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.