Parents know best, the WEA thinks it knows better on charter schools

It’s Round 2 of the judicial fight over charter schools in Washington. In a new wrinkle last week, a King County judge tossed several plaintiffs off the case, ruling that they don’t have standing to sue against public charter schools.

Now groups like the Aerospace Machinists, the League of Women Voters, El Centro de la Raza, the Teamsters, and the Washington Federation of State Employees are removed from the case. It’s no wonder; these groups are not appropriate parties to an argument about what types of schools are permissible in Washington.

These plaintiffs merely underscored the political nature of this lawsuit – I mean, the Aerospace Machinists in a charter schools fight? C’mon. Their involvement was about union politics, not about what’s best for schoolkids.

WEA thinks parents know best…up to a point
The state teachers union, the WEA, remains on the case and is the main antagonist against the state’s eight current public charter schools (with more opening in 2017). That strident opposition is a marked contrast to the happy, inclusive language the union used in a blog post last week:

“Parents and local educators know better than anyone what their students need, and they are the ones who should be making important decisions about their children and public schools”.

So parents know what’s best for their kids? What the WEA really means is, parents know best, except for:

  1. Parents who have enrolled their child in a public charter school because their previous public school wasn’t meeting their needs.
  2. The thousands more parents who would like to enroll their child in a public charter school, but there aren’t enough slots to meet demand.

Likewise, “local educators” must exclude the local educators who have joined charter schools because they believe in the mission of helping underserved families.

There was more good news in the judge’s decision for charter school supporters. Judge Chun rejected the argument that funding for public charter schools hurts regular public schools. The plaintiffs pushed that argument even though charter schools are now funded from a different money source from regular schools, one that was not previously spent on schools. The Times called this tack “a political smoke screen advanced by opponents of charter schools.”

This lawsuit is a waste in so many ways – a waste of time, money, effort, and attention. Recently I joined with charter students at a press conference to fight back against the attacks on their innovative schools. One of the students there, Tatiana Cueva, put it best: “These are our schools, not your politics.”

If only preserving the best options for kids was as important to some as financial and political control of the system.
-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.