June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:40 PM
"Charter schools deserve supportStatewide initiatives are seldom worthy of voter support because they inevitably originate with special interest groups that are trying to bypass the legislative process. Initiatives work well when they are tackling subjects too hot for our elected representatives to handle, but not so well when they set budgetary priorities that should be made by our legislators after considering input from all sides and weighing each program in light of other state needs.On the Nov. 7 ballot there are three education-related initiatives, only one of which is a worthy subject of the initiative process. I-729, the charter school initiative, creates a charter school option in the realm of public education. This is something the legislature has been unable to do because of intense lobbying by opponents who represent the status quo in education.I-729 would allow only 20 charter schools per year for four years, so it will not threaten education as we know it. But the initiative will give parents and students another choice, and that is good. On South Whidbey, we already have the Bayview School and the homeschool support program, but more options for parents and students are needed. We would like to hear charter school proposals, and hopefully see the school board support one on South Whidbey. The future of education lies in choice -- giving parents a wide array of public school options from which they can select the best for their children. Charter schools is another step in that direction. As a side benefit, teachers in charter schools could find themselves free of the sometimes-stifling educational bureaucracy.The other education initiatives are well-intentioned, but unfortunately tie our representatives' hands when it comes to their primary duty of setting the state budget. I-732 would give teachers annual pay raises tied to inflation, which in recent years has been low. But if high inflation returns, this could be a budget-buster. Besides, the automatic increases could be self defeating. When teachers go to Olympia asking for even more, their reception could be cool, to say the least.I-728 is more far ranging, and aims to reduce class sizes by directing lottery money to education, and raising the state spending lid so more of the surplus can be spent on education. Again, existing revenues are used for the special purpose of education, effectively telling our representatives that the money can't be used for other, perhaps more pressing, needs. Should education, already fairly well funded, be expanded while services for senior citizens, for example, are crying out for more state assistance? Perhaps, but these are decisions that should be made by our elected representatives, not by the people who wrote this initiative. "