Charter Schools bill SB5012 an unconstitutional trap, removes oversight of legislators and elected school boards

The hearing on SB5012 is Jan. 28th at 1:30. The prime sponsor is the Chair of the Ed Committee, Sen. Johnson. People can access the bill on line, which will show the other sponsors and the language.

To: Washington State Senators

From: Cris Shardelman
360-779-9126 or

Topic: SB 5012 Charter Schools
By way of introduction, I have worked for over 30 years for parents’ rights in education. I am not a proponent of the current education reform. Charter schools are not the remedy, providing no choice and an unconstitutional trap.

Proponents of charter schools state, “It’s a step in the right direction.” They don’t tell it is a leap that creates contract schools over which you, the elected legislators lose all control. Proponents John Chubb and Terry Moe perfectly described this in Politics, Markets, and American Schools, page 218:

Our guiding principle in the design of a choice system is this: public authority must be put to use in
creating a system that is almost entirely beyond the reach of public authority.”

In violation of our Constitution Article 1 S 12, SB5012 grants charter schools immunity from nearly 800 laws and grants privileges of additional funding not available to other schools. Charter schools are contract schools. If you, the legislators, allow them to operate outside those laws, you will have removed parental rights to view curriculum, to excuse students from objectionable material, to require teaching patriotism and morality, and removed many protections educators need. Indeed, you will have changed our form of government by eliminating elected representation over taxation. You will not then be able to legislate protective laws onto charter schools without risking lawsuits over breach of contract. Further, with ongoing contracting with schools, both through newly established charter schools, and through the open-ended conversion of existing schools, there will never be a time, free from contracts, you can change the law. Changing Article 1 S 12 requires placing a constitutional amendment before the people.

SB5012 removes choice. First, the elected board is no longer accountable to taxpayers. They are replaced by a corporate board, who take no oath to uphold the constitutions, thus are not subject to recall. Next, no election is held to allow voters to determine the advisability of allowing tax dollars to fund charters in the district. No election allows voters to determine whether existing schools will convert. Indeed, after 2005, even districts with less than 1,000 students can convert, leaving no option for students. Will districts build new schools for those that desire elected representation and parental rights? What would be the cost of buying out a charter school contract, if citizens don’t like it?

Charter schools must comply with HB1209, ed reform, and with No Child Left Behind laws, which will drive the curriculum. Nor can charter schools be religious, or operated by a religious organization. No choice there!

Non-profit corporations are to manage charter schools, but nothing prohibits profit making. The non-profit corporation can contract out instruction services and other purchases, even to for-profit corporations. What happens to tax purchased equipment in the event of bankruptcy, as has happened already in other states? Does it revert to the taxpayers, lien-holders, or the non-profit corporation? If a converted charter school fails to fulfill its contract, and the federal government asks for return of funding, who assumes the reimbursement, the non-profit corporation or the school district?

Logic should tell us duplicate services in a district cannot save money, but so do several studies and the experience of many charter school districts. A Twentieth Century Fund Report by three New York University Researchers, Hard Lessons Public Schools and Privatization, studied these public/private hybrid experiments dating from 1970’s to 1996, and found no dollar savings, and little improvement in test scores. In Baltimore, for instance, test scores fell, but per-pupil costs were 11..2 percent higher. The 1970 experimental public/private hybrids were so bleak, 20 years passed before experimenting again. Why not use the study provision prior to considering this legislation?

In 1998, UCLA researchers found little accountability for academic performance in 10 California school districts. They also raised questions about management efficiency of public funding.

September 2002, Brookings Institute released a study of 376 charter schools in 10 states. Charter schools were found anywhere from a half year to a full year behind their public school peers on reading and math tests.

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer 12-21-02, just 16% of the 2,422 charter school students taking the fourth grade reading test scored proficient or above. That is compared to 46% of all Ohio students.

It is common knowledge some of the biggest for profit charter school corporations have never made a profit, and have had to cut services to students. Edison is a prime example of broken promises, community strife, and uncertainty whether mid-year closure of schools will leave students scrambling for an education.

Charter schools are an avenue for School-to-Work to benefit business. Students are short changed on education to serve the needs of the labor market. Taxpayers pick up the cost of training.

Lastly, nothing in SB5012 forbids the non-profit corporation from contracting with foreign nation corporations to manage charter schools. Massachusetts has 2 Sabis Charter Schools, whose home base is Liechtenstein. Granting immunity from teaching United States Citizenship and patriotism would certainly make it easier to teach world citizenship, wouldn’t it?

Charter schools do not provide “choice”. They contract away any authority you, the elected Senators, have over charter schools. They pose taxation without representation. They cannot be used for religious schools, which comprise 85% of private schools. They violate the Constitution in several provisions. I urge you vote no, or again refer this matter to your constituents.

If I may be of service in providing documentation for your study, please contact me.


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