I was not that shocked when I read the news that Washington State’s elected leaders in both the Senate and the House are attempting to cut funding to charter schools. It’s par for the course with many of our state leaders, who have an open hostility to these schools whose success is based on their ability to escape excessive state control.
What is more surprising is that the Democrat-run House and Senate are willing to stir up a storm in poor communities.
In most cases, charter schools are created in neighborhoods where the schools are failing or under-performing. In Washington, by 2020 we will have 14 active public charter schools that serve nearly 4,000 students.
Liv Finne, Director of Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center, a non-profit think tank that promotes sound public policy based on free-market solutions, writes, “Section 520 of the 2019-21 budget provides $99.8 million to charter schools. The new House and Senate supplemental budget proposals, PSHB 2325 and SB 6168, would cut that by $5.8 million, a reduction of 6%.”
So why would it be an agenda item for the Democrats of Washington to cut funding to charter schools? It does not add up when you consider that charter school students have access to only federal and state funding, unlike government run schools which have access to local property tax levies.
Here is my theory.
Democrats, although proclaiming themselves to be progressive, are actually quite regressive when it comes to education. They fear charter school successes because they undermine the state’s domination of public education (charter schools are free from state regulations) and diminish the role of teacher unions (the largest funders to their campaigns).
Charter schools can operate in a ways fundamentally different from that of traditional government-run schools. And the usually outperform them. Charter schools provide a much-needed alternative to government-run schools, particularly in impoverished neighborhoods—they provide real choice where previously there has been none.
No family should need permission to choose a school for their own kids. The government needs to stop siphoning away funding from one of the few areas in public education that is making a real difference—especially in poorer communities which lack the private school alternatives available to wealthier families.