Celebrating and securing the future for public charter schools in Washington

Supporters of public charter schools in Washington are cheering the legislative solution that Gov. Inslee allowed to go into effect over the weekend. At the same time, editorial boards are assessing next steps and urging broader acceptance of public charter schools.

The Columbian editorial board concludes, 

Charter schools are not a panacea for public education, yet they deserve an opportunity to grow and flourish in Washington. With support from voters and lawmakers and tacit approval from the governor, the time has come to develop a thriving charter school system rather than drag the issue back into the courts.

And they note that those opposing public charter schools here are curiously out of step with some of their key national allies.
In 2014, in recognition of National Charter Schools Week, President Obama said: “We pay tribute to the role our nation’s public charter schools play in advancing opportunity, and we salute the parents, educators, community leaders, policymakers, and philanthropists who gave rise to the charter school sector.” The 2012 Democratic Party Platform reads: “The Democratic Party understands the importance of turning around struggling public schools. We will continue to strengthen all our schools and work to expand public school options for low-income youth, including magnet schools, charter schools, teacher-led schools, and career academies.” And the National Education Association writes: “NEA is committed to advocating on behalf of educators, parents and students in charter schools that help drive innovative educational practices that can be reproduced broadly in schools across the nation.”
The Seattle Times editorial board also points out the schools’ successes and applauds the new legislation.

Those charter schools have remarkably diverse student bodies, as intended by the law. More than 70 percent are students of color, and nearly 40 percent of charter-school teachers are people of color — the latter is triple the percentage at other public schools. More than two-thirds of students qualify for free or reduced price lunches.

And these students are already achieving.

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin editorial board expresses similar support.

An editorial in The Olympian supports the “reprieve” given public charter schools and argues that opponents concerns about funding could go away with full funding of basic education.

…how charter schools are funded would be much less of an issue if Washington’s Legislature fully funded K-12 schools.

The Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board celebrates the legislation, concluding

Charters have traveled a rougher road than necessary in this state, and their ultimate success depends on their execution by teachers, administrators and parents, and on oversight by the Washington State Charter Schools Association. But they can serve as a laboratory for finding better ways to educate students; at least now they will get that chance.

Finally, an excellent analysis in The 74 shows how public charter school supporters – parents, students, teachers and advocates – worked together to produce the legislative victory. One key:

Students showed up to every public hearing during the legislative process to testify. They shared personal stories of how their charter schools gave them an educational lifeline and their first real inkling of going to college. They recounted their appreciation for smaller classroom sizes, attention from teachers and mentors, and unique classes like orchestra or computer science. During floor debates, legislators said this testimony from students was vote-changing.

 And another..

Parent Jessica Garcia, who has been in Olympia every day of this legislative session, said she really saw the impact parent work was having mid-way through February. She said legislators started to recognize and approach her, asking her opinion on wording in the legislation.
“It made me feel like democracy actually might work,” Garcia said. “I just wanted to be able to look at my daughter and tell her I tried.

Tried and succeeded. An outcome to celebrate.