House passage of public charter school bill paves way for preservation of vital education alternative for students and families

Last night, the House voted 58-39 to support public charter schools. The bill had already passed the Senate. House amendments mean it will have to go back to the Senate for concurrence, which is expected soon.

The vote is a culmination of months of bipartisan effort to preserve these schools after the state Supreme Court found the voter-approved public charter school law unconstitutional. It’s a victory for students, families and the thousands of Washingtonians who voiced their support of this proven alternative to traditional public schools. We considered it one of the few must-do legislative actions in this short session.

The Seattle Times reports

The Senate must still sign off on the changes made in the House bill before it’s sent to Gov. Jay Inslee.

But charter-school advocates have cleared the toughest hurdle in a feverish campaign of lobbying and fundraising to keep charter schools alive in this state.

The Times story by John Higgins reports on the accommodations made to garner support.

The bill made a number of compromises to win votes — especially making charter schools ineligible to get any dollars from local property-tax levies.

Maggie Meyers, spokesman for the Washington State Charter Schools Association, said that compromise is a significant one, since it means less funding for charters. But she said supporters were willing to make it to keep the schools alive.

The charter schools association expressed its support of the legislation.

“We’re very appreciative of the speaker for bringing the bill to the floor, and very appreciative of what was a very cordial and honest debate from both sides,” Washington State Charter Schools Association CEO Tom Franta said minutes after the vote.

The Associated Press reports on the legislation and the House floor debate, which included compelling statements of support challenging the false dichotomy asserting support for public charter schools competed with proper funding of traditional public schools.

Many advocates of the measure said on the floor that the state can help kids in charter schools and common schools at the same time. Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, said passing the bill is “what we need to do,” even if there are more students in common schools.

“If it’s just one kid or 800 kids it doesn’t matter,” he said.

The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools was quick to endorse the legislation with a statement from Nina Rees, its president and CEO.

“With this great victory, Washington rejoins the community of 42 other states and Washington D.C., where families have real, public educational options. Millions of families are demanding charter public schools across the country, including those in Washington who have spoken so clearly over the last few months.”

The final steps to secure the victory are clear: Senate concurrence with the House amendments and Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature on the bill. We’re close. It’s time.

Thank you to those legislators and advocates who have worked so hard to preserve public charter schools.