For the fourth time in recent years, corporate interests are putting a charter school measure on the Washington state ballot. The last three were rejected by voters. This one, which authorizes 40 charters over five years, should also be rejected.

I-1240 will take funds away from our public schools and give them to new, privately operated charter schools, which are unaccountable to the public. Despite the glowing reports given to charter schools by the corporate media, research done at Stanford University shows that only 17 percent of charter schools outperform local public schools, while nearly 40 percent of are worse [http://credo.stanford.edu/reports]. This is despite the fact that charter schools usually cherry pick the students they enroll, often rejecting special ed students and expelling “failing” students. Public schools provide education for every child.

It’s not just that charter schools have failed to show any improvements over public schools. Charter schools are the thin edge of the wedge of a broader corporate takeover of public schools. Under this agenda, “failing” students, usually from working-class and less advantaged backgrounds, and often students of color, will no longer be offered equal educational advantages to other students. Instead of providing these students with a quality education that puts them on a path towards a well-paid, stimulating job, they will be shifted to schools that offer a dumbed-down educational regime based on continual high-stakes testing. These low-cost, non-union schools effectively indoctrinate students to accept the regimental workplaces of the low-paid service sector, where jobs are proliferating. In this new two-tier education system, quality schools – where high teacher-student ratios and a challenging curriculum are offered -will only be available to a minority of students, often those with the most privileged backgrounds.

Corporate Interests Behind I-1240

I-1240 was put on the ballot through $3 million in funding by a handful of powerful corporate interests, including the Gates Foundation and the Walton family, owners of Wal-Mart. These wealthy families are pushing the corporate education agenda, which aims to open up public funds to corporate profiteering. Not surprisingly, I-1240 is backed by the two leading business organizations in the state: the Association of Washington Business and Washington Roundtable. Standing against it are parents and teachers represented by the state PTA and Washington Education Association, and the Washington State School Directors’ Association.

Instead of diverting funds into unaccountable charter schools and opening up a broad attack on public education, we need to improve the schools we have. Public school teachers, and the Washington Education Association which represents them, are not to blame. A strong union allows teachers to be outspoken in defense of educational standards and ensures quality teachers are well paid and retained in the system – rather than being replaced at the whim of a principal, as happens in charter schools. Increased innovation does not need to be done through privately operated charter schools. It has been done – and can continue to be done – through the public school system.

Saying we oppose charter schools does not mean we think the public school system is adequate. It needs massive revitalization, and the steps needed to do this are not a secret. We just need to look at how the rich elite set up their schools. They do it by increasing funding, ensuring small class sizes, and allowing experienced teachers to use innovative teaching methods. And yet they argue that a high-stakes system and replacing quality teachers by inexperienced students straight out of graduate school is what we need. If it’s good enough for them, it should be good enough for us, too – and our public school system. If billionaires like Bill Gates want to play with new experimental schools, they should do it with their own money, not with our public funds.

Public education was only won by a concerted struggle by working-class communities. With the capitalist system now mired in a deep crisis, and with both major political parties pushing the new corporate education agenda, we need to build a new independent movement of parents, teachers, and students to fight these attacks on education.

We Demand:

  • Vote No on Initiative 1240
  • Reverse cuts in public education – Tax the richest 1% and big business to fund quality public schools
  • Fund education on an equal per-capita basis, regardless of community
  • End high-stakes testing – Provide support so teachers can provide quality education
  • For democratic control of schools by teachers, parents, and students
  • Living wage jobs for all, so all kids have a fair chance of a decent education

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