WA Charters Asks Supreme Court to Delay Charter School Ruling

For Immediate Release | October 1, 2015

On Wednesday, September 30, the Washington State Charter Schools Association joined Attorney General Bob Ferguson in filing a motion asking the Court to delay the effective date of its ruling until the end of the school year (June 30, 2016).

“Nearly 1,300 students are currently enrolled in nine public charter schools across the state, and these students have been learning, bonding with teachers, and making new friends for over a month,” said Tom Franta, WA Charters CEO. “We owe it to these children to keep them in the school that they have selected to meet their individual needs.”

More than two-thirds of these students come from low-income families and around 70 percent are students of color. These students and their families—who have been historically left behind in education—would be severely harmed if they were forced to change schools mid-year.

In its motion, WA Charters outlines four specific reasons the Court should delay the ruling in order to minimize the disruption for these students:

First, research shows that children do best academically when they have a stable education environment. Taking away this option for 1,300 students would jeopardize their learning. Dr. Thelma Jackson, a founding member of the Black Education Strategy Roundtable, notes that a majority of SOAR Academy’s children started school below grade level, and any interruption in their learning would be particularly devastating.

Second, for students with special needs, this gap in learning could be even more profound. At all but one Washington charter school, 10 percent or more of students require special education services. If charters are forced to close, parents will have to jump through multiple hoops to find a school and arrange for their child’s Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) to transfer—losing valuable instructional time.

Mishaal Mahmud, a special education teacher at Green Dot’s Destiny Middle School in Tacoma, explains the tangible effects of a mid-year transition on student achievement: “Over 20 percent of students at Destiny have individualized education programs. Our administrators, teachers, and staff have worked tirelessly with these families to complete evaluations and tailor services to their individual needs. Forcing these students to transfer schools now will cause significant disruptions to the customized services Destiny has already developed and these children need.”

Third, the sudden closure of charter schools would jeopardize English language learner (ELL) students. Several students at Spokane International Academy are ELLs, and four other charter schools have more than 10 percent of students for whom English is their second language. As Spokane International board member Andrea Simpson explains in the motion, many ELL students are refugees. It would be devastating to throw these children’s lives into upheaval—especially after passing through so much turmoil in their homelands.

Finally, plaintiffs who oppose charters have argued that existing public charter schools could stay open indefinitely without state funding.  At this point, while we are aware of potential donors and are actively seeking contributions, WA Charters does not have commitments for the funds each school will need to stay open. The continued public funding, until the decision is final, will be crucial to keeping these schools open.

State Superintendent Randy Dorn, former Gov. Gregoire, and other state leaders agree: we need to do what’s best for students and their families. Disrupting their education before the court has reconsidered its ruling is not what’s best for these students. In addition to academic concerns, changing school locations has implications on a family’s child care and transportation options.

WA Charters filed this motion for a stay because we believe these parents and students deserve continued access to the schools that they selected to meet their needs, as well as an appropriate amount of time to explore other public school options if the Court fails to address a number of concerns with its opinion. In addition to this motion, WA Charters has until October 23 to submit a Motion for Reconsideration. The State has already submitted its full motion, which can be found here.

We will continue to explore every option available to keep these public education options open for kids. The same glitch the Court says disqualifies public charter schools from receiving public funding could also de-fund Running Start, tribal compact schools, and other valuable public education services. If the Court fails to act, then the Legislature must work to fix the glitch in order to keep schools open.

You can read the full motion for a stay here.