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Parents Pack Meetings With Charter School Hopefuls

Ann Dornfeld
Parents in a packed room listen to public testimony regarding proposed charter schools in the Seattle area at South Seattle Community College on Monday.

The Washington State Charter School Commission is wrapping up three weeks of public hearingsfor 19 proposed schools.

Last week, standing-room-only crowds of parents, teachers and community members turned out for public hearings about the 11 charter schools proposed in the Seattle area. School organizers had 10 minutes to pitch their plans, followed by public testimony on each proposal.

At the meeting in Kent, the room was full of Turkish community members supporting the Coral Academy of Science application.

A man who identified himself as Polat from Covington said he liked what he’d heard in Coral Academy's open houses.

"As of right now, I’m a truck driver. It’s a decent-paying job, but a very hard job. I have four kids now, and I really want them to have a better career than what I ended up with," Polat told the commissioners, adding that he hoped his children would be able to get science or technology degrees.

Other parents voiced concern about prospective charter schools, like the Washington STEM Academy.

It would offer primarily online learning, which Seattle parent Dora Taylor said doesn’t compare to face-to-face lessons with a teacher.

"It is not education when a child sits there and goes through their work on the computer and possibly has an opportunity to connect with their teacher via e-mail, or, according to the description that this person submitted, a special software," Taylor said.

The Seattle teachers’ union rallied its members to oppose charters at one meeting. Pro-charter organizations also spoke up.

The Charter School Commission expects to make its decisions on which charters to grant by the end of the month.

Spokane Public Schoolsalso plans to vote tomorrow on three charter applications submitted to that district.

The first charter schools could open as early as this fall.

Year started with KUOW: 2008