Charter opponents’ rhetoric shows why they lost

It’s a great day. After much turmoil, a compromise bill to save Washington’s public charter schools passed the House last night. Ten Democrats, under intense pressure to vote against charter schools, broke ranks and stood up for students on the bill’s final passage. We should all be thankful to them for following their conscience.

Ignore disingenuous arguments – here’s what charters fight wasn’t about
Let’s start with what the fight over charter schools was not. It was not about money – the amount involved is miniscule and the proposed new funding source for charter schools doesn’t draw on money that would otherwise go to other K-12 schools. It was also not a fight over meeting the McCleary decision, for the same reasons.

No, for the most virulent opponents of charter schools (the WEA, the state teachers union, tops that list), this fight was about control. Charter schools exist outside their control – that’s half the point – and they can’t abide that.

It was also about killing off schools that are generating implied negative P.R. for opponents. Stories about how many families want to enroll their kids in charter schools are a rebuke to some of the adults running the system that the families are trying to leave.

State Rep. Chris Reykdal (D-Tumwater) must agree. He sponsored an amendment to the charter schools bill to eliminate the requirement that parents be informed of charter school options in their district. Apparently he thinks the exodus would only increase if more parents knew about their options. That’s an unfortunate view for a man who is running to be state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

WEA and state labor council happy to lie in last-minute bid
The WEA and state labor leaders, calling themselves “union brothers and sisters,” sent a last-minute message to legislators asking them to block the charters fix. They repeatedly called public charter schools “private schools” and said the state Supreme Court ruled that charter schools are not “’public schools’…and therefore they cannot receive public funds under the state constitution.”

Lies, lies, lies – and the labor leaders who signed this message know those are lies. Charter schools are public schools, authorized by public bodies and receiving public dollars. Moreover, the state Supreme Court did not say charter schools are not public schools, only that they did not qualify as “common schools” and so couldn’t receive common school funds. The court did not say at any point in its ruling that charter schools can’t receive any kind of public funds, only the specific common schools funds.

The labor leaders knew this when they wrote their message, they just didn’t care that what they were saying was untruthful. Thankfully, the House didn’t listen to them, and approved a charter schools fix that is constitutional and gives charter schools students certainty and stability. Sometimes the lies win out in politics. Today, they didn’t.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.
  • Ken Mortland

    To begin with, let’s make sure we know what was in the labor leaders’ message to House legislators:

    Dear House of Representatives Member,

    The 89,000 members of the Washington Education Association and their thousands of union brothers and sisters request that you vote no on SB 6194, or any other version of a charter schools bill. A yes vote will be registered as a bad vote.

    Public school students, over 1.1 million strong, have long been waiting for their schools to be fully funded. The McCleary ruling is clear; it is time to fully fund public schools for all students.

    The charter school initiative has been ruled unconstitutional.

    Please vote no on any charter proposal.


    Kim Mead, President, Washington Education Association; Jeff Johnson, President, Washington State Labor Council; Karen Strickland, President, AFT Washington; John Scearcy, President, Teamsters, Local 117; Lee Newgent, Executive Secretary, Washington State Building and Construction Trades; Todd Crosby, President, United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 21; Diane Sosne, RN, President, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW; Tricia Shroeder, Executive Vice President, SEIU Local 925; Adam Glickman, Secretary Treasurer, SEIU 775; Kent Stanford, President, Washington Public Employees Association; and Greg Devereux, Executive Director, Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28

  • Ken Mortland

    Next, by reading the message below, one can see for one’s self that the words “private schools” never appears. Allegations that those words were used and the accusation of lies in that regard are, therefore, incorrect.

  • Ken Mortland

    Next, nowhere in this ‘sgw’ posting is there any mention that the WA State Supreme Court ruled that one reason ‘charter schools’ are not ‘common schools’ is that they are not administered by a school board that was publicly elected. Nothing in E2SSB 6194 addresses that concern, suggesting that this resolution may also be ruled unconstitutional.

  • DR Jensen

    Thanks for calling a spade a spade.

  • ridgerunner94

    You know, I never thought I could possibly agree with the WEA, about anything; the WEA has been one of the biggest supporters of systems education in Washington State, from the Commission on Student Learning, Putting Children First, to ESHB1209 – the bill that brought systems education to this state. And when parents tried to tell the WEA that the intent of systems education was to do away with the teachers union, we were told we were crazy. And charters is the instrument by which that will be accomplished. So, should we support charters? Absolutely not. Charters are the goal of systems education; and systems education is the education component of the global system, also known as the sustainable global environment or Agenda 21. The classroom is not about academics, the classroom is about producing a global citizen with global allegiance … you’ve heard the term time and time again. Wake up, people, you have no clue what you are supporting. And Mr Moreland is absolutely correct when he says there is nothing in E2SSB 6194 that addresses the focus of the Supreme Court ruling — that charters are unconstitutional because they do not have an elected school board, but use public money. Establishing funding through the Washington Opportunity Pathways Account is still funding the schools through public money without an elected school board being accountable for how that money is spent. The ultimate goal, of systems education, is charter schools run by mega corporations to produce workers.

    • Roger

      Oh PLEASE….the WEA is nothing more than a thug organization that does absolutely NOTHING for the education of our children. They are nothing more than a money grabbing organization. Get real. Charter schools in every other state are educating children BETTER than our crappy public schools.