The Lens has a good overview of the status of public charter schools in Washington. The headline tells the story: Washington Charter Schools Unfazed By Latest Legal Attack; Growth Is On Track
Reporter Brittan Jenkins writes,
Operators of current Washington state charter schools and new ones set to open in 2017 say a new lawsuit by charter opponents is not distracting them, or parents of prospective enrollees, from the important work at hand.
As she writes, the last couple of years have been stressful. First there was the state Supreme Court’s controversial ruling that Washington’s voter-approved charter school law was unconstitutional. That was followed by the difficult challenge of finding a legislative fix that would allow the schools to remain in operation. And, now, the new lawsuit filed by charter public school opponents creates another round of uncertainty.
Despite opponents’ efforts, the schools remain focused on providing students’ a solid educational alternative, the “important work at hand.”
There are eight established charter schools in Washington, and operators in Seattle and Walla Walla are already preparing to open three more in fall of 2017. Two of them will be in neighborhoods noted for cultural and economic diversity.
Jenkins reports that charter public school advocates strongly oppose the latest effort to deny students the education voters and lawmakers have endorsed.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools denounced the lawsuit, saying it “ignores both the successful ballot measure and the bipartisan, legislative solution and instead continues a protracted, unnecessary legal and political battle.”
The Washington State Charter Schools Association stated that it “…intends to file a motion to intervene in the case. Following a successful first year serving students, Washington’s charter public schools are expanding and adding grade levels and are a vital part of Washington’s public education system. School starts the week of August 15th.”
Monday we linked to a Seattle Times editorial that calls the lawsuit a distraction and a disappointment.
The Spokesman-Review editorial board writes,
Charter schools just got here. It’s absurd to turn them into a bogeyman. If the lawsuit truly is about the kids, then what about charter school students who are thriving like never before? Where is the concern that they didn’t do as well in “acceptable” learning environments?
Washington state has struggled to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and the rest. Charters are heavily populated with minority and low-income students. At Spokane International Academy, which is in Hillyard, end-of-year tests showed dramatic improvement in reading, with 91 percent of kindergarten and first-grade students reading above grade level, up from 58 percent at the beginning of the school year.
It’s disappointing that positive outcomes are irrelevant to the opponents of charter schools.
Indeed. An editorial in the Everett Herald, however, assigns blame for the lawsuit to the Legislature, rather than to the opponents who filed the suit. The editorial writer doesn’t like the solution crafted by lawmakers.
The Yakima Herald-Republic takes a stronger stance, with an editorial calling the lawsuit a “needless hurdle to charter schools.” The editorial concludes:
Charter schools have a mixed record in the 42 states that allow them; supporters in Washington understood the need for oversight as they developed a tightly defined law that limits the number of schools and requires that the schools meet a range of standards. Charters won’t solve all of education’s problems, but they can serve as a laboratory for finding better ways to educate students.
The education system’s energy would be better spent letting the schools conduct their mission under the scrutiny of the Washington State Charter Schools Commission, and not trying to stop the schools just because some folks don’t like the idea.
Makes sense to us. For more on these schools, visit the websites of the Washington State Charter Schools Association and the Washington State Charter School Commission.