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Topic: 3to23

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October 24, 2013 at 7:30 AM

The origins of charter schools offer insight for Washington state

photo (7)UPDATED:

Call Embert Reichgott Junge the mother of all charter schools and you’re not far off the mark. The Democrat was in the Minnesota state Senate in the early 1990s and helped write and pass the nation’s first charter school law. That legislative feat led to the expansion of charters across the country.

Washington state was one of the last states to adopt a law allowing charters and with the news this week that 23 organizations have advised the state Charter School Commission of their interest opening a school here, it seemed useful to look at where charters have been to get a gauge on where this state is going. Junge was in Seattle this week speaking with pro-education reform groups and pushing  “Zero Chance of Passage,” her account of the bipartisan effort to pass the first charter school law.

Talking with Junge, one thing quickly becomes apparent. The political history of charter schools is sorely misunderstood. The non-traditional public schools have been cast by opponents as a tool used by the political right to privatize education. The truth is charter schools grew out of the political center. The victory in Minnesota was led by moderates. There was Junge but also the state’s Democratic governor, Rudy Perpich; Albert Shanker, then president of the American Federation of Teachers; and civic leaders looking to improve public schools. Everyone was drawn to charters for different reasons. Perpich wanted to expand school choice. Shanker and other union leaders were drawn to charter schools’ promise of autonomy which they interpreted as allowing teachers more control over school decisions. Now fast forward 20 years later.

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Comments | Topics: 3to23, charter schools, children

September 30, 2013 at 6:31 AM

School overcrowding in Seattle and elsewhere force shifts in boundaries and politics

Paul Tong/Op Art

Paul Tong/Op Art

Population increases statewide, but especially in western Washington are causing school districts like Lake Washington, Issaquah and Seattle to build new schools quickly and take up the always painful task of redrawing boundaries.

In the Seattle Public School proposed boundaries are the topic of a meeting tonight at Meany Middle School. This Times story recaps Seattle’s proposed changes in elementary- and middle-school attendance boundaries next year.

Nearly every district is using building construction levies to modernize old schools and build new ones to manage overcrowding. Seattle voters approved the Building Excellence IV (or BEX IV) capital levy last February and projects include replacing or upgrading 17 schools.

The plan is being greeted differently in different areas of the city. I’ve heard from  Georgetown Parents for Maple School concerned about boundary changes that would lengthen the safe walking distances from their homes to school. West Seattle parents are looking to make changes to the proposal as well, according to the West Seattle blog.

Shifting boundaries is one aspect of the plan, the other is about what district officials call program equity or their efforts to ensure premier academic programs are spread throughout the district.  In that vein, the proposed changes include splitting the Accelerated Progress Program currently housed at Lincoln and relocating it into two other schools. Is that a fight the district should be picking? Better yet, is it one they can win?  

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Comments | Topics: 3to23, children, Education

September 20, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Three women and a charter schools movement

Corrected version

Kristina Bellamy-McClain, Brenda McDonald and Maggie O'Sullivan plan to open charter schools. Photo/Jen Wickens

Kristina Bellamy-McClain, Brenda McDonald and Maggie O’Sullivan plan to open charter schools.
Photo/Jen Wickens

My column this week features three longtime Washington educators preparing to launch three separate public charter schools. Brenda McDonald, Kristina Bellamy-McClain and Maggie O’Sullivan are working with the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

These women are bright, experienced and have strong ties in the communities they’re choosing to locate their schools. McDonald’s entry into the Spokane School District should be made easier by the fact that Spokane was the first district in the state to be approved as a charter school authorizer. The district is obviously open to an innovative new school emphasizing foreign languages and STEM studies. The other two women are considering schools in Tacoma and South King County.

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Comments | Topics: 3to23, children, Education

September 19, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Seattle closer to high-quality universal preschool

Donna Grethen, Op Art

Donna Grethen/Op Art

Seattle is a step closer to becoming one of the few cities in the nation offering universal preschool. A City Council committee Wednesday approved a proposal for voluntary, high-quality preschool for all 3- and 4-year-old children in the city. The resolution passed by the Government Performance and Finance Committee authorizes the city Office of Education to figure out how many 3 and 4 year olds living in Seattle are not currently enrolled in high-quality preschool, design a preschool program to serve them and figure out how to pay for it.

Tall order. But it is being done in cities like San Antonio, San Francisco and Boston.

Besides universal preschool is one of the few things everyone at City Hall agrees on. Under Mayor Mike McGinn, the $231 million Seattle Families and Education Levy helps fund 20 preschool sites operated by 11 community agencies. This City of Seattle news release back in July reported another $470,000 for the city’s Step Ahead preschool program, bringing Seattle’s total investment in early learning to $62 million over the life of the seven-year levy passed in 2011.  Learn more about Seattle’s pre-K initiatives here.

Both the mayor and the man who wants his job support universal pre-K. State Sen. Ed Murray’s mayoral campaign sent an email touting his support for the proposal. The Democrat was in the Legislature in 2006 when Gov. Gregoire proposed a state agency for early learning and a public-private partnership, Thrive by Five, which invests in early learning efforts.

“If I am elected mayor, I will work closely with Council member Burgess, other members of the City Council and stakeholders to ensure we put a proposal before the voters during my first term in office,” Murray’s statement read.

All of Seattle’s wealth, innovative spirit and focus on education ought to be called upon to make this effort succeed.

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Comments | Topics: 3to23, children, early learning

June 14, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Legislature’s budget must be good for higher education

As the state House and Senate near a budget deal (we all hope), lawmakers are reminded to make 20040912opart-fsure higher education has enough money.

This is not the year for cuts. At a minimum, the budget must include maintenance-level funding that allows our public universities and community and technical colleges to pay for current programs and obligations.

Budget proposals from the Democratic House and the Republican-led Senate Majority Coalition include maintenance-level funding. Both budgets also invest more money in the State Need Grant.

But in letters to key lawmakers this week, education leaders from both the state’s four-year and two-year systems expressed serious concerns about the budget prospects.

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Comments | Topics: 3to23, children, democrats

June 6, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Lawmakers should compromise on budget and avert second special session

Gov. Jay Inslee was on to something Tuesday when he said lawmakers on different sides of the political aisle would have to compromise on the state’s final operating budget by engaging in some give and take. Actually, it seems to me Democratic and Republican legislators have done a considerable amount of both. Despite some reported differences…

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Comments | Topics: 3to23, budget, Education

May 31, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Colorado blazes a trail on education reform

My column this week noted the education reforms in Colorado, a state of similar population and demographics to Washington. Colorado is further down the road making school improvements and offers lessons for this state.  The biggest lesson is about charter schools, which Colorado has had for nearly 20 years.  An advocacy group in Denver, A-Plus, produced a report last…

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Comments | Topics: 3to23, children, democrats

May 27, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Parents and students get tuition certainty from WSU and Highline School District

Two bold decisions by leaders at opposite ends of the educational spectrum raise the bar on what the public should expect from educational institutions and those who lead them. In the first instance, Washington State University’s Board of Regents approved a 2 percent tuition increase at WSU for next year. It is a bold move considering the state…

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Comments | Topics: 3to23, children, Education

May 22, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Tom Stritikus, Susan Enfield on overcoming poverty and educating South King County kids

Earlier this week, Seattle Times reporter Lornet Turnbull wrote about the growth of poverty in South King County’s suburban communities. She highlighted the findings of a new Brookings Institute study that concludes a lack of affordable housing has led low-income households to move outside Seattle city limits. In particular, the last line in the…

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Comments | Topics: 3to23, brookings institute, Education

May 15, 2013 at 8:20 AM

Following the money in public education

Gabriel Campanario/The Seattle Times

Gabriel Campanario/The Seattle Times

A major study of public education philanthropy found that education reforms have been accompanied over the last decade by a shift in financial support from private foundations. The biggest example is the shift of philanthropic dollars from traditional public schools to charter schools, a finding guaranteed to fuel flames in the charter vs. traditional public schools debate.

The Michigan State University-led study tracked grants over a 10-year period from 15 U.S. foundations that give the most money to K-12 education.

“Not only are they giving more, but they are giving more, faster, and we find that very interesting,” one of the studies co-authors, Jeffrey W. Snyder told Education Week.

“Beyond Grantmaking: Philanthropic Foundations as Agents of Change and Institutional Entrepreneurs” was released at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco last week. I wrote about that meeting in this column. The research is thick but fascinating because of the power of philanthropic foundations to make social change. Total assets of the United States’ 76,000 foundations has grown from an estimated $272 billion in 1995 to $625 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2012, according to the Urban Institute. How that money influences, and improves, social conditions is worthy of ongoing attention.

But any takeaway that philanthropy is a corrupting influence is too simplistic a view. Nor do I think the authors intend for their research to be used to make that narrow point. The issue is far more complex. Funders are becoming much more active in shaping how their money affects change. They are holding themselves accountable for results.  I would warn against rushing to judge this shift. The impact of private funding, particularly from large foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is far more complex than a good versus bad paradigm allows. Here’s one reason why.

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Comments | Topics: 3to23, children, Education

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