WEA leaders remain backwards on public charter schools

I wrote on Thursday
 about the idea of a levy swap as a way to meet the state Supreme Court’s requirement that the state stably and uniformly fund public schools. The other leg of that stool is ample funding. The most recent budget passed by the legislature made progress toward that goal, funding K-12 schools by $1 billion more in the next two years, but more money will need to be devoted to education before the court’s 2018 deadline for the state to meet its constitutional obligations to our public schools.

charter-schoolsThe court’s requirements are an opportunity to re-examine how we currently spend education dollars and put renewed thought into how we can most effectively use the money to benefit students. The recent legislative sessions show us that money is scare, so wasting dollars on ineffective programs that don’t help our students and unnecessary bureaucracies which keeps our teachers from improving their effectiveness is unacceptable. That’s a discussion to which parents, teachers, school boards and administrators, and officials in Olympia can all contribute.

That’s why I was disappointed by what I didn’t see in Jerry Cornfield’s article about the new head of the state teachers union (WEA humming same song under new leadership). It reminded me of the questionnaire the WEA sent to candidates in the last election in that there was no mention of proven reforms or accountability. Same song indeed.

It’s also not surprising, but still disappointing, that after losing the fight over public charter schools among the voters, the WEA is continuing to fight them in the courts. The leaders of our state’s teachers union remain backwards on the issue, even as the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have embraced charters elsewhere. The new WEA president chooses to embrace the past, spending the union dues of individual teachers on a lawsuit to block a maximum of 40 charter schools out of 2700 conventional public schools statewide being created in the next five years, because she’s afraid of any form of competition.

The future of education is adaptive, innovative, and forward-thinking – everything the WEA doesn’t want to be. Our students deserve better, and so do those individual teachers willing to embrace the opportunity for excellence if only their union would get out of the way.

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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.