For Immediate Release | January 8, 2016
Coalition applauds bipartisan commitment to reinstate will of voters, keep schools open, and address education inequality
OLYMPIA—Act Now For Washington Students is commending a bipartisan group of legislators for announcing a proposal that reinstates much of the policy encompassed by the charter school law passed by ballot initiative 1240 in 2012, along with critical updates, including directing charter school funding to come from the state’s Opportunity Pathways Account, which contains state lottery revenues not restricted to common schools. The proposal, introduced by Sens. Steve Litzow (R – Mercer Island), Mark Mullet (D – Issaquah), Joe Fain, (R – Auburn), and Steve Hobbs (D – Lake Stevens) is the second solution offered this week, indicating a real commitment by leaders in Olympia to solve the problem and keep school doors open. “We applaud Sens. Litzow, Mullet,Fain, and Hobbs for their commitment to reinstate the will of the voters by fixing the mess that threatens to close public charter schools. Today’s proposal demonstrates legislators’ commitment to Washington families and students,” said Thomas Franta, CEO of the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters). “We are especially pleased to see lawmakers from both sides of the aisle come together around a solution that maintains the ability of all parents in Washington—not just those in some districts—to choose the public school that best fits the needs of every child.” Act Now for Washington Students also released a statement yesterday thanking Sens. Billig and Baumgartner for filing the first proposed legislation that addresses the issue and reflects the urgency to make sure that school doors stay open, noting that the two should be commended “for their efforts to keep public charter schools open, and for recognizing the urgent need to fix the mess that threatens public charters schools and has left Washington communities in limbo. The imperative to keep these local public schools open is quickly becoming one of the most critical issues legislators will face this session.” Billig and Baumgartner’s proposal, while well-intentioned, provides a limited solution that does not likely extend far enough to help schools outside of the Spokane area. In putting forth a second charter school proposal, Litzow, Mullet, Fain, and Hobbs are demonstrating their commitment to ensuring that public charter schools remain an option for the more than 1,100 students currently attending these schools – as well as the countless families statewide whose kids have yet to benefit from these flexible and innovative public school options as intended by the voter-approved law. “Public charter schools provide a meaningful opportunity for students – especially minority children from low-income families – who are disproportionately failed by Washington’s inequitable public school system,” said Litzow, chairman of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, in his announcement of the bill earlier today. “Education quality – and inequality – is the paramount concern for students, parents, teachers, and lawmakers as well as voters, who made Washington the 42nd state to allow charter schools. No single reform will alone ensure we can meet Washington’s duty to provide a high-quality education to all children. Historic investments for public education in 2015, the expansion of charter schools and other research-based reforms supporting our most at-risk students will help close the state’s opportunity gap and strengthen the entire public education system.” The proposed bill will receive a public hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, January 12, the second day of the 2016 legislative session, at 1:30 p.m. About Act Now for Washington StudentsAct Now for Washington Students is a parent-led coalition founded in partnership with 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 ChartersWashington’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 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.