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What?! Washington State Charters Closing One After Another

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Only Bill Gates knows how many millions he has poured into getting charters authorized and funded by the state in Washington State. There have been four referendums, the last one in 2012, which passed by about one percent, over the opposition of civil rights groups, unions, and PTAs. Gates and friends (Jeff Bezos’ parents, Waltons, and assorted billionaires) outspent the grassroots groups by several multiples, and at last Gates got charters past the voters. Then the Washington State Supreme Court said that charters are not public schools as defined in the state constitution, so Gates’s friends, led by Jonah Edelman and Stand for Children of Oregon, funded an effort to defeat the naughty justices at the next election. Happily, they were re-elected.

But Gates would not give up. He went to the Legislature and persuaded his friends to fund the charters with lottery money. The Governor Jay Inslee dared not stand up to the richest man in the state, and he neither signed nor vetoed the legislation, allowing it to become law.

When civilrights groups sued, because the charter schools were back to the public trough, the Supreme Court decided not to alienate the multibillionaire Gates again, and they decided to let the charters have lottery money.

Voila! Gates had charters and public money to pay for them.

But oh no, they are struggling, despite the fact that Gates handed out millions more to lure charter operators to open schools.

The Charter-friendly Seattle Times reports:

Two charter schools — one in Kent and another in Tacoma — will shut down at the end of this academic year, bringing the total number of closures to four since the publicly funded but privately run schools first opened in Washington state five years ago.

The board of directors for Green Dot Public Schools voted Thursday to shut down the two schools, which they oversee: Excel Public Charter School in Kent and Destiny Middle School in Tacoma. The Washington State Charter Association, in a news release, attributed the closures to dwindling enrollment.

The news comes five months after Soar Academy in Tacoma announced that it would close at the end of this school year. The school cited financial constraints.

“Both of these schools (in Kent and Tacoma) experienced significant struggles tied closely to low student enrollment and related operational challenges,” the charter-schools group said in its release.

The Kent and Tacoma schools received a charter, or contract, from the state to enroll up to 600 students. But enrollment data from Green Dot show the Kent campus reached a peak enrollment of  188 as of October 2018. In Tacoma, Destiny reached a peak enrollment of 281 during the 2017-18 school year but tumbled to 162 students as of October.

Across Washington, a dozen charter schools enroll about 3,300 students — a fraction of the 1.1 million students enrolled in public schools statewide.

Figure it out. What did Gates and spend? How many millions to ensure that 3,300 students could attend charters?

When CREDO evaluated the tiny number of charters, it concluded that on average they were no better or worse than public schools.

The findings of this study show that on average, charter students in Washington State experience annual growth in reading and math that is on par with the educational gains of their matched peers who enroll in the traditional public schools (TPS) the charter school students would otherwise have attended. 

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