In the final days of the 2016 Washington legislative session, state lawmakers are working to find compromise on a funding solution for the state’s eight public charter schools. A Senate passed a bill back in January that would keep these schools operating and satisfy the Supreme Court ruling last year that declared the previous funding mechanism unconstitutional. The House has yet to advance a bill.
One idea that has been mentioned recently is a “one-year fix” that would allow the current schools to continue operations for another year. In a letter to the editor published in the Everett Herald, Thomas Franta from the Washington State Charter Schools Association calls this temporary fix “a death sentence for high-quality public schools of choice in Washington”:
Without a secure and long-term pathway forward, many public charter schools currently elevating the educational opportunities of Washington students will be unable to access the capital and facilities needed to fully build out their grade-level offerings to meet the expectations of the parents and students who chose the school. Mired in uncertainty, our public charter schools will struggle to recruit and retain staff. A temporary patch also puts schools at risk of losing access to federal operational funds. And most importantly, parents, students and families will remain in limbo — unsure if the school they chose and fell in love with will continue for another grade or stay open at all.
Franta went on to call the proposal an “eviction” for public charter schools in a guest opinion piece in the Tri-City Herald:
A “one- or two-year fix” is not a fix — it’s an eviction notice. A short-term “fix” means the end of public school choice for families in our state who do not have access to a high-quality public school in their area that meets their kids’ needs. The more than 1,100 students currently attending public charter schools will be sent back to schools that weren’t meeting their needs. Countless more families — including those in the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla — will be robbed of the opportunity to send their children to a public charter school in the future.
Continuing their support for a permanent fix for public charter schools and the students they serve, the Seattle Times Editorial Board published an editorial yesterday, “Final push needed to save charter schools“:
A funding solution must be permanent, not for just a year, because that effectively will close charter schools.
Charter schools provide options and opportunities for students who have been historically underserved. A permanent fix will provide clarity for the state’s existing schools and open the door for many more. Washington voters recognized the value these schools provide; it’s time for the Legislature to act on their behalf.