YES on 1240 – I didn’t expect to cry when I went to the High Tech High annual student exhibition. People had told me I’d be blown away, stunned, and deeply impressed. But not that I’d cry. So, I didn’t have any tissues in my pocket or any safeguards around my heart when I innocently walked up to this one young woman’s exhibition. She was a high school senior and, after inviting me to see her video project, stood confidently beside the screen as her story unfolded before me. Her project was intended to exhibit her video, editing, writing, and technology skills. What it also reflected were the life skills, confidence and resilience she had gained from her family and the school.
The story she shared, as told in a montage of self and family interviews, started when she was a little girl and in a hotel room with her siblings. Her mom, high on crack, had left them there to go out on the streets – but hadn’t returned. A day or two later, a hotel engineer came to the door and the daughter, savvy from the life she had already led, turned on the shower as a proof of her mom’s presence and lied to the person on the other side of the door in order to keep the grown-ups from taking her and her siblings away. The ruse didn’t work and the hotel staff, along with CPS, ultimately came and the kids ended up in foster care.
Like many caught in that system, she went from foster parent to foster parent until finally ending up with someone who cared about her long term future.
This woman, because of the extensive outreach that High Tech High does throughout San Diego’s diverse socioeconomic populations, learned about the school and put her daughter’s name into the lottery for the school.
She got in and then approximately 6 years later, got into college –with the support and guidance of the school (the school has a 100% matriculation rate).
Now – why am I in favor of 1240? In part, because of this girl. And in part because of my kids.
Every kid deserves the quality education that I demand for my children – no matter under what conditions they are born. It is how we will improve the economic well-being, peace, and harmony of our city, state, country and world. That quality education is the basis for how the world for my kids and their kids will be better than the world in which I grew up.
Because of its outstanding leadership, innovative approach to teaching, and terrific community engagement, HTH has been able to, within budget, become one of the finest schools in the country – empirically and subjectively. Now, are there public schools doing amazing work? Absolutely! Anyone visiting TJ high school in Virginia (a science magnet public school started in response to Sputnik) would agree.
In fact, I believe the Charter School debate on 1240 is a red herring. The opposition will say “Those who are for Charter Schools are against Public Schools.” But that’s a load of malarkey (to quote my favorite VP). Charter schools ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
1240 is about a quality education for all. It’s about introducing more tools to the education system in Washington State to complement some of the innovation that’s been going on – but that, unfortunately, frequently gets bogged down in existing bureaucracy. Do I also want that bureaucracy fixed and more innovation within the existing infrastructure of the school districts – damn straight! BUT – I also am not willing to sacrifice for any longer and believe we need to bring all that we know can work to bear on this critical system.
As citizens, it is incumbent on all of us to enable that option of a quality education for all – NOW. To enable that quality education we need, as a citizenry, to:
- Set high standards and expectations for students – because they WILL rise to the occasion given a quality education environment.
- Make more tools available to meet the needs of a diverse student population so that they can meet and exceed those standards.
- Increase performance accountability on those teaching and running the education systems – at all levels
Over the past few years, incredible innovation has been blossoming throughout the educational world. Some of it happening within the school district bounds – but more of it happening within something called Charter Schools. Some of the innovation has worked, some has not – in both environments!
They are simply a different legal construct and, in some cases, have state level instead of a district level oversight. As Rep. Jared Polis shared at a meeting recently – they are simply a model of site-based management instead of district management. Because they have fewer constraints on them, they also have the advantage of being a great place to innovate around what works/doesn’t.
That’s why I support 1240 – the legislation which will authorize up to 40 charter schools in WA state. The plus side of us coming so late into this game is that WA State can benefit from other states’ experiences and can come in with an excellent law. I’ve heard and seen a bunch of objections, but most of those aren’t based in reality. For example, 1240:
- Does NOT allow religious schools
- Does NOT allow for-profit charters
- Does NOT allow cherry-picking of students – and requires it to be a lottery for all students. This is NOT a magnet program.
- Has both state-level and district level possibilities
- Requires performance guarantees from school leaders
- And more…
In my most recent stint at Microsoft, I had the honor and fortune of seeing a lot of schools around the world – including charters in different parts of the United States. During that time, I wrote this blog post about a few of those schools. Net net – these schools were about leveling the playing field and trying new ways to teach, lead and learn.
When you receive your ballot on/after Oct 19th, please support quality education in our state and VOTE YES on 1240.