Get the jump on charter schools in the Tri-Cities

December 10, 2012 

Washington voters have approved charter schools. There are rumblings of a constitutional challenge, but in the meantime, the light is green.

Green means go.

We see this as an opportunity for a Mid-Columbia school district to flex some innovative educational muscle.

We don't have a particular district in mind, but can see certain advantages for any of the big three.

There won't be many charter schools in the state. The initiative only allows for 40 schools statewide over the next five years.

Perhaps someone will bring one to the Mid-Columbia. Perhaps not.

It's likely most districts in the state dread the idea of a charter school invading their turf and potentially diverting some of their resources, especially state money and local levy dollars.

But it makes sense for a district not simply to endure a charter school in the neighborhood, but to embrace the opportunity.

The new law defines who can operate a charter school -- and school districts are eligible.

If someone has the opportunity to provide specialized education and take away money from your pot, we think most people would want that someone to be themselves.

And it's not much of a leap.

When it comes to education, this community has warmed to the idea of several innovative approaches. We already have a lot a choices in education.

Programs like Richland's Three Rivers Homelink and Kennewick's Mid-Columbia Parent Partnership merge home and public schooling efforts.

There are also a variety of online curriculums available to Washington students, not necessarily run by local districts, but already engaging some of their students.

The Pasco, Kennewick and Richland school districts all operate an alternative high school to help kids who might be falling behind.

Columbia Basin College has a program for credit retrieval that targets kids who have already dropped out of school.

Tri-Tech Skills Center in Kennewick and Delta High School in Richland are both cooperative efforts between school districts to offer specialized educations.

Running Start allows high schoolers to earn college credit.

In short, we are already doing some pretty innovative things in this community. Here's one more opportunity.

Charter schools offer options.

They are able to provide a district freedoms that are not currently on the table.

We haven't heard that anyone is bringing a charter school to the Tri-Cities, but it wouldn't surprise us to find that out.

We are fertile ground.

Rather than wait to compete with a charter school, it makes sense for at least one of our districts to invest in one.

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