Earlier this week, we talked about the need for the 2016 Legislature, now on its fourth day of the short 60-day session, to act on a fix for public charter schools. The previous funding mechanism was ruled unconstitutional last year by the state Supreme Court.
It’s a high priority for us (as outlined in our 2016 Policy Agenda), for the 1,300 students currently enrolled in public charter schools, and for the progress of our state’s education system.
Editorial boards are lining up in support as well, urging legislators to act swiftly to fix the public charter school system in a way that closely resembles the voter-approved initiative passed in 2012:
Seattle Times: Legislature shouldn’t put charter schools on the back burner
Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, and Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Renton, have proposed an approach that is most promising in mirroring the charter school bill and allowing charter schools to continue and new ones to start. Senate Bill 6194 would use the Washington Opportunities Pathways account to pay for charter schools and other publicly funded education programs that also don’t qualify as common schools, such as tribal schools and the Running Start program.
Spokesman Review: Good news for charter schools
We support the schools because they provide an outlet for innovation and a learning environment for students who may not thrive in a traditional setting. If successful, they can provide the impetus for traditional schools to adopt more effective methods.
Given the will shown by so many to make these schools succeed, we are confident a solution will emerge that earns a passing grade from the Supreme Court.
Tri-City Herald: Our Voice: Legislators face huge decisions, but have little time
Another educational issue that must be addressed immediately is finding a fix for charter schools around the state. The state Supreme Court ruled last fall that charter schools did not fit the state constitution’s definition of a common school and are not eligible to receive common-school funding.
Washington has nine charter schools serving 1,200 students who need lawmakers to save their school system, and they need it now.
Yakima Herald: Legislature has a lot to do and not a lot of time
Meanwhile, in response to another state Supreme Court ruling, the Legislature needs to come up with a fix to the state’s charter schools law, which voters narrowly approved by ballot initiative in 2012. The court ruled charter schools aren’t “common” schools and are not constitutionally entitled to public school money.
Charter schools operate in more than 40 states but have had a tough time getting a foothold in Washington. While they are not a panacea and require strong oversight, they can provide a laboratory for educational innovation, and lawmakers need to find a way to keep them viable.
We are encouraged by the early attention to this issue across the state and in Olympia. Just today, SB 6194, a bill to fund these schools and keep them open, passed the Senate Education Committee. It now moves to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, where a hearing is scheduled for Monday.