Seattle Times fails to cover failing charter schools

In an editorial last week, The Seattle Times talked up the need for media diversity. Well this week they demonstrated it by ignoring the breaking story about our nation’s failing charter schools.

Yesterday the NY Times reported that “in almost every racial, economic and geographic category, fourth graders attending charter schools are outperformed by their peers in traditional public schools.” [Nation’s Charter Schools Lagging Behind, U.S. Test Scores Reveal]

This is a huge story… front page, above the fold in the NY Times. Over 600,000 children already attend charter schools, and the number is expected to grow dramatically under President Bush’s ironically named “No Child Left Behind” Act. No wonder this story was featured prominently in newspapers and media broadcasts nationwide.

But The Seattle Times? Nada. Not a mention. Not a word. Zilch.

The Seattle P-I and Tacoma News Tribune managed to squeeze the story into their pages yesterday. But The Times couldn’t be bothered… despite the fact that Referendum 55 — authorizing charter schools — will be on the Washington state ballot this November.

Or perhaps the Times didn’t cover the story because R-55 is on the ballot, and it would undermine their previously stated support for charter schools? In a June 11 editorial the Times called opposition to charter schools “an enormous waste of time,” lamenting that R-55 delays implementation past the start of the new school year.

Reasonable voters will see the state’s modest new charter-school law for what it is: one creative way to give some of our neediest students a top-notch education.

Knowing that fourth graders in charter schools lag half a year behind those in traditional public schools, “reasonable voters” might choose to err on the side of caution. And it is the responsibility of our region’s largest and most influential newspaper to give voters this information.

I’m not suggesting that the Times’ editors conspired to keep this story out of print, so as to protect their own political agenda. But every news outlet has its own editorial bias, and it surely influences decisions on which stories to run.

All the more reason why Seattle should remain a two-newspaper town.