When it comes to charter schools, the PTA board knows best
by Liv Finne
West Seattle High School Credit: Joe Wolf
The board of the Washington state PTA voted 11-6 on Aug. 10 to reverse the earlier stance of 262 rank-and-file PTA delegates and decided not to support charter schools as proposed in Initiative 1240, a measure that will appear on the ballot in November.
I-1240 would lift the state ban on charter schools — independent public schools that are tuition-free and open to all students.
On Oct. 15 and 16th last year, PTA delegates representing teachers and parents from across Washington gathered at the SeaTac Marriott for their annual Legislative Assembly. After hours of intense discussion and debate, PTA delegates voted to endorse lifting our state’s ban on charter schools:
“The Washington State PTA shall initiate and/or support legislation or policies that drive innovation and accountability in public education by allowing the operation of public charter schools in the state of Washington,” the resolution said.
The PTA delegates further noted: “Public charter schools are independent public schools granted more site-based authority. Usually, this frees them up to be more innovative.”
Then on May 4, PTA delegates again met in their annual convention. This time, they voted 170-92 to pass a resolution to support non-profit charter public schools. With this vote, they made support for charter public schools official PTA policy.
But on Aug. 10, the PTA board chose to take a position opposite to the one that its own elected delegates have taken twice — that Washington should lift the ban on charter schools.
With this sudden reversal, Executive Director Bill Williams, President Novella Fraser and the rest of the PTA board summarily cancelled two carefully considered votes by the representatives of PTA members. These delegates in good faith had traveled from across Washington to come together and discuss, deliberate and vote on the pressing issue of public school reform. For two straight years, PTA delegates have endorsed allowing charter schools in Washington state.
What is the point of holding statewide meetings, carefully considering the facts, and taking a public position in support of a proven reform that helps school children, only to have the decision later overturned by a small group of top leaders?
The state PTA has taken a clear position in support of charter schools. The PTA board only hurts its own organization’s respected position in the education debate by undermining its members' official position.