One-time charter school foe urges Washington State to embrace change

December 4, 2012

Victor Skinner Victor Skinner

Victor is a communications specialist for EAG and joined in 2009. Previously, he was a newspaper journalist.
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By Ben Velderman
EAGnews.org

SEATTLE – We’d like to officially welcome Miles Liatos to the school choice movement.

Liatos is an opinion writer with The Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Washington, who as recently as July 31 panned the idea of allowing charter schools into The Evergreen State.

“Although charter schools sound like a good idea to some, they don’t work,” Liatos wrote in his July column.

Thankfully, enough voters disagreed and passed the ballot initiative that made Washington the 42nd charter school state in the nation.

Perhaps inspired by the election results, Liatos has since rethought his position and concluded that charter schools represent the best alternative to the poor quality that has become the hallmark of too many traditional government schools.

“Instead of settling for unacceptable education, Washington should take its best shot at getting charter schools right,” Liatos writes in his December 3 column. “With successful implementation, they have a chance to outperform our lagging public schools.”

Liatos also pushes back against charter school critics who say that alternative public schools “siphon” precious financial resources from government schools.

“ … Charter schools don’t ‘siphon’ anything from public schools,” Liatos writes. “Rather, if a student transfers from a public school to a charter, the money needed to educate the student comes with them. So, while funds will be distributed to charters, the process acts merely as a diffusion of funds to make sure each student is equipped.”

Beautifully put.

He also acknowledges that autonomy (specifically from the suffocating teacher unions) is the very characteristic that allows charter schools to be successful.

Autonomy “allows charters to rid themselves of unqualified teachers faster than public schools” and retain only the most qualified educators, Liatos writes.

Liatos concludes his column by acknowledging that “there is no guarantee that charter schools will be high quality. Still, given all we know about charter schools, Washington has a good chance to get it right. It’s better to take a crack at this new opportunity than to settle for a subpar education for our youth.”

We find Liatos’ charter school conversion very encouraging. It shows that even some staunch public school defenders understand that the status quo is unacceptable and that all reasonable alternatives must be employed.

But even more than that, it shows that one of the nation’s up-and-coming editorial writers keeps an open mind and is willing to be swayed by facts and reason.

Heaven knows that Americans needs open-minded journalists as urgently as Washington State families need charter schools.

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