When it comes to our children's education, we shouldn't take risks.
Studies across the country have shown charter schools produce mixed results to the detriment of public education. Privatization is not the kind of education reform Washington needs. We must keep the focus on high quality education for all children.
According to a study at Stanford's politically conservative Hoover Institute, only 17 percent of charters resulted in higher test scores, while 37 percent of scores were significantly worse and the rest stayed the same.
As our state continues to recover from the Great Recession, we are simply not willing to gamble our children's future on an education model that is twice as likely to widen the achievement gap as it is to close it.
Over the years, the public has consistently agreed with this position by voting down charter schools three separate times, and we ought to respect their judgment. Instead of experimenting with our children's future, we should instead look to what has been proven to work and emulate that success.
Everyone agrees that our schools must be innovative and prepare our children to be successful in a global economy. Schools in our existing K-12 system are already leading the way.
Innovative schools work to prepare kids for global careers. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has recognized many schools for implementing bold, creative and innovative ideas. The identified schools have high expectations for students and teachers, provide students with an array of educational options, and partner with business and communities. An emphasis is placed on college preparation and market-demand skills.
Delta High School, which serves students in Kennewick, Richland and Pasco school districts, is a leading example. Delta partners with Columbia Basin College, Washington State University Tri-Cities and Battelle. Any student can enroll - no tests, aptitude minimums or application screening are required. Science, technology, engineering and math elements are woven into every subject. Students develop academic and personal skills by working in teams and producing industry-grade individual outcomes. Student achievement on state assessments thus far has proven outstanding.
Aviation High School in the Highline School District is the only college preparatory, aviation-themed high school in the Northwest and aims to become the premier school of choice for science, technology, engineering and math in the Pacific Northwest. It opened in 2004 with the inaugural class of freshman and is now at capacity of 400 students, grades 9-12.
Legislation recently voted out by the Senate (Senate Bill 6041) would expand a school-to-school mentorship program. Leading "Lighthouse" schools such as Delta and Aviation would give technical assistance and advice for other elementary, middle and high schools that are creating their own science, technology, engineering and math environments.
We need to be committed to making sure every school is as bold, creative and innovative as Delta and Aviation. But, we'll never get there by investing our focus on risky experiments and unproven boondoggles. Why invest in a bridge to nowhere?
Instead, let's build on what we know works.
In 2009, Washington passed a massive overhaul of our K-12 education system (House Bill 2261) to make sure every child receives a high-quality education. The recent McCleary court decision held that we need to amply fund this and other substantive education reforms. Three years later, we have yet to fulfill this promise.
Now is not the time to redirect our already limited resources away from existing efforts into costly and unpredictable charter schools. Now is the time to focus on funding our existing, substantive reform efforts that show substantive, positive results.
By implementing existing education reforms, we can help every student graduate prepared to compete in today's global workplace. In today's economy, we can't afford not to.
Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, is chair of the Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, is chair of the Energy, Natural Resources & Marine Waters Committee and represents the 40th District, including parts of Whatcom County.