A guest post from Liv Finne of the conservative Washington Policy Center, on new rules about charter schools by Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.
They say that if you want to make an announcement that won’t be noticed, post the notice on an obscure website and schedule the hearing the day after a holiday weekend. That’s just what Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn did when he issued his plan to impose 119 pages of administrative rules on public charter schools and the families that support them.
Superintendent Dorn targets families at nine new charter schools set to open this fall in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Highline, and Kent. The Dorn Rules will hurt these families and those that will eventually attend up to 31 other charter schools in the future.
Washington’s voter-passed charter school law is so popular with parents that space limitations have forced the new schools to place hundreds of students on waiting lists. Young teachers in particular are flocking to take exciting new jobs at charter schools because of the freedom they provide educators to design and implement lessons that help many hard-to-teach students succeed.
Superintendent Dorn wants his charter school restrictions approved by this Friday, May 29th, which is light-speed in the world of government. It is interesting that the education bureaucracy will take years to implement a reform bill passed by the legislature, but blocking families from charter schools takes only weeks.
The Dorn Rules would cut funding to charter schools (WAC 392-121-299) compared to what is provided under the charter school law (RCW 28A.710.220(2)), impose hiring quotas, (WAC 392-127-004 and 006), reject their budgets (WAC 392-123-0795 and 080 and 095), restrict how they serve special education children, transitional bilingual children, and other categorical program funds (WAC 392-122-910), and limit the types of bonuses they provide their teachers (WAC 392-140-973 and 974).
Superintendent Dorn is well known for his opposition to letting families access charter schools. In 2012 he fought passage of the state’s break-through charter school law, lending his name to the “No on Initiative 1240” campaign.
As a top defender of the traditional public school monopoly, Superintendent Dorn seems to view charter school parents as a threat. He certainly represents the status quo, and he now appears to be working to weaken the growing popularity of these new public schools in Washington.
The Dorn Rules also represent a significant power grab by a state regulatory agency. Superintendent Dorn says his supervisory role over public schools should give him the power to impose cuts and restrictions on charter schools and the families they serve. This is not true, however. As state superintendent his power is limited. He is supposed to fairly deliver state and federal funds to school districts and to charter schools according to the law, and to report on how well Washington children are learning. The Dorn Rules go far beyond what the law allows, and deny basic educational rights to children who attend charter schools.
An accurate reading of the statute shows Superintendent Dorn is misusing his regulatory power to prevent parents from choosing an authentic charter public school for their children. The obvious purpose of the Dorn Rules is to force innovative charter schools to conform to the traditional and restricted public school model, which are exactly the kind of school from which so many Washington families are trying to escape.