Digging deeper into the possibility of Charter Schools in the Tri-Cities

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Many suspect this is the year charter schools will be approved for Washington. Voters have rejected them in the past, despite 41other states using the system. KEPR wanted to know how the Tri-Cities would be affected if charter schools were allowed in.

Kathy White knows schools.

She tells KEPR, "I taught for 17 years and Kennewick School district, 10 years at Tri-Tech and seven at Desert Hills, and I've also served on the Kennewick School Board."

Kathy believes bringing charter schools to the Tri-Cities would be no small change.

"To leave the tried and true system and go with something completely new," she continues.

Charter schools undergo the same government oversight as traditional public schools, but are free of district management. They'd get the same amount of money per kid that public schools do.

"The charter schools would split the pot more ways," Kathy explains.

Unlike traditional schools, a charter school can make money in additional ways outside of what is given from the state. The intention of Initiative 1240 is to make schooling more competitive... raising the bar in hopes of raising test scores.

The initiative would allow up to 40 charter schools in the next five years. While most of those would be on the west side, I found out the Tri-Cities is also a target for these new schools.

Kennewick has just what charter school organizers are looking for... a high student-teacher ratio, more than half of students on free or reduced lunch programs and a median home value of 200-thousand dollars. Those factors are likely to bring a charter school here.

Any new schools could draw kids away from our current schools -- which are often overcrowded.

Kathy says, "If they'll be using our state money, they'll be taking away the chances for us to build more schools."

But even if 1240 is approved, there's still a fight to be fought.

KEPR Reporter, Melanie Tubbs asks, "If it passes, is there anything we can do in the Tri-Cities to keep charter schools out?"
"Yeah, get active. Go to school board meeting. Let your voice be heard," Kathy replies.

Staffing for management of the charter schools is also an added cost to the taxpayer. I-1240 would have a charter schools commission that would cost the state about three-million over the five years that schools would be established. If adopted, the first charter school could open next year.