Act Now for Washington Students: Coalition to Protect Washington’s Public Charter Schools Launches

For Immediate Release | November 17, 2015


School closures would displace, harm more than 1,100 students, primarily from families of color and communities struggling with poverty

Seattle – Parents, students and education advocates announced a new coalition today committed to preventing Washington’s voter-approved public charter schools from being forced to close. Under the banner of Act Now for Washington Students, advocates are launching a parent-led public awareness campaign that calls on legislators to fix a legal glitch that could displace more than 1,100 kids and potentially cause irreparable harm to the already vulnerable populations served by Washington’s public charter schools.

“Legislators now have the chance to be heroes for Washington’s students – and kids like mine,” said Roquesia Williams, a Tacoma parent with a six-year-old son attending SOAR Academy, an eleven-year-old daughter attending Green Dot Destiny and a fourteen-year-old son attending Summit Public Schools: Olympus High School. “The choice is simple: We are asking our leaders to put politics aside and give public charter schools – and our kids – a chance to thrive. Please don’t slam the door on our dreams.”

The organization formed in response to a recent ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court that could shut down nine local public schools across the state, and may have further implications on tribal compact schools, Running Start, and other public school programs in Washington.

“We are committed to putting the needs of Washington students first and continuing to fight for access to a great education for all kids,” said Thomas Franta, CEO of the Washington State Charter Schools Association. “The legislature is directly responsible for ensuring that these public schools stay open and we look forward to working with them to find a solution.”

Act Now for Washington Students will employ a variety of engagement tools to highlight the need to keep public schools open, including parent and student-led actions, social media engagement, and online, mail and TV advertising. View the coalition’s first ad here.

Today’s announcement follows growing support for voter-approved public charter schools, including recent briefs filed in opposition to the Court ruling by four former Attorneys General, current Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and representatives and senators from both sides of the aisle, including Representative Eric Pettigrew and Senator Joe Fain who agree that the state Supreme Court’s decision was flawed.

“The Court’s decision is threatening to pull the rug out from underneath our family,” said Shirline Wilson, whose eleven-year-old son is a fifth grade student at Rainier Prep in south King County. “For my family, it’s not about public charter schools versus traditional schools. It’s about the freedom to choose what is best for my family and my son’s learning needs. I am grateful for the opportunity to send my child to a great public school and confident the legislature will do the right thing and keep our public schools open.”

Act Now for Washington Students is a partnership created by Democrats for Education Reform, the League of Education Voters, Stand for Children, and the Washington State Charter Schools Association. The new coalition is dedicated to ensuring that parent, student and voter voices are elevated in the fight to keep public schools open and serving kids.

About Washington’s Public Charters
Washington’s public charter schools are helping to close the education equity gap. Nearly two-thirds of students in public charter schools are from low-income families and almost 70% are students of color. Allowing public charter schools to close down will disproportionately affect families who turned to charters because their children’s needs were not being met.

The schools were created after voters passed a law in 2012 calling for more public school options for Washington families. In some communities, traditional public schools are meeting the needs of local students. But in other communities – particularly communities of color that struggle with poverty – they are not. In Washington, African American, Latino and Native American students are scoring between 15-20 percent lower on state assessments.