Hopeful kids and families a contrast to union’s cynical suit against charters

It was quite a scene in Walla Walla last week. There was a food truck, music, and balloons. And there were smiles, on a Friday night, from kids who are already looking ahead to the next school year with excitement.

What was it? Well, it was a “signing event” for students joining Walla Walla’s new Willow Public School, which will be the state’s 12th charter school. It was also a celebration for a charter school organization that kept working, kept fighting to make this day happen.

Charter schools like Willow give kids who need a different approach a ray of hope, as was evident by the excitement last Friday. “About 90 percent of the students are eligible for free- or reduced-meals at school,” the Union-Bulletin reports. These underserved kids who need an alternative will only receive it from a high-quality public charter school.

WEA wants Willow shut down
For reasons that have everything to do with the adults in the system, not the kids – reasons of money and control – the Washington Education Association, the state teachers union, continues its relentless pursuit of shutting down all charter schools.

That cynicism stands in stark contrast with the smiles, excitement, and hope on display at Willow’s signing event. There you saw families reacting with, as much as anything, relief that they have a new option available to them.

It’s important to remember that it was the voters who gave their stamp of approval for charter schools. When the WEA prevailed in its first lawsuit against charters, it was state legislators, with many Democratic votes, who passed a new funding source to allow the schools to continue operating.

The people and their representatives exercised their power
It was within voters’ rights to pass the charter schools initiative and it was within lawmakers’ prerogative to choose charter schools as an important state function to fund. The WEA doesn’t accept either proposition.

The WEA contends that spending money on charter schools takes money away from regular public schools, but this argument makes little sense. Charters are funded from a different money source from regular schools, one not previously spent on schools. By the union’s logic, any state funding for non-K-12 programs would be “taking away money from common schools.”

The trial court judge completely rejected that logic, and it deserves a similar treatment at the state Supreme Court, where charter school families deserve a fair hearing.

It would be best for all involved if the WEA simply gave up its suit, but that won’t happen. The union is worried about money and control, yes, but it is also worried about perceived competition from charters. The union doesn’t want charters around; it really doesn’t want them excelling.
-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.