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Will WASTATE go for charters under Trumped Education?

The Donald’s choice of Betsy DeVos as the next secretary of education is momentous for the fight here WA over charters. Stripped of lots of rhetoric the fight here has two parts:

1. Who should control the tax money spent, under our Constitution, to provide public education?  On one side, most Democrats want control vested in the political process that elects school boards.  In effect this means the teachers’ unions that are the major interest group with funds to spend on recruiting candidates.  On the other side are most Republicans who oppose public unions (other than those that represent cops) and largely technology related business people, of whatever party, who believe that parents should be able to choose the schools their kids attend and that these parents would make wise choices if charter schools could compete for these public dollars.

2. How will the state find the money to comply with the state Constitution that says education is primarily the provide for the state? Our supreme court ruled three years ago that WA must find money for this purpose.

ny-times-icoKevin Carey’s review of Betsy DeVos career as an uber wealthy Republican philanthropist  sheds light on the real issues in our local fight.  Assuming the legislature does get the money, how might it be spent

Excerpts: .

Market-based school reforms generally come in two flavors: vouchers and charter schools. They differ in both structure and political orientation. Charter schools are public schools, open to all, accountable in varying degrees to public authorities, and usually run by nonprofit organizations. Vouchers, by contrast, allow students to attend any school, public or private, including those run by religious organizations and for-profit companies.

Working primarily in Michigan, Ms. DeVos has been a strong advocate of vouchers, and her charter work has often focused on making charter schools as private as possible. The large majority of Michigan charters are run by for-profit companies, in contrast with most states.

Our politics reflect the conflicting realities in states where charter schools have been implemented:

… voters in liberal Massachusetts rejected a ballot measure by a 62-38 margin that would have increased the number of charter schools in the state, despite strong evidence that the state’s well-supervised charters produce superior results for low-income and minority schoolchildren.

Ms. Devos’s efforts in Michigan reflect a much worse outcome of a charter effort:

In her home state, Detroit’s laissez-faire choice policies have led to a wild west of cutthroat competition and poor academic results. While there is substantial academic literature on school vouchers and while debates continue between opposing camps of researchers, it’s safe to say that vouchers have not produced the kind of large improvements in academic achievement that market-oriented reformers originally promised.


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