Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Walla Walla Union Bulletin and The (Tacoma) News Tribune. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
As a charter school prepares to open this fall in Walla Walla, the state Supreme Court last week heard arguments in a case that could keep the doors from opening.
Teachers unions and other groups have sued over the 2016 charter school law, which the Legislature enacted after the high court struck down a 2012 voter-approved initiative that allowed charter schools for the first time in Washington, according to The Associated Press. The lawsuit contends using public money to operate charter schools over which voters have no direct control is not allowed under the state constitution. In addition, opponents of charter schools argue they divert money from traditional public schools.
At this point, only the Supreme Court justices have an inkling of how they will rule. Yet, the arguments made in favor of allowing charter schools seemed sound.
A deputy attorney general, representing the state, and former-Attorney General Rob McKenna, who is now representing the Washington State Charter Schools Association, disputed claims that charter schools are essentially de facto private schools. McKenna told the justices charter schools are free to attend and open to anyone. He said they are complementary to traditional schools, not replacements.
“It is simply not a requirement of the constitution ... that every form of public school have a school board,” McKenna said.
Outside of the Temple of Justice where the justices were hearing arguments, hundreds of charter school students rallied across the street at the state Capitol, making political arguments.
Jalen Johnson, an 11th-grader at Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle, told the crowd the commitment of his teachers helped turn him from an average middle-school student who had little thought of attending college to a thriving high-school junior who hopes to study urban planning at the University of California at Berkeley, according to the AP.
While traditional public schools work well for most students, it doesn’t mesh with some. This is exactly why options are needed.
The charter school experiment in Washington state must continue so more students have a chance to find approaches to education that work for them, and the public has an opportunity to properly measure their success.
Special session for school safety? No thanks
Do something. Do anything.
Action, not words. Action, not just thoughts and prayers.
The pleas of students, families and school-safety advocates, largely unanswered after the slaughter of 17 people at a Florida high school in February, were infused with fresh urgency after 10 more were slain Friday at Santa Fe High School in Texas.
As Memorial Day approaches, a time to decorate veterans’ graves and reflect on lives sacrificed across the generations, we’re struck by this sobering fact: As of Monday, the U.S. had seen twice as many students killed in school shootings this year (26) as service members killed in combat zones (13).
This is America’s new guerilla war, and the dreadful business of memorializing those left as ambush casualties in classrooms and school hallways takes center stage this week; funerals are being held for eight fallen students and two teachers in Santa Fe.
So it’s natural that a clarion call for action would swell again from coast to coast — including in Washington state, where within hours of the Texas massacre, an influential lawmaker asked for a special session in Olympia.
“No law or legislative action will alone change human hearts and altogether stop violence,” Sen. John Braun said in a statement Friday. “But the Legislature can take steps to reduce the risk of deadly school violence, which often stems from mental illness.”
The Centralia Republican exhorted Gov. Jay Inslee to call a special session, hoping the Legislature would adopt measures to protect Washington’s 1.1 million public school students before they return to class next fall.
We appreciate Braun’s earnestness and expect the idea will find fans among the “do something, do anything” crowd. But a special session at the height of an election year would very likely be an exercise in futility, laced with lots of grandstanding. In the end, we predict it would do little but spotlight the Legislature’s failure to act on key gun-safety bills in the 2018 regular session.
The governor’s office is appropriately skeptical about adding to the hot air by convening a rare summer parley at the state Capitol. A spokeswoman for Inslee was spot on when she told TNT reporter Walker Orenstein: “The obstacle to reducing gun violence has not been too few days in session.”
A much more promising approach is to let Washington voters carry the water on their broad shoulders, as they’ve done in the past. Initiative 1639 would raise the age to buy semi-automatic firearms from 18 to 21, create a background check system for assault weapons, require completion of a gun safety course and establish standards for secure gun storage.
Backers of I-1639 have six weeks left to collect a total of 260,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The campaign got a boost this week when billionaire Seahawks owner Paul Allen and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer said they would contribute $1 million apiece.
For those who prefer legislators be involved, a bipartisan state task force is examining mass shootings and is due to present a report in December. That group should be given time to complete its work.
We absolutely believe school safety is a top priority and that firearms regulations, security improvements and mental health reforms must be part of any solution. But a special legislative session would waste everyone’s time without solid proposals and a willingness to compromise, and could distract from the initiative campaign.
For now, every Washingtonian’s challenge to “do something” and “take action” should be issued while looking squarely in the mirror.