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School Initiatives Get Failing Marks

Funny thing about about all the criticism tossed around these days about public schools - most parents in most school districts are pretty happy with what’s happening in their local schools.

Then why all the complaints?

It’s clear Washington schools could use improvement - all public schools can. Taxpayers are looking for clear educational standards that demand the most of students. They want definable ways to measure whether or not schools are preparing children for the future.

Those are commendable goals, but Initiatives 173 and 177 are not the right way to meet them.

The smart way was initiated three years ago when the state Legislature created the Commission on Student Learning and directed the 11-member group to create statewide learning standards and a system for holding schools accountable. About $94 million has been spent so far on the process. It would foolish to back away now.

But that’s just what backers of the school voucher and charter school initiatives would like you to do. They argue that public schools aren’t meeting the demands of parents, who want more choices and competition among schools. So they’ve thrown together two ill-conceived ballot proposals that would destroy the current system and hurt Washington’s children.

Both initiatives aim to funnel tax money to private, non-religious schools, but neither demands real accountability from the new schools that would be created. The state would have no say in curriculum, testing or credentials for instructors.

The school voucher initiative in particular would drain money away from public schools, leaving trained educators and administrators scrambling to provide the best for students who’d remain.

Charter schools can work, and have in other states, but the current proposal is sloppy and rushed. It opens the door to an unlimited number of charter schools, a move that could siphon away the brightest students too quickly. If Washington wants charter schools it would be wise to learn from other states that have taken a slow, measured approach.

Still, there’s a better way to reform Washington schools - and it’s currently under way with the Commission on Student Learning. Initiatives 173 and 177 would dismantle any progress made, not to mention the good schools that already exist today.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = EDITORIAL, COLUMN, ENDORSEMENT - Our View CREDIT = Anne Windishar/For the editorial board