Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education

By Chester E. Finn Jr.; Bruno V. Manno et al. | Go to book overview

8
POLITICAL BATTLEGROUNDS

For those who seem to be intimidated or afraid of educational reform, we would like to offer a challenge: put politics, money, and special interests aside momentarily and spend a day at [the charter school my children attend], observing and interacting with the kids, then join our family for dinner afterwards. Ask questions, listen to the kids' answers, then make your decisions.

Michigan parent

JIM AND FAWN SPADY don't look like warriors. An attractive, successful, and energetic young couple living near Seattle, they became deeply frustrated with the local public schools. As Fawn recalls, "When I tried to get involved, one principal said he was happy to have me do bake sales, but nothing that involved academics." 1 They reluctantly opted for private school for their children, but refused to give up on public schools. Jim explains, "OK, we've taken care of our kids. But so many people have no choice; they're left behind." 2

In 1995, after the lower house of the state legislature passed a strong charter law that died in the Senate, the Spadys drafted an initiative to allow for "independent public schools" launched by certified teachers. The state's major teachers' union, the Washington Education Association (WEA), and the Democratic Party opposed it.

The Spadys failed to get the necessary 180,000 signatures for the November ballot, but tried again the next year. This time they obtained over 195,000 signatures. 3 They also modified their proposal into a strong charter plan that was more parent- than teacher-centered.

____________________
1
Carol Innerst, "Pair Let Voters Rule on Charter Schools," Washington Times, 23 October 1996.
2
Barbara D. Phillips, "Parents Take the Initiative," Wall Street Journal, 10 October 1995, A20.
3
In Washington, citizens can place measures before the electorate on the statewide ballot — called a direct initiative — or can place before the legislature initiatives that, unless enacted by

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Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Charter Schools in Action - Renewing Public Education *
  • Contents *
  • Tables *
  • List of Interviews and Profiles *
  • Introduction *
  • Part I Charter Schools in Action *
  • 1: What's a "Charter School"? *
  • 2: Field Trips *
  • 3: Where Did They Come From? *
  • 4: How Are They Working? *
  • 5: Trials by Fire *
  • 6: The Accountability Puzzle *
  • Part II Renewing Public Education *
  • 7: The Case Against Charter Schools *
  • 8: Political Battlegrounds *
  • 9: Beyond the Schoolhouse Door *
  • 10: Beyond the Schoolhouse Door *
  • 11: The Great Issues *
  • 12: Will Charter Schools Save Public Education? *
  • Epilogue *
  • Appendix: Survey Results and Methodology *
  • Index *
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