Charter schools conspiracy, part II

We know charter schools are controversial to some. Especially to certain special interests such as the state teachers union, charter schools are seen as a threat. I have a hard time seeing why, but any part of our public education system that is beyond their control is obviously unacceptable to them.

The charters law, before it was knocked down by the state Supreme Court, was to allow only up to 40 charter schools over 10 years – a miniscule figure compared to the total number of regular public schools in the state. But the teachers union didn’t want even that small toe in the door. They want the door to charter schools firmly shut.

Just who is getting the door shut in their face has been a matter of some contention. Last week we looked at the arguments offered by the head of the Washington Association of School Administrators against charter schools. Following his logic, some of what he said sounded like an unsupported conspiracy theory. He also wondered about the PR efforts of charter school supporters,  asking if the opening of charter schools was “a calculated plan to make sure there were student faces at the center of this debate?”

The plot thickens
Clearly those views are held by others, too, judging by comments on the floor of the state Senate today by Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle). The Senate passed a charter schools “fix” bill on a 27-20 vote, and Hasegawa wasn’t happy about it.

I’m highlighting here four of the more egregious things Hasegawa said. While I think they’re unfortunate remarks, I don’t highlight them to mock the Senator. There’s much to learn about the concerns and motivations of our political opposites from their arguments, and I don’t doubt that Hasegawa truly believes the things he said. That being said, these four are pretty wrong-headed.

  1. “Almost $2 million of that coming from Arkansas. Now what’s in Arkansas? Probably one of the most – the headquarters of one of the most infamously anti-union corporations, the largest corporation in the world, and the wealthiest family in the world. Why are they so interested in soaking $2 million into creating charter schools in Washington state?”

Hasegawa is referring to the $1.7 million (of $11 million total) donated by Alice Walton, of Wal-Mart’s founding family, to the Yes on 1240 campaign. But like the WASA head, he doesn’t really connect it to any non-altruistic goal here, other than a vague anti-union conspiracy he doesn’t spell out. Why does Hasegawa chose that example instead of the $1,050,000 donated to the yes campaign from pro-union lefty Nick Hanauer? Because it doesn’t fit the conspiracy narrative.

  1. “So it’s not any mistake that the charter school initiative did not accommodate for unions and the ability for the teachers to have a voice in their own instructional processes and working conditions.”

Let’s be clear, every teacher who joined a charter school in Washington did so because they wanted to and because they believed in their school’s mission. Clearly they believe they have a voice in their workplace. That’s one of the factors that attracts teachers to charter schools.

  1. “As a little side note, this may not be the most politically correct thing to say, but I get offended when people start parading poor little brown and black faces out there and saying, ‘Oh those poor kids, look it, they have this oppor’ – what about the 1.1 other million kids out there who deserve equity of access to an equally good quality education? We’re going to throw all them under the bus?”

Apparently Hasegawa is worried, like the WASA chief, that it looks bad to deny charter schools funding to the largely minority populations Washington’s charter schools serve. It’s bad PR. They like to see it in terms of manipulation – “calculated plan,” “parading” minority faces. What I see is a group of eager students whose parents chose to enroll them in charter schools on one side, and special interests like the teachers union going all out to keep those schools shut down. Different perspectives, huh? (It’s also interesting to read between the lines of Hasegawa’s thoughts on where students can hope to receive an “equally good quality education.” Some of his allies may prefer he not expand on those thoughts in the future.)

  1. “So this is a misguided proposal, in my opinion…to drain the resources from our public school system so that they cannot support all the other students…”

This one statement shows why it’s so difficult for people with diametrically opposing views to discuss a topic like this. The total amount spent on charter schools is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to all the state and local money we spend on regular public schools. To believe that the goal of charter schools is to “drain the resources” so regular schools “cannot support all the other students” is such an overblown, wrong-headed belief. And yet it’s shared by others in Olympia, including some other legislators. Truly fascinating.
-Rob McKenna

You can watch Sen. Hasegawa’s comments in full here, starting at 1:18:30

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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.
  • RyanGrant

    Clearly we should tax online gambling to support charter schools. Testify for that, wouldjya?

    • Jake

      Hasegawa hasn’t the cojones to testify on anything other than what union teachers tell him to do.

  • Jake

    Hasegawa is the same dolt who a few years back voted against a senate bill for assistance to Veterans. He then ducked my enquiries via phone & email asking him why. He was in attendance at a Chinatown event, as was I, & I asked him again. His face got red and he walked out. Big talk in the legislature, but no guts when face to face. Hasagawa is owned lock, stock & barrel by any union outfit that tosses a buck his way.

  • ctrrt

    It’s interesting that Cyrus Habib was absent from the vote. Could it be that a group of very concerned Microsoft and other parents have tried with limited success to fix the broken system on the Eastside that is short on STEM and long on PC? It’s probably a politically astute move for former FUSE leader and benificiary of WEA largesse not to show his true colors to the voters.

  • fight4liberty

    “but I get offended when people start parading poor little brown and black faces out there”… he must have been outraged during the Seattle teacher strikes when most of the marches included children being “paraded” in front of cameras.

  • Ken Mortland

    “ … it’s so difficult for people with diametrically opposing views to discuss a topic … .”

    This strikes me as true on its face, almost a truism. It describes an interactive or dialoguing disability from which we all suffer to some degree. I can remember a political figure who went from seeking a chance to speak to a convention of delegates with opposing view points to refusing to even engage in an interview with the same group’s leadership. The degree to which we can maintain a dialogue is perhaps the most significant measure of our potential as

  • Ken Mortland

    “vague anti-union conspiracy?” OK, let’s lift that curtain a bit and seem some of what he
    might mean.

    1] “Good luck with your new career, and we hope that you never have to deal with a union
    organizing drive in your facility. But if you do, we hope that this video has given you the information you needed to stay in control of your valuable signature and your career.”
    (Excerpt from an anti-union video by WalMart; )

    2] In a lengthy decision, Geoffrey Carter, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board, ruled that the strikes were protected by law, and that Walmart had no right to discipline workers for taking part in them.