No charter school vote today in House committee, but issue remains in play; key element in state education system

The Seattle Times reports that public charter school legislation fell off today’s House Education Committee agenda.

The House Education Committee decided Thursday not to consider a bill that would establish a new funding source for Washington charter schools. But some lawmakers said the issue was not dead for this session.

Senate Bill 6194, which has already passed the state Senate, was proposed as a fix to the charter law that the Washington Supreme Court has found to be unconstitutional.

Last week, as we wrote, the committee heard testimony on the bill, including some truly compelling narratives from parents, teachers and students about how the schools were having a positive impact. 

Tom James has a long article in Crosscut, examining the claims of critics and supporters. It’s worth reading in its entirety. Near the close, he includes a key observation. 

One of those supporters is Dan Calzaretta, a Walla-Walla teacher who after working at a public school established a charter there — and found support from the superintendent of the local school district. The core of the of the plan, Calzaretta said, was creating an alternative for students who didn’t do well in ordinary schools.

“It was to meet a special need,” Calzaretta said. “There’s not one system that works for every kid.”

That appeals to people across the state, said Robin Lake. Lake heads the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research center at the University of Washington devoted largely to charter schools.

“There’s a certain segment of folks who really want their own space,” Lake said. “Who really want to teach in their own way, and do it in a way that’s free of bureaucracy.”

“Kids are not all the same,” Lake added. “They need different types of schools.” 

As we reported earlier, the students served by the state’s limited number of public charter schools are students who have often faced challenges in the traditional public school system. Preserving a proven alternative to provide the support these students need must remain a top priority for the Legislature this session.