Preserving public charter schools must be a 2016 legislative priority

The Seattle Times editorial board makes the right point in an editorial headlined, “Legislature shouldn’t put charter schools on back burner.

In this short session, lawmakers must show progress toward fully funding basic education in this state. Some suggest that the charter schools issue is a distraction from that important job. Nonsense.

Charter schools are an important part of meeting the needs of all of our state’s students. The Legislature can do both.
The Times calls for Gov. Inslee to take a leading role. In yesterday’s State of the State address, the governor did not mention public charter schools. In the Republican leadership press conference following the governor’s speech, though, Rep. Dan Kristiansen acknowledged the strong bipartisan effort to restore public charter schools. He called the schools an important option, and said “we’re going to continue to move forward on that effort.”
The Washington State Wire reports on yesterday’s Senate hearing.  

Legislators heard many legitimate arguments both for and against charters on Tuesday. Some advocates simply hope that the competition between charters and traditional public schools will induce systemic change. Others truly believe that charter schools are the answer to our public school system’s woes. Opponents bemoan the lack of accountability and decry the involvement of private sector entities.

Few would predict if either SB 6163 or 6194 will pass the legislature this session. The debate is complicated and we are approaching an election year. Time will tell, and in this short legislative session it will be sooner rather than later.

We’ve said before that restoring public charter schools is one of the few must-dos on the 2016 legislative agenda. In his remarks on education finance in yesterday’s speech, the governor acknowledged that major funding decisions will have to be made in 2017. (It’s a point we made here.) 

That’s appropriate. Those decisions can wait.

But the decisions necessary to restore public charter school cannot wait. They must be made this year, now. Lawmakers must act to ensure expanded opportunity for the students currently enrolled in the schools placed in jeopardy by the unfortunate state Supreme Court decisions, and for the thousands of students who should have the same opportunity in the years to come.