Kids Win: Bipartisan Public Charter School Bill Becomes Law in Washington

Apr 1, 2016 | Updates

Families, Students and Advocates Celebrate After Months of Grassroots Advocacy

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OLYMPIA — Marking a major victory for Washington students and families, Governor Inslee announced today that he will allow SB 6194 to pass into law, saving the state’s innovative public charter schools and ensuring that families across the state will continue to have the power of choice in public education. The Governor’s announcement follows months of hard work and advocacy by parents and students around the state. Act Now for Washington Students’ statewide coalition of public education supporters succeeded by focusing on the imperative to close the opportunity gap and ensure access to quality public school options for every parent. The bill received bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature.  

While disappointed that he chose not to sign the bill, families and advocates are thanking the Governor today for saving schools and upholding the will of the voters. The bill will move forward to become law, effective midnight tomorrow.

In reaction to today’s affirming announcement, Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) CEO Tom Franta offered the following statement:

“As we celebrate this major win for children and families across Washington, we applaud Sen. Steve Litzow, Rep. Larry Springer, and many of their colleagues from both sides of the aisle for choosing a future of innovation and accountability for Washington’s public schools. These legislative leaders are true champions for Washington students, especially for students in communities that historically have had few high-quality educational options and for whom public charter schools are making the difference. We are grateful for their leadership and courage to set politics aside, listen to the needs of students and families, and honor the will of the voters. We look forward to public charter schools continuing to move Washington forward toward closing historic and persistent opportunity gaps and improving educational equity and student outcomes in our state.

“WA Charters and our advocacy partners also extend our sincerest gratitude to the brave families who dedicated untold hours and energy to ensuring today’s outcome through one-on-one meetings with legislators, rallies, compelling testimonies in front of legislative committees, phone banking, social media activity, op-eds, letters to the editor, and text campaigning. Today’s victory belongs to parents and students.”

Following the state Supreme Court ruling on public charter schools in early September 2015, thousands of families saw no option other than to stand up and fight for legislation that would preserve their excellent schools and their ability to exercise choice in the public education of their children.   

Under the banner of Act Now For Washington Students, parents, students and advocates launched a grassroots effort aimed at getting the legislature to act to save public schools. Parents made more than 1,000 calls to legislators per week; hundreds rallied at the State Capitol; and thousands sent letters and emails. Their efforts were coupled with a comprehensive earned and paid media campaign that led to the historic bipartisan vote to keep Washington’s public charter schools open and serving students in the long-term.

This victorious passage into law will lift the more than 1,100 students currently enrolled in public charter schools in Western Washington and Spokane out of limbo and opens the doors for parents and advocates from West Seattle to Yakima to Walla Walla and elsewhere in the state to open new, innovative and accountable schools in their diverse communities.

About Act Now for Washington Students

Act Now for Washington Students is a student and parent led coalition founded in partnership with Democrats for Education Reform, the League of Education Voters, Stand for Children, the Washington State Charter Schools Association and WA Charters Action, and is dedicated to ensuring that parent, student and voter voices are elevated in the fight to keep public schools open and serving students.

About Washington’s Public Charter Schools

Washington’s public charter schools are helping to close the education equity gap. More than two-thirds of students in public charter schools are from low-income families and more than 70 percent 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 state’s existing public charter 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. According to mid-year assessment results, students at Washington’s public charter schools are making impressive gains in reading and math, with some already having grown multiple grade levels in half a school year.