Take time to understand Initiative 1240


Public education is failing. Or so I was told today by a stranger collecting signatures for Initiative 1240.

This is bad news: I am a public educator, but I am not a failure. In choosing teaching, I made a commitment to more than a job.

To find myself being told I am failing by a man who has no training in education and who clearly knows little about how public or charter schools function was more than a little offensive.

I-1240 may sound like a great idea. I remember studying charter schools in college, thinking about how much freedom they seem to provide for teachers.

In reality, however, the research is pretty bleak. Overall, the impact of charter schools appears, at best, negligible.

According to a recent Stanford University study, "More than half the charters have less growth in learning than what their students would have realized if they had remained in traditional schools in their community." This is in spite of significant advantages that charters have over their non-charter counterparts: Educational and curricular freedom similar to private schools, enrollment limits and a tendency to attract families for whom education is a priority.

If the money being spent on U.S. charter schools could be directed to reducing schools' focus on high stakes testing (thus increasing instructional freedom) and allowing schools to keep reasonable teacher-student ratios (charters are limiting enrollment, while non-charters are losing class-size funding), then we would have positive educational reform.

If nothing else, though, I hope this will at least remain a state that supports a truly public education system that does not allow public funds to be allocated for what are, in essence, experimental private schools.

Please do not just blindly support any educational reform initiatives. Public education is something this country should cherish and invest in, not turn over to corporations and private agencies. Teachers have made a strong commitment to our profession, but we can't fight for kids alone. We can't let politics get in the way of what should be the priority: students!

I know everyone won't agree on these issues -- they are infinitely complex -- but I do believe everyone has a responsibility to fully understand what they are signing, especially when their signatures can have such a profound impact on kids.

I hope you'll decline to sign I-1240, but if you do add your signature, please at least know its implications.

Kirsten Whitlock
Walla Walla


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