urge you to vote yes on R-55 and against I-884 (which will ultimately harm our economy and especially our small businesses, while not really helping schools, since it only makes them more dependent on outisde funds, and since throwing more money at a problem is not the solution), and to work to convert your local public schools to charters as quickly as possible following the passage of the referendum.

Posted by Kenny at October 25, 2004 4:15 PM
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