State schools chief may file suit against charter schools

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SEATTLE — A day after the charter schools initiative was declared a winner by a small margin, Washington’s superintendent of public instruction went on the offensive.

Randy Dorn is on fire about the initiative, arguing that the new commission it creates to authorize and monitor charter schools circumvents the current school system.

“Creating a new agency under the Governor’s Office to oversee 10 to 40 public schools, to me, is a clear violation of the (state) Constitution,” Dorn said.  He argues that it is the superintendent of public instruction who should oversee public schools.

The state’s schools chief is poised to press his point.

“I believe the answer is yes,” Dorn said after being asked if he plans a lawsuit.

However, he said he will wait until the measure is certified and he has a chance to talk to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Supporters on Tuesday dismissed the superintendent’s argument, saying the legality of the measure was fully vetted even before it made the election ballot.

“The attorney general looked and considered his arguments and said, uh-uh, this initiative is constitutional,” said Lisa Macfarlane, who helped write the measure. “He’s trying to get another bite at the apple, and that’s his right, but we think he’s wrong.”

Dorn argued that voters didn’t fully appreciate the details of the initiative.  “Did people really understand that, that there was going to be a new agency, and it was going to be $3 million given to 10-40 schools, where I only have $8 million to do 295 districts?” he asked.

Macfarlane scoffs at the notion that voters didn’t understand what they were voting on.

“We ran a very factual campaign to get voters information about what charters schools are,” she said. “We went into, you know, forums and living rooms and debates, and every editorial board in the state considered this measure, and there was plenty of information.”


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  • Rhymes With Right

    "Dorn argued that voters didn’t fully appreciate the details of the initiative."

    Translation — "I believe the people are too stupid to govern themselves, and that therefore bureaucrats and judges should do it for them.

    • CentristParent

      Translation — "When the "YES on 1240" side spends $6.00 per signature—a total of more than $3 million just to Purchase Ballot Access—and then outspends the opposition by a staggering, all time record of 17 to 1. 17 to 1?!?!? which allowed them to make and broadcast oodles of TV commercials, deceiving people about this radical initiative, with absolutely zero response by the opposition. (If only we had 8 billionaires paying for us too…)

      And still, with all that, they STILL only managed a statewide tie.

      Which is why they haven't heard the last from we parents, students, taxpayers and teachers. This was only Phase One of this battle.

  • Just Saying

    Thanks, Mr. Dorn.

    The Washington State Legislature has not created a funding stream for I 1240. Charter schools will drain funding from a struggling system and put greater amounts of students at risk.

    Initiative 1240 will not allow taxpayers to vote out ineffective members of the Charter Commission.

    Finally, Initiative 1240 will allow for a simple majority of teachers or parents to begin a process of turning public properties to private entities.

    In a recent article, Lisa McFarland was still trying to wrap her head around the hypotheticals. She should have wrapped her head around the hypotheticals before she pushed a campaign funded at $10.9M

    Here is the real narrative: A few wealthy individuals hired signature collectors to get I 1240 on the ballot. Then, these same individuals put $10.9M into the YES campaign. I 1240 won by a very narrow margin.

    • Rhymes With Right

      In other words, you agree with Dorn that the people are too stupid to be allowed to govern themselves. The word "unAmerican" comes to mind whenever I hear that position espoused by an "I know better than the voters" liberal.

    • CentristParent

      Remember also that 1240 spent a record $6.00 Per Signature to purchase their ballot access. The people collecting the signatures didn't know, nor care, what the petition said: they were just paid a few cents for each name they collected. Kind of like carnival barkers who get a small slice of the gate.

      Lisa McFarlane is your classic sellout. Quisling. Money grabber.

      Why is she doing and saying all of this? Because she's getting paid an enormous salary to do so. She poses as a "Democrat" in a deliberate effort to confuse, mislead and muddy the waters.

      Did McFarlane also admit that she is the one and only member of her little DFER in the entire state? (If she's reading this, you can bet she's already scurrying around, making calls, trying to find another "Democrat" ASAP.)

      The fight against 1240 is far from over. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, one of my heroes, “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end when we win. We shall fight back in our small towns and big cities, we shall fight back with growing confidence and growing strength throughout Puget Sound. We shall defend our state, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight back in Eastern Washington, we shall fight back in Central Washington, we shall fight back in our orchards and in our vineyards, we shall fight back in the mountains; we shall never surrender.”

  • helenoconnell

    Rhmes, are you stupid if you hire a lawyer to write your will? Are you stupid if you go to a doctor when you find some weird growth on your bald head? Are you stupid if you pay an architect to design your 40 story building? Are you stupid if you go to the Apple “genius” bar because your mac’s puking up its hard drive? No. You rely on experts all. the. time. without giving it a second thought – the food you buy (meat butchered by… a butcher!), the car you drive (made by… engineers!), the books you read (written by…. writers!), the sewer you flush your toilet into (built and maintained by… sanitation experts!)….

    Dude – I’m an educated woman and I can’t understand half the initiatives I’ve had to vote on since I moved to WA 8 years ago. Here’s how America’s supposed to work, per the Founding Fathers: representative democracy! We hire (vote) for legislative experts and expect them to do a damn good job and if they don’t we fire them. It scares me that I have to vote on things like complicated medical insurance issues and arcane government rules and bonds and infrastructure…

    No one’s saying anyone’s stupid.

    • Rhymes With Right

      Well, if you are clearly admitting your own incompetence to be heard on such matters. And it is frightening that one such as yourself, who would prefer to be a subject rather than a citizen, has the same vote as those who are responsible citizens who inform themselves regarding the issues on the ballot.

      But your comment does prove one other thing — we clearly have too much government if it has become so complicated that allegedly educated individuals cannot understand it.

    • susan

      Great point, and well put, helenoconnell. We had two ballot initiatives in MN this year, (constitutional amendments, one to define marriage as between one man and one woman, the other to require a photo ID at the time of voting, both bullshit and both defeated — yay Minnesota) and even those caused confusion in some voters. I was helping senior citizens at the polling place, and they were trying to remember if a no vote on the marriage amendment meant that you were voting no on gay marriage — which surprisingly most of them did NOT want to do. So the double negative was a bit confusing. And, we defeated the voter ID amendment, in part, by arguing that the legislators should do the job they were hired to do. Also, people are bitching about long lines at the polls (I know, you guys vote by mail) but when you have nine pages of initiatives, as they did in FL, I think, then you're going to have people taking 30 minutes in the booth. I vote YES for an initiative to stop gov't by initiatives!

    • CentristParent

      Actually, Helen, you graciously didn't say it, but someone has to point out the obvious: "Rhymes With Right" IS "stupid".

      Big Time.

  • helenoconnell

    Aw, Rhymes, my comment doesn’t “prove” anything. And I’m not “alledgedly” educated. I am educated. Maybe I’m not smart, but I am educated. Oh, you can’t take that away from meee (as the song goes).

    But, ya know, looks like you and I are not going to enjoy our time together here. I bid you a fond farewell.

    PS. Try not being so scared – there’s nothing “frightening” about me at all. Everything is going to be okay.

    • helenoconnellblows

      no – your kind is always frightening. your kind has bankrupted the educational system and in return all we've gotten is a generation of ignorant and hopeless young adults. now GFY

      • CentristParent

        Anyone who instantly creates a screen name containing a juvenile insult is either 12 years old or is stuck in that prepubescent mentality.

        But you are capable, like most 12 year olds, of "following along with Fox News" and parroting the cliches they've taught you to obediently memorize.

        Some Facts:
        The educational system is not bankrupt; although it is being starved, intentionally by conservatives who hate public schools.

        Our young adults are actually the best educated generation in American history. Did you know that? If you judge by the same standardized tests that conservatives tend to revere, such as the SAT or ACT, results have never been better; and this is across the board, for all ethnic groups and all levels of parental education.

        If you control for income level—and remove the students from the lowest income families, the bottom 20% of income level—the USA is at the top of the world in the PISA rankings that compare one country's students with another.

        That's correct: For several years now, Finland, South Korea and Singapore have been at the top. But, again, subtract the poorest 1/5 of our population and our country actually is a world leader.

        Quick, Little Namecaller…run along now and go get a Fox "News" cliche to spew back at me; better yet, copy O'Reilly and tell me to "SHUT UP!" and call me a "PINHEAD"!

        That'll be a good comeback…well, at least predictable for your mentality.

        • Rhymes With Right

          My screen name contains a juvenile insult? "Rhymes With Right" is how I teach my students to pronounce my last name, which has an unusual spelling that does not intuitively produce the correct pronunciation.

          Second, I don't watch Fox News if I can avoid it — sometimes do so in the waiting area at the doctor, but it is not my news source of choice. But hey — nice try at a second bullying insult based upon your own stereotypes and prejudices — I bet you teach your children to do similar things about racial and ethnic minorities.

          I'll be the first to concede that our public schools (and I teach in one, having done so for the last 16 years) do a good job. That said, I recognize that they are not the best choice for every kid, and therefore believe that the system found in other countries (UK, Canada) under which parents have a choice of schools for their kids and the tax dollars allocated for the education of said children follows them.

          And your argument about SAT and ACT scores is untrue — they are not better across the board at all levels or for all groups when one considers that the test scores were re-normed some years back to make the scores look higher. Today's scores are inflated.

          And you want to remove the bottom 20% of kids from consideration when comparing our students — in other words, you are trying to make our sample lily-white because you don't think our minority kids count for as much as your precious children do., with their white skin and privileged upbringing. I say leave the brown and black kids (the ones I have made a career teaching at my 97% minority school where 70% are on free or reduced lunch) in the sample and measure where ALL our nation's children truly fall on those rankings, not just those who look like your kids and live in neighborhoods like yours or better.

          Why am I supportive of school choice and charter schools? because I've seen students of mine who were failing in a traditional public school setting thrive in a charter setting. I've seen others, whose parents were able to scrape together enough money to send them to a private school, thrive in such settings as well. I prefer the student's school is based upon a reasonable evaluation of his/her need, rather than a bureaucratically convenient assignment based upon address.

          Now despite having been repeatedly insulted and called names by you, I won't do the same in return. I've not been doing that in the discussion — except to make an objective evaluation of the notion proposed by another commenter that she prefers being ruled by unelected bureaucrats because she lacks the intellect or self-discipline to be an informed voter. I'll let your arrogance and disdain for the poor, minorities, and those who disagree with you speak for themselves.

  • CentristParent

    Tell that to the Whole New Crop of Bureaucrats—LOTS of them—that will be setting up shop in Olympia if 1240 is allowed to stand.

    Also, tell that to people when their taxes have to go up, in order to keep their schools just at their present, poorly funded levels AND support 40 new charter "schools".

    In a lot of states, like Georgia, for instance, privatizers poured in a ton of cash, like here, to buy a bunch of TV commercials to confuse and obscure the truth and get people to vote for a new system: The new system takes away every local school district's right to say yes or no on a charter. From now on, only the centralized bureaucracy in the state capital will be able to say yes or no on a charter.

    "We The People"? Really? Or do you just do whatever a "conservative" tells you to do? Quisling?

    • Rhymes With Right

      Why keep the school district from making the decision on whether or not to approve a charter school? For the same reason one does not allow a monopolist to make the decision on whether or not a competitor will be permitted to enter the marketplace.

  • CentristParent

    Well, although I'm angry and upset that this deceptive fraud called "I-1240" passed, I'm at least at peace with myself for not being duped. I ultimately voted NO on 1240. With each passing day, I'm more certain than ever that I did the right thing.

    At first, I was in favor of 1240. Then I took some time to get the facts. It was time well spent. This is what turned me against it:

    1) Initiative 1240 will drain money from our existing schools: Our schools are already struggling. We don’t even have enough money to meet the current needs of our schools. Bringing 40 charters into our state, to compete for these same, already inadequate funds, is absolutely irresponsible. It would only make school finances that much worse.

    Does anyone really believe that we can operate all existing schools AND open up 40 news ones, using the same pot of money, with no fiscal impact or decline?

    2) Initiative 1240 would impose the most extreme “Trigger” in history: Arguably the worst part of Initiative 1240 is a dangerous experiment usually referred to as a “Parent Trigger” or “Conversion Trigger”. This “trigger” would allow just 51% of any school’s parents or just 51% of any school’s teachers to immediately convert it to a charter.

    After that, the new bureaucracy will Rubber Stamp your "51% Takeover" as long as you choose one of their "Preferred Companies" that manage these charter "schools".

    Like any other mature industry, charters are now beginning to form an oligopoly, where a handful of companies will soon dominate at least 80% of the market. These emerging giants include KIPP, Rocketship, Green Dot and others that are "well connected"; watch the little incestuous love nest as this all unfolds…

    Even more concerning, Initiative 1240 does not require any public notice to parents or teachers that a charter conversion petition is being circulated! The first time students or parents or teachers hear about this conversion might be after the fact, when they can no longer do anything to stop it.

    In every one of the four states that now allow a “trigger”, they can only be used by “failing schools”. However, the “trigger” within Initiative 1240 would be the first that could be used by any school, no matter how high or low achieving.

    This is insanity. And it threatens the existence of every single school in our state. We have to get rid of this thing before it can attach itself to our education body and drain the life out of it, like any other parasite.

    3) Initiative 1240 establishes a new, duplicative bureaucracy and is undoubtedly unconstitutional: If 1240 is allowed to stand, we’ll be paying more to receive less. It will set up two separate educational systems, adding a new state bureaucracy and new costs for all taxpayers.

    4) 1240 lacks accountability to parents and taxpayers: 1240 fails to provide citizen and parent involvement and oversight. This is the main reason the Washington State PTA is still against it, even though they previously gave certain types of charters a qualified, limited endorsement.

    5) Initiative 1240 lacks charter authorizer oversight: Initiative 1240 technically restricts charter authorizers to the charter commission or a school board. However, authorizers are also free to contract out their duties to anyone.

    Such laws have led to widespread corruption and waste in other states and would enhance the potential for unethical behavior and very clear conflicts of interest.

    And when a sanctioned authorizer approves a conversion of an existing public school into a charter, it will inevitably do great harm to that public school and its entire district.

    In such a case, the new charter will receive all of the revenue previously received by the public school. But it will pay absolutely no rent to the district for the school building it now occupies. Yet, the district will still be 100% responsible for all building maintenance and major capital improvements.

    1240 isn’t a minor piece of legislation, or a small trimming around the edges. It is an attempt to impose radical changes on a public education system that, while imperfect, has served our state well for 150 years. It is extremely risky with no clear benefit.

    This cannot be allowed to stand. All citizens need to know, it's time to fight back. Let's nullify the deceptive 1240.

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