January 11, 2013 Print

Ideal School Choice Laws for Washington in 2013

At the start of a year, I often have renewed optimism about what new laws ought to be enacted in the legislative session.

The problems of our education system are essentially the problems of a monopoly: the incentives primarily favor the interests of adult employees above those of students, families and taxpayers.

For this reason, I favor all reasonable steps to expand the range of options for families to get their education needs met. Each crack in the monopoly creates an appetite for more personalized services, creates incentives to deliver the most for the dollars, and makes the needs of the child and the family the highest priority.

Running Start, Skills Centers, private dropout retrieval services, online learning, alternative learning programs, College in the High School, dual credit programs, private special education providers, private Education Centers, and now charter schools all offer tiny cracks in the government-run education monopoly.

The next reasonable steps for the 2013 legislative session include:

Families able to access more scholarships for private schools. In 2011, the legislature created incentives for scholarships to help families afford access to higher education. Similar legislation could expand K-12 education options for more families by lowering Business and Occupation taxes on firms that donate to various scholarship-granting charities. Although this lowers revenue, the state actually saves funds by shifting the entire cost of educating a student to approved private educators.

Families able to let early learning providers educate their children until third grade. The research is clear that beneficial effects of early learning programs are neutralized by third grade in the K-12 school system. What if those students had the option to remain with their specialized early learning programs until the compulsory attendance age of eight? The state basic education funding could follow those students to the new providers in the same way it does with Running Start or other existing alternatives.

Families able to select a private online school. Recently I learned about how the existing laws for approving private schools appear to disallow any private online school from operating in Washington. I find this ironic, given our citizens’ extraordinary embrace of technology and customization. A technical correction to the law would update our private school law as our public school law was updated a few years ago.

No funding penalty for families selecting education services from other than the one-size-fits-all monopoly. Recently the legislature decided that children receiving alternative learning education services were not worth spending the full measure of basic education funds. It was decided that 20, no 10, wait, ultimately 15 percent service reductions were acceptable for those children. This is a very alarming fact, for if advocates for the monopoly can discourage competition by reducing funding, then it strengthens the monopoly. What if options like Skills Centers, Running Start or charter schools could be snuffed out by making the factory model schools the only fully funded option?


Jami Lund

Senior Policy Analyst

Email | Facebook | Google+

blog comments powered by Disqus