Wednesday, March 24, 2004
It's always great to see the underdog win one! That's what happened this year in Olympia when Gov. Locke signed a new law allowing 45 charter schools to be established in Washington state.
In this case, the underdogs are Jim and Fawn Spady, who almost single-handedly held the charter schools movement together for a decade. They poured their own money, countless days and hearts into a movement that would not even benefit their own two children.
The Spady family has a long tradition of philanthropy. Jim's father, Dick, started Dick's Drive-In, a chain of five hamburger stands in central and north Seattle, 50 years ago. It has been a very successful family-owned business that pays good wages, provides excellent benefits and gives scholarships for its workers to continue their education. In addition, Dick's Drive-In supports a wide variety of charitable causes in their community and encourages customers to contribute as well through their "Change for Charities" program.
Despite two unsuccessful charter school initiatives and years of legislative roadblocks, Jim and Fawn Spady's tenacity paid off. Now, underserved children whose parents cannot afford to send them to a private school have an alternative. Charter schools have succeeded in 40 other states, and if they succeed here, the real winners will be our children.
If successful in Washington (and with the Spady's persistence they will be) charter schools should be allowed to expand into every community in the state. After all, charter schools help realize our societal goal of graduating students who can compete head-to-head with their counterparts around the world.
As Gov. Locke has so often said, education is the great equalizer, and charter schools are one way to level the playing field for those who are not being served in the public school system.
Jim and Fawn Spady could have easily sat back, bought a beach home and spent their weekends watching the tides roll in and out. Instead, they dedicated a major portion of their lives to something that will benefit countless children throughout the state. Regardless of your politics, you must agree that it is people like Jim and Fawn Spady who have made the American dream come true.
Don. C. Brunell is President of the Association of Washington Business.