Charter schools in Washington state are providing students with a great education, but face closure in a heated political battle.
In 2012, voters approved a law to allow up to 40 charter schools to open in the state. In September 2015, with only seven open, the state Supreme Court ruled the schools unconstitutional because they are run by an appointed board or nonprofit rather than an elected school board. The decision left 1,200 kids enrolled in charters unsure of their educational future.
Last month, the state Senate voted 27-20 to address the constitutional concern. “I’m just exhilarated,” said Rainier Prep charter school parent Shirline Wilson, according to the74million.org. “I’m completely charged and excited that we’re making forward progress and that the legislators have done a great job of listening to their constituents and seeing the merits of charters in Washington state.” Supporters remain cautious, though, expecting a difficult fight ahead in the state House.
Now, on the brink of closure, new data shows that charter students in Washington are achieving scores above grade level in reading and ahead of traditional public school students in math. “We’ll be sharing this data with legislators as evidence of why they shouldn’t be closing schools that are closing gaps for our students,” said Maggie Meyers, spokeswoman for pro-charter group Act Now for Washington Students.
Advocates hope the data will sway legislators quickly. Less than a month remains in this legislative session. If the bill is not enacted, charter schools could be closed in the fall.