If the people who supported charter schools still want it in the wake of the recent state supreme court rulings, they might do well to find a new source of revenue. Maybe an income tax! Definitely an income tax! OK, maybe some other tax that can be dedicated to charters.
But that’s tough when charter school supporters are writing press releases about how they’re going to take money out of the Washington Opportunity Pathways account to pay for it. I’m not going to quote the whole thing, but I wanted to highlight a few things:
The legislation, sponsored in the Senate by Litzow and Sens. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah and Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, makes a series of updates which include directing charter school funding to come from the state’s Opportunity Pathways Account, which contains state lottery revenues not restricted to common schools.
I emailed Litzow’s office on Sunday asking about what in the fund the bill would cut to make room for charters and he didn’t respond (in the same email, I also asked about the demographics of charter schools and we’ll get to that in a bit). It seems pretty obvious to me that if you want to pay for charters with an existing pot of money that you’ll have less money in that pot to pay for the things it’s paying for now. So I wanted to know if the plan is to take all of the money from one thing or to partial it out a bit from each.
For reference, here’s a list of the programs the Washington Opportunities Pathways fund goes to now:
- State Need Grant
- College Bound Scholarship
- State Work Study
- Passport to College Program for Foster Youth
- American Indian Endowed Scholarship
- Health Professional Loan Repayment & Scholarship Programs
- Federal/State Loan Repayment Program (FSLRP)
- Health Professional Loan Repayment Program
- John R. Justice Loan Repayment
- Aerospace Loan Program
- Alternative Routes to Teaching
You can get more info about any of those programs at the link above. There is a pretty big disparity in how much money goes to each thing, and the press release doesn’t say how much the charter schools cost. But any dollar you add to charters under the plan has to come from one, some, or all of them. It seems like taking any money out of any of those is going to be taking money away from education at a time when we need more money in education. Maybe charters are better than some or any of them. But supporters make it seem like they found a new pot of money instead of using a pot of money that’s already allocated.
The press release also talks about low income and minority children: The title of the release says it will help “address education inequality” and it quotes Senator Pettigrew (who I generally like) as such:
“The opportunity to get a great education should be available to everyone, regardless of their zip code or the color of their skin. But many students, especially students of color, are not getting the education they deserve in our current system,”
I agree! That is important! It’s so important it’s why we have have public education in the first place. But the press release just takes at face value that the charters do a better job educating minorities. It certainly doesn’t provide any evidence that they’re better than public schools at this. The press release didn’t mention how they would ensure that charters would serve minorities going forward. Or for that matter even track if it does.
I asked what the demographics of the current charters are versus the state as a whole and versus the districts where charters were set up. Since the legislation doesn’t propose changes to the charter system as far as I could tell, that seems like a fair proxy for how they work at that goal at least initially. But again the email wasn’t answered.