In 2008, the Tacoma School Board voted three to two not to televise or video record its meetings – citing expense and supposed lack of community interest. My friends and I responded by launching a campaign to make Tacoma Public Schools more transparent and more accessible to working parents. Over the next eight months, we e-mailed and called board members, spoke at citizens’ forum and stood in the back of the boardroom with a video camera and tripod before uploading every meeting to our website (the cost of this was less than $200). By April 2009, the camera-shy board relented, and by a unanimous vote of five to zero created the free video service that is now available on TPS’ website. Our experience underscores an important theme that goes to the core idea behind educating children at public expense. School is the foundation of our democracy, and that foundation is undermined by policies that result in exclusion. Initiative 1240 is one such policy. I-1240 would create a partisan school board of five state representatives – appointed by the governor – who would single-handedly decide if, where, when and what kind of charter schools will be created in Washington. These schools are not accountable to local elected school boards, but are funded by local levy dollars. In other words, I-1240 would result in taxation without representation – which our founding fathers rightly identified as tyranny. I can literally think of dozens of reasons why readers should vote no on I-1240, but suffice it to say that if this initiative passes, efforts to promote transparency in government and democracy in education will take a significant blow. As someone who personally spent four years in an alternative school for students with special needs, I know from painful experience how important it is for parents to be able to advocate for their children, and for teachers to be given the support they need to achieve the Herculean tasks before them. Please vote no on I-1240.
Chris Van VechtenTacoma