The Washington State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn sine die on Thursday, March 11. The charter schools bill I've been advocating is still in limbo.
The Education Excellence Coalition which has been leading the campaign for charter schools in Washington believes that a vote on charter schools is likely this week. A compromise is on the table where Republicans would support three other education bills, if Democrats support charter schools. I'm hopeful this deal will happen, but I'm skeptical that the Democrats will go along with it.
My own representative, Democrat House Speaker Frank Chopp, claims to support charter schools, but when push comes to shove he consistently lets charter bills die quietly. Chopp declined to bring the charter bill to a floor vote last session. This session he declined to pass the charter school bill out of the Rules Committee, which he chairs, and his proposed budget contains no allocation for charter schools. Besides, why should charter schools be spun as a Democratic concession to Republicans, when most of their immediate beneficiaries are low-income minority children? It doesn't make any sense. Indeed some of the strongest advocates of charter schools are solidly liberal Democrats, including Gov. Gary Locke and House Education Committee Chair Dave Quall. The real opposition to charter schools comes from the school employee unions who don't want to lose their unaccountable monopoly on public education spending. The union-financed Democrats in the legislature have too much of a stake in the status quo to jeopardize the unions' franchise.
I suspect that this proposed deal is more of a way for Republicans to justify not making concessions on the Democrat-sponsored education bills than it is a way for the Democrats to authorize charter schools. But I hope Speaker Chopp and his caucus will prove me wrong.
If you live in Washington State and care about improving the quality of our education system, this is your last chance this year to encourage the legislature to authorize charter schools. Please contact both your own representatives and also Speaker Chopp's office. (see the Education Excellence Coalition for details on contacting your legislators)Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at March 08, 2004 11:39 AM