SEATTLE -- In a room mostly full of Seattle public school teachers, the first public hearing on charter school applications in Western Washington was held inside a room at South Seattle Community College.
The Washington Education Association represents teachers statewide and opposes charter schools. It is fighting the implementation of I-1240, which allows charter schools, in state court.
Monday marked the first time applicants for charter schools could make presentations to the public, and to the Washington State Charter School Commission in the Seattle area. Five more meetings are scheduled.
Three charter proposals, Washington STEM Academy, CAL Schools, and Sports in Schools Team Charter were on the agenda. STEM, however, failed to show.
"That's not happened before," commented commission chairman Steve Sundquist, "We made it clear we expect people to be here."
Most of the attendees were public school teachers. Jonathan Knapp, president of the Seattle Education Association, called charter schools "unconstitutional" and lacking in quality.
"It's pretty egregious what you find," said Knapp of some charter school applicants, "We need to have high standards, not low standards."
"We want to ensure Seattle kids have the best opportunity to be successful."
Lance Weber, an Ohio educator who operates a charter school in Columbus, agreed with Knapp.
"The reason we are here is for the under-served community out here," said Weber.
Weber proposed CAL Schools, which would focus on Seattle's Somali community. While his presentation was supported by some Somalis Monday night who indicated they were indeed being left behind by public schools, critics pointed to Weber's track record, which includes one failed charter school and a new one with the lowest test scores in Ohio.
"Of course the scores are going to be low," countered Weber, "You talk about a school that's had them for a year. How can you expect to have improvement for a fifth-grader reading at a second-grade level?"
Weber blamed the test scores on the schools his students came from.
"If you buy a used car, with 130,000 miles on it and oil wasn't changed properly and it wasn't maintained and you take it over," he said, "Is it your fault the engine blows?"