In a recent meeting held by the Washington Charter Schools Commission, parents across the state came to voice their opinions. It was heart wrenching to listen to these parents tell story after story of how their children for the first time in their K-12 experience feel safe and happy in a school, yet, now express trepidation of an unknown future where their greatest fear is returning to a world where they no longer have a voice nor a choice in public education. With the Supreme Court ruling that public charter schools are unconstitutional, there is obviously a message being sent to voters in the state of Washington, but what message is it really?
Consider this: On the 2012 ballot, Washington voters passed both Initiative-1240 (also known as the charter school law) allowing up to 40 charter schools in a 5 year period and Initiative-502 which, legalized the recreational sale of marijuana to persons over the age of 21. With the passing of Initiative 1240, Washington became the 43rd state in the nation to authorize charter schools. With the passing of Initiative 502, Washington joined Colorado as the first states in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana. Charter schools have been nationally recognized as a legal and viable means to offer parents choices in education. They serve educationally at risk youth and often sprout up as grass roots efforts for education reform. Meanwhile, the recreational use of marijuana is still federally illegal.
Now with all this information, would it surprise and shock you to know that between the two Initiatives, the only one challenged as constitutional in the state of Washington was charter schools. That's right, choice in public education was the big glaring red flag for politically motivated Washington organizations. Meanwhile, no one questioned whether or not recreational marijuana was constitutional. In fact, for a very brief moment, media covered the outrage of federal employees who lost their jobs when they tested positive for marijuana use because, in spite of the state law, they were still required to abide by federal laws to maintain employment. Yet, for the past three years, an ongoing lawsuit on the constitutionality of charter schools has been a reoccurring media frenzy.
Should we be concerned for the future of our state? My answer to this question is a resounding, "Yes." If we are to the point that we live in the only state in the nation that will legalize both choice in public education and recreational marijuana on the same ballot and then between the two only question the constitutionality of choice in public education, I gravely fear for the future that our children will be robbed of. I have great concerns for the message this sends to the people of our great state and I don't just mean the loud message which is very clear to all of us that politics is more motivated by where the money comes and goes than it is by instilling values of education and opportunity for excellent education. I am more concerned for the subtle message that attempts to lure our citizens into a false sense of security - the message that says, "Eat, drink, and be merry - for tomorrow we die" or rather, "eat, drink, and smoke marijuana - for tomorrow there will be no education to make you care otherwise."