Charters – and the truth – suffer a setback


The Wall Street Journal shares an owner with Fox News, and the Journal’s editorial page shares the TV network’s ability to ignore facts in promoting its politicized viewpoint, as it did this week in an editorial rebuking the Washington Supreme Court for striking down a new charter school law in that state.

The court’s 6-3 ruling was pretty straightforward. It held that privately operated charter schools cannot receive public funding because they do not quality as “common schools” under the state’s constitution. The law – which siphons tax dollars from traditional public schools where the vast majority of Washington children are educated – was the result of a ballot initiative backed by billionaire, self-styled education “reformer,” Bill Gates, among others, and approved by voters in 2012.

The Wall Street Journal accused the court of supporting the “public school monopoly,” when, in truth, the court did nothing of the kind. The court did not strike down the ability of entrepreneurs to open and operate charter schools to compete with or supplement public schools. The court simply ruled that private owners didn’t have the right to dip their hands into public tax dollars.

The Journal’s editorial also claimed that charter schools are “far more accountable than traditional public schools.” Hooey. Public schools in Washington operate under elected school boards. Charters do not. They operate under privately appointed boards, and, despite what some promoters claim and parents hope, charters are not miracle workers.

Nationwide, research has shown that charters, on average, do not perform as well as traditional public schools.

The Journal claimed the court’s main concern was “preserving the union monopoly” in Washington. In truth, the lawsuit against the charter school law was brought by a coalition that in addition to a state teachers union also included school administrators and the League of Women Voters. They all shared the same concern – protecting public funding for public school children.

So far, only nine charter schools have been opened under the disputed law and eight of them opened for the first time this year, according to the Tacoma News Tribune, which reported that operators will try to keep them open with donated funds, if necessary.

The timing of the court ruling, at the beginning of a new school year, obviously is bad for the charter students and their families. But if the charters are forced to close their doors, no childen will be left out in the cold. Local school districts will be there to take them in.



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