Forum on initiatives begins to pave road of understanding

initiatives forum by Jeff Switzer
A small group of concerned parents and lawmakers attended a forum last week sponsored by the Northshore Legislative Coalition to hear arguments for and against charter schools and vouchers.
   I-173 is the voucher initiative sponsored by Dr. Ron Taber; I-177 is the charter school initiative sponsored by Jim and Fawn Spady.

About I-173
   "There is urgent need for school reform that cannot come from within," said Eric Morrison, speaking for I-173. "The benefit of vouchers is they would allow parents to raise their children how they want to."
   According to the League of Women Voters, if passed, 173 would require the state to provide primary and secondary students born after Sept. 1, 1989 with scholarship vouchers for use at any eligible public or private school of their choice.
   Pat Strosahl, speaking against I-173, stated his concerns about access and accountability, and that many of the concerns of those supporting 173 or 173 are being addressed.
   "We have site-based management and alternative programs for schools now" providing choices for students and parents," Strosahl said.

About I-177
   Jim Sawatzki, an educator at Bethel High School, spoke for I-177, which would authorize charter or independent schools and require an election for converting to renewed districts. Parents and teachers of those new districts could convert existing or start new schools, which would be regulated similarly to approved private schools.
   "When you have the teacher, the parent, and the child, and you build a relationship, education happens," Sawatzki said. "Once you take care of the basics, like health and safety, you can free professional educators to teach and compete against each other, just like the SAT or basketball," he said. "We should allow people to define the terms, programs and goals and pursue it and let excellence prove itself," Sawatzki said.
   Liz Pierini reiterated the League of Women Voters' opposition to the initiatives, citing the existing choices students and parents have and the Education Reform Act of 1993.
   "I-177 attempts to do what the Education Reform Act of 1993 already would require," Pierini said, noting that the Act will be fully implemented by 2000.

Questions and Answers
   A representative from the Washington State Special Education Coalition read their statement opposing I-177.
   "Our mission statement and our position statement on inclusion reflect the value we place on equal access for all children," the statement read. "Charter schools will not serve the special needs of children because there is no impetus or presumption they should," said Denise Mackenstadt.
   Several parents in attendance favored the notion of charter schools and vouchers because of the chance for greater involvement it gives them.
   "Charter schools will provide an opportunity as a parent to have that real parental control; parents really having an input," said Dottie Moffitt, who has two children at Lockwood Elementary.