Charter schools looking for lifeline and legislative solutions

Fallout continues from the state Supreme Court’s ruling that Washington’s charter school law is unconstitutional. The Associated Press reports today that the Charter School Commission is making final preparations to lay off staff and cease operations. But there’s some good news for charter school supporters:

…the state’s nine charter schools were expected to stay open at least through the end of the academic year.

State funding for the schools had continued while the court’s decision was appealed, unsuccessfully. But the AP reports the cash flow dries up this month. The schools are now pursuing a creative alternative to maintain operations.

The most likely solution is transforming the schools into so-called Alternative Learning Experiences, according to the association that supports state charter schools. That program is used mostly for online schools hosted by school districts, but officials with the superintendent’s office and the association believe it also could work as a stop-gap for charter schools.

Eight of the nine charter schools are pursuing a relationship with the Mary Walker School District in Stevens County, association spokeswoman Maggie Meyers said. The district’s superintendent is Kevin Jacka, who resigned last week from the Charter School Commission.

It would allow the schools to stay open and receive state education dollars, Meyers said.

The Spokesman-Review also reports on the Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) possibility. 

The Mary Walker district’s superintendent, Kevin Jacka, served on the Washington State Charter School Commission until resigning Wednesday.

Jacka said in an email the “Mary Walker School District is still exploring opportunities” around hosting charter schools. Its school board passed a resolution Nov. 30 allowing Jacka to explore the feasibility of hosting charters as Alternative Learning Environment programs.

Part of the resolution read, “the District believes that all students should have a choice in their educational program.”

Supporters are also looking to the 2016 Legislature to cure the constitutional problem. 

“[The ALE] would really just be a stopgap until legislation is passed,” Meyers said. “The urgency is now on the Legislature.”

The Spokesman-Review added its editorial voice to the call for a legislative solution. 

We have supported charter schools because they provide alternative paths toward educating students. The two Spokane schools had to turn away potential scholars for lack of capacity.


Previously, as we’ve noted, the Seattle Times and the Columbian newspapers encouraged a legislative fix. Even in a short 2016 session, lawmakers should be able to find a way to preserve charter schools.