As the members of the board of directors of Summit Public Schools in the State of Washington, we were of course highly disappointed by your 6-3 decision last month to shut down Washington charter schools. By going against the will of the voters in our state and courts across the country, it devastated our students, parents and teachers who had already been in our classrooms for weeks.
We want to find a path forward, and that respectfully involves urging you to reconsider your decision. And to fairly reconsider your decision, you need to understand firsthand the impact of your ruling on the only people that matter: the students. You need to understand that the kids impacted by your ruling will be denied the education they deserve and so badly want.
If you were to visit our Summit Public Schools in Seattle and Tacoma, you would see mostly low income, students of color in a high quality and intentionally diverse school environment that guides them to success. Every student has a personalized learning plan, and because of this, they are actually enjoying school for the first time and building confidence. These students have mentors that stay with them for four years and are committed to their college success. Our families chose Summit Public Schools because they know it is the best educational environment for their children. These students are embracing learning every day. They are now thinking about college and a successful future, where they used to think those doors were closed to them. If you were to visit, you might just meet a child who is a future justice on the Washington State Supreme Court.
Your decision to reconsider should not be an issue of politics. The majority of people across the state support public charter schools – it is the will of the voters. More importantly, it is about the students being served. Nearly two-thirds of the students in our state’s public charter schools are from low-income families and almost 70 percent are students of color. Forcing charter schools to close will disproportionately affect families who turned to public charter schools because their child wasn’t receiving the right kind of support in the traditional schools. Closing charter schools forces these children back into an environment that was not working for them.
It is not fair to say that the right of our kids to a good education should be guided by a decision in 1909 that has zero applicability to today’s teaching methodologies, standards or learning needs. And to the extent you feel constrained by that 1909 precedent from before the time of civil rights, then look to the State’s general fund for the solution, as did the dissenting justices in your opinion. What else are those funds best used for, if not educating our children, especially those in underserved communities that want the type of education they deserve and need?
So please allow our kids to best use the public funds that are supposed to be for them. Our kids deserve it. We wish you could come to one of our Summit Public Schools to see this for yourselves.
Gordon Empey, Michael Orbino and Mike Galgon
Summit Public Schools of Washington Board of Directors
This letter was originally published on the Summit Voices blog here.