CLARK COUNTY DEMOCRATIC WOMEN MINUTES 2-16-13
GUESTS: Donna Quesnell, Susan Schwarz, Laura Ellsworth, Liz Campbell, Celia Loucerback, Ann Horstman, Barb Westrick, Beth Brown, Dorothea Simone, Sue Katz, Anne McErerny-Ogle, Galena Burley, LaVerne Nelson, Juanita Greenway, Carrie parks, Howard Leighty, Renee Darr, Eric Norwood, Jane Young, Sara DeLaFuente, Marjorie Dawes, Beverly McGuffin, Liz Campbell, Celia Louderback, Anne Tomich, Pat and Charles McClement
Donna Quesnell introduced Galina Burley, who will talk about Russian-American Political relations at our meeting in September. Galena says her community European Coalition will sponsor a big event on May 2 to sponsor Russian leadership students. This effort is meant to fight the drop-out rate.
Juanita Greenway introduced Hugh Shuford, the speaker on the recently passed Charter Schools Initiative. Hugh has been a long-time member of the Americans United local chapter, a member of the Washington Education Association and former prinicpal of Shumway Junior High. He is also a prolific letter writer to the Columbian.
HUGH SHUFORD said he does not consider himself to be an expert on charter schools, but has studied the issue, along with I-1240, which was passed in Nov. 2012. "It will take 5 sets of Philadelphia lawyers to figure out what this puppy means," he said, describing the conflicting values included in the initiative. Hugh explained that there is already a State School Board to represent both private and public schools around the state. The board is developing the WAC 180-19 which will contain the rules and regulations for the charter schools. Those who are interested could go to the State School Board web site for more informationThis initiative, however, also set up a second body called the Washington Charter Schools Commission , which will provide leadership on the implementation of the new initiative. This body will be purely political, and members are political appointees. They must be in favor of charter schools to be appointed, which means they are already biased. Hugh said he would feel better if all the responsibility was under the State School Board, because it is an established group with education experience.
Hugh said the charter schools initiative was funded by some big donors like the Walton family and Bill Gates. He anticipates the next thing likely will be vouchers to pay for private charter schools. This initiative was pitched on the basis of providing "an alternative" to the "failing public schools," a concept Hugh strongly disagrees with.
Among the points that Hugh discussed are:
Charter schools can be run and organized by non-profit, public entities, including a current school district.
The charter schools will affect K-12 education. The authorizers and boards of charter schools can outsource work, so can hire non-certified staff to teach.
Each charter school must have an elected or appointed board that will direct the charter school. These board members won't necessarily be elected, but they will make decisions on the use of millions of dollars of public funding. Public Schools, on the other hand, must have elected school boards which hold meetings that are open to the public and are subject to the will of the people.
WAC 190-19. You could attend a school board meeting to protest the formation of a charter school, but once a charter board exists, they don't have to hold public meetings. No sectarian instruction is allowed under this. No sectarian organization can run a charter school. Hugh said that Washington State does not allow creationism to be taught as a valid scientific theory.
A non-profit charter school can be managed by a profit-making company through outsourcing. A charter school can be put into any school where there are students "at risk."
This initiative can only be fought through the courts, not through the legislature. Some feel that the Charter Schools Initiative violates the Washington Constitution.
Liz Campbell said she’d recently heard State Schools Supt. Randy Dorn speak. He stated at that event that he is going to ask he courts to interpret the law rather than filing a lawsuit, because he believes the initiative unconstitutional.
Hugh cited a Stanford study of charter schools vs public schools that both had similar characteristics. 4,000 schools were involved in this study. They found that 37% of charter school students tested significantly lower than matched public school students. 14% had no difference, and 17% did better than their public school counterparts.
The charter schools are exempted from any Section 101-g regulations that public schools are subject to, and which can be burdensome. This could affect union relations, fair treatment/hiring/firing of teachers, safety regulations, treatment of students, etc.
Celia Louderback talked about Prairie High School bringing in a sectarian organization to teach abstinence to the Sex Ed classes. They also bullied students to sign abstinence pledges. She worries about the regulation of this in the charter schools. She added that from her study of the issue, fraud is common at some charter schools. $70 million was stolen at one charter school in Arizona, and $1.4 million disappeared from one charter school in Oregon.
Barb Westrick is a school board member in Longview. She feels that this is the charter initiative is an effort to get rid of the teacher's union. There was an article in today's paper where the right-wing Washington Policy Center gave poor grades to public schools, even though multiple studies show that charter school usually perform worse than public schools.
In response to a question about whether there is a mechanism to revoke charter schools? Hugh said the charter schools will get 5-year contracts. If people are unhappy, the authorizer of the charter school is responsible to investigate and remediate the problem.
Hugh encouraged members to look at the websites he provided on his handouts
Howard Leighty presented two resolutions:
Opposing Legislation that Privatizes or Forces Cuts to Social Security or Medicare--Passed unanimously.
Common Sense Gun Saftey Laws--Passed unanimously.
Susan Schwarz presented a resolution opposing coal trains through Washington State--Passed unanimously.
Every Tuesday at 9 am there are county commissioner meetings. Donna went to the last one, when former Mayor Royce Pollard spoke in the public comments and told Commissioners Mielke & Madore that they broke the law by writing a resolution to oppose the CRC without including Steve Stuart, who was absent when the resolution was brought up.
Howard Leighty said the commissioners also send a letter full of lies to the Columbia River Economic Development Council advising them that they are being defunded. He pointed out how important the council is to stimulating the local economy.
Laura Ellsworth of Planned Parenthood advised the group that Don Benton has introduced a parental notification bill, but they just heard yesterday that his bill is dead. Other issues they are monitoring are funding for Take Charge, the state family planning program. The assumption is that the state won't have to fund it with Affordable Health Care coming. Planned Parenthood will make sure that there are no gaps in coverage in the Affordable Health Care Act. Contraceptive care saves $4.70 for every $1 spent. Planned Parenthood will also work to pass the Health Care Parity Act, which would require that any health plan through the exchange that covers maternity care also has to cover abortion care. Otherwise, women will have to write a separate check for abortion coverage from that for their regular insurance.. We have a solidly pro-choice majority in our state legislature. The Red Shirts are a separate pro-choice organization from Planned Parenthood.
Susan Schawartz SAID May 11 is the Give Em Hell Harry Fundraiser in Cowlitz Co--Tickets are $35.
Liz-Campbell announced that the party is looking for people to donate arts, crafts or services for the July 8 JJ Dinner. There will be a picnic at Frenchman's Bar July 20. The party leadership is also on a campaign to fill all PCO positions. We need volunteers in each precinct, because every vote counts. In light of how close the recent votes were, it really matters.
Juanita Greenway announced that the party will supply training to all PCO's beginning March 23. Please contact Donna, Liz or Juanita to sign up. Precincts which have democratic PCO's do better on getting democratic votes than those that don't have them.
NEXT MEETING: SATURDAY, APRIL 20 AT 11:30 AM AT BOPPIN' BO'S. (No host luncheon)