OLYMPIA – A bipartisan group of legislators, backed by business and education reform groups, announced a push Thursday for charter schools and new teacher evaluations.
The Washington Education Association immediately questioned where the money would come from for charter schools and how the evaluation systems would be used.
In a hearing room packed with legislators, parents and public relations specialists, state Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, unveiled a proposal to allow school districts to set up charter schools that could set their own curriculum and close an “opportunity gap.”.
“It’s difficult to bring in new ideas” to education, Pettigrew said. “This gives them a possibility to do other things.”
A separate bill would set up a new evaluation system for teachers that could be used in their hiring, placement, and in the case of poor evaluations, dismissal when they don’t improve with additional coaching and support.
“It is our responsibility that every child has a great teacher,” state Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, said.
But Miriam Hogley, a fourth-grade teacher from Renton who was sitting in the audience during the presentation by legislators and parents, said some studies show about half of all charter schools have around the same performance rates with students as regular public schools, and some have worse records. Setting up charter schools would just divert scarce resources from the rest of the public school system, when the state could just expand on its current program of innovative schools.
The Legislature is already being watched by the courts for not spending adequately on basic education, Hogley said. “Why not fund our schools that we have now?”
In a news release, Mary Lindquist, the president of the Washington Education Association, noted that Washington voters have rejected ballot measures for charter schools three times. “That’s three strikes.”
When legislators were asked if they thought the charter school proposal should be sent to voters, state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, said no: “I don’t think education is one of those things we take a gamble with.”