Charter schools seek swift legislative action; McKenna explains decision on WSJ video

Friday’s state Supreme Court decision blocking state funding for public charter schools continues to draw national attention. Mary Kissel interviews former state Attorney General Rob McKenna for The Wall Street Journal in this video about the ruling (just 3:36 minutes long and well worth your time).

The ramifications for this school year remain uncertain. John Higgins reports in the Seattle Times that two of the state’s nine charter school have said that they will remain through the academic year.  

“This decision does not close our school,” said Adel Sefrioui, the founder and executive director of Excel Public Charter School in Kent, told worried parents at a morning meeting Tuesday.

And SOAR Academy in Tacoma also held a meeting and posted its intention to stay open this school year on its Facebook page.

Higgins reports that Excel has raised enough money to maintain operations; it’s unclear how SOAR will keep the doors open. Charter school supporters want lawmakers to craft legislation to provide funding that will satisfy the court’s objections.

The Washington State Charter School Commission called an emergency meeting Wednesday morning to respond to the unprecedented ruling — the first in the nation to strike down a charter-school law in its entirely.

In a compelling Seattle Times op-ed, Taylor Williams, a founding math and computer science teacher at Excel, offers insight into the important role played by public charter schools.

Excel has high numbers of children with special needs, children facing poverty, children here as refugees, and children learning English as a second language. The economic and cultural diversity at our school is extraordinary…

It’s hard for me to fully articulate how much these first three weeks have bolstered my faith in the potential of public education. The flexibility and strong leadership found at Excel and at the other public charter schools that recently opened their doors creates an incredible opportunity for all families — particularly those who have historically been underserved by the public education system.

Anyone who doubts the value of public charter schools should read the op-ed. Williams closes by asking for support:

It’s time for Gov. Jay Inslee to hold a special legislative session immediately to address the law — supported by voters and parents — and ensure there is no disruption for these 1,200 charter-school students.

Meanwhile, Seattle public schools are not open today, the scheduled first day of classes, as the teachers are out on strike. Spokane narrowly averted a strike, reaching a tentative agreement yesterday. And Pasco teachers remain out on strike.

The Seattle Times editorial board had a timely reminder for teachers last week..

Don’t forget that teacher strikes are illegal, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. On Friday morning, a Franklin County judge ordered Pasco teachers, on strike since Tuesday, back to class.

Disruptive, last-minute strikes happening across the state also make clear that teacher contracts must be negotiated at the state level, not locally, once the state fully assumes funding of basic education.

The Puget Sound Business Journal points out that the strike will affect Seattle area businesses.

Ideally, this will all end soon, with students back in the classroom in all the public schools, including the public charter schools.