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Temporary Patch, But Students Still in Limbo

For Immediate Release | December 15, 2015

Schools could close if Legislature doesn’t act—final ruling creates added urgency

SEATTLE – Last week, the State Supreme Court passed down its official mandate, confirming a poorly reasoned decision throwing out the voter approved charter school law and plunging the schools and families into deep confusion around the future of their innovative charter schools. Now, as the more than 1,100 families affected by the ruling wait for the King County Superior Court to issue its final order removing their legal status as charter schools, the schools are working on a temporary patch that will keep them open as public, innovative schools until the legislature acts early in 2016. The need for a legislative solution is still imperative.

“Our primary focus continues to be ensuring that we do what is best for kids, and that means not allowing school to be disrupted mid-year, keeping schools open and doing all we can to ensure the Court’s misguided decision causes as little harm as possible to the students attending these nine schools,” said Thomas Franta, CEO, Washington Charter Schools Association. “While we have have narrowed on a temporary patch to keep doors open for now, the urgency for the legislature to fix the mess the courts created is more critical than ever. These kids need the legislature to act now.”

Eight of the state’s pubic charters are actively exploring becoming what is known as an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE), a temporary patch that would allow them to operate as public schools for a few months, causing the least harm and disruption the the public school families who have chosen to attend the threatened public charters. The schools are persuing an ALE partnership with the Mary Walker School District in Eastern Washington.

A ninth school, First Place Scholars, serving some of the state’s most underserved students, will be converting back to a tuition-free independent school, which is the model that served them well for the first 25 years of their existence. WA Charters has extended bridge gap funding to help First Place make the transition back to their original successful model and keep school doors open through the remainder of the school year, and kids in class where they belong.

About Act Now for Washington Students

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, and 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 child’s needs were not being met.

The schools were created after voters passed a law in 2012 calling for additional 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.