COURT RULING LEFT SCHOOLS IN JEOPARDY: Washington lawmakers have a chance to save charter schools, the educational alternative that appears to be paying dividends for many minority students who struggled in conventional public schools.
Unfortunately, Democrats in the House Education Committee voted against a bill that would provide a new way to pay for the schools that has a better chance of passing legal muster than the citizen initiative that created the schools in 2012.
State funding of the schools, which operate under charters approved at the state level, were ruled unconstitutional last fall. The court had concerns the money came from accounts reserved for common schools, which are underfunded by the state, in violation of the Washington Constitution.
Senate Bill 6194 re-establishes the state charter school authorization but directs that funds for them come from an account fed by Lottery dollars. Some form of the measure deserves passage before lawmakers finish their session March 10.
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Tom Franta, chief executive for the Washington State Charter Schools Association, said that without $18 million in state funding, the survival of charters is at risk for the next school year.
Wealthy donors stepped up to assure that nine schools are kept intact this year, if no state funds are available. But charters should be available as a legitimate educational alternative — especially for families and students in poorer households that have been underserved by ordinary public schools — until data show they are not delivering results. So far, results are highly promising.
Senate Republicans put charter funds in their budget, but the House Education Committee killed SB 6194 Thursday at the committee deadline. Three Democrats opposed the measure, while three Republicans favored it.
Democratic Rep. Larry Springer of Kirkland has introduced House Bill 3000 as a blank, or title-only, measure that may be used as the vehicle to carry a compromise to the finish line. Springer and Senate leaders including Republican Sen. Steve Litzow of Mercer Island have the right idea here: Save charters, and hold them accountable at the state level.
HEARN WAS WAY OUT OF LINE: Lacey City Councilman Jason Hearn has described President Barack Obama as a “Muslim or at least an avid Muslim sympathizer.” And he thinks “Obama is a Muslim sympathizer before he’s an American.”
As if being Muslim or sympathizer were a bad thing, any more than being Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or atheist were intrinsically a bad thing.
That’s pretty crazy talk, though pollsters find Hearn’s sentiment is popular with a certain brand of Republican that has never accepted Obama, a Christian and black American, as a twice-elected president.
Hearn posted his opinions on a friend’s Facebook page. He may be learning the error of his ways.
A City Council meeting last week drew 50 residents concerned about his comments. To his credit, Hearn expressed interest in opening communication with local Muslims.
“I’m very pleased that they reached out to me,” Hearn said. “And I’m impressed with the large majority of comments and the sincere tone. I look forward to reaching back as requested.”
Given Hearn’s limited understanding, he has a lot to learn.
POLLUTION AFFECTING MORE PUGET SOUND FISH: Puget Sound juvenile Chinook salmon and the waters they swim in are contaminated by a host of human pharmaceuticals and personal care products, according to a study published last week in a journal called Environmental Pollution.
This isn’t the first time there have been reports of these chemicals in water near sewage treatment plant outfalls, but what surprised the study’s author was that even fish and water at the Nisqually Delta were affected.
The Nisqually estuary receives no wastewater treatment plant discharge, as do the two other study areas. Contaminants include antidepressants, pain medications, antibiotics and bug repellant, along with nicotine and caffeine.
All these substances are called “contaminants of emerging concern” because there is little research so far on their effects on fish, or the effects on human health of eating affected fish.
TOBACCO SALES TO MINORS NEEDS CURBING: Among health threats to young people, tobacco represents a deadly serious one, and the recent data are not good. The Department of Health reports 17 percent of retailers made some illicit sales to minors in 2015.
Even worse, failures to comply with the law against sales to those younger than 18 is at the highest since 1997. That year, which is when the state began tracking such sales, saw noncompliance at 19.8 percent.
DOH Secretary John Wiesman underscored the dangers of teen smoking by noting that nine of 10 current smokers began by the age of 18. It makes sense for DOH and other agencies to find better ways to change retailers’ behavior.