For Immediate Release | October 31, 2016
Web Resource to Offer Washington Families and Key Stakeholders Detailed Background and Ongoing Updates Around El Centro v. Washington
SEATTLE, Wash. – Today, the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) launched a website (http://www.wacharters.org/legalfacts) to help dispel myths and provide background information related to the El Centro v. Washington lawsuit, the latest in a string of attacks against voter-approved charter public schools in Washington. The website invites the public to meet the families and students intervening in the lawsuit, learn about the schools themselves, and follow a timeline of legal actions. The site also includes links to all the legal filings related to the case for easy access to key documents.
El Centro v. Washington was filed on August 3, 2016 by a group of anti-charter lobbying groups to challenge Washington’s new charter school law, which passed during the 2016 legislative session. WA Charters, along with a group of twelve families and 6 schools, intervened on behalf of the state in late August. The lawsuit flies in the face of both the voters of Washington and the bipartisan group of legislators who passed a new, stronger charter school law in April 2016.
“Our purpose behind this website is to offer a key resource for Washingtonians who are invested in providing high-quality education options for Washington families,” said WA Charters CEO Tom Franta. “It is vital that the details of this politically motivated lawsuit are accessible to families across the state, who may see their education options severely impacted by the outcome.”
“We will not be intimidated by crass attacks that threaten our children’s schools,” said Shirline Wilson, a Seattle parent whose son is in his second year Rainier Prep, a charter public middle school in South King County. “Parents, students and the public now have a tool they can use to understand, follow and fight this cynical lawsuit. My family, and families across the state of Washington, are ready to stand up for every child’s right to a high-quality education.”
The state’s existing charter public schools opened after voters passed a ballot initiative in 2012, authorizing the creation of more high-quality public school options for hardworking Washington families. After the Washington Supreme Court identified a glitch in the voter-approved charter public school law, a bipartisan group of lawmakers studied, vetted, and in March 2016, passed a bill (E2SSB 6194) into law, specifically designed to address the state Supreme Court’s concerns. El Centro v. Washington challenges the constitutionality of the new law, despite agreement among legal experts from both sides of the aisle – including non-partisan staff attorneys – that the law is consistent with the state constitution. The new law effectively restored the will of the voters by creating a path for charter public schools’ long-term success.
Washington’s eight operating charter public schools reopened for a new school year in August 2016, having quickly become a vital part of Washington’s public education system for the students and families they serve. With one year of operation under their belts, the schools are already making a quantifiable difference in the lives of hundreds of Washington families, particularly in historically under-resourced and underserved communities. Three additional schools have been authorized and are set to open in Fall 2017 in South Seattle, West Seattle, and Walla Walla.
About Washington’s Public Charter Schools
Charter schools are a type of public school, approved and overseen by a state or district authorizer. Like all public schools, they do not charge tuition, they are open to all students, and they are publicly funded. However, charter public schools are held more accountable for showing improved student achievement. In exchange for greater accountability, teachers and principals are given more flexibility to customize their teaching methods and curriculum to improve student learning.
Washington’s charter public schools are helping to close the education equity gap. A majority of charter public school students in Washington are students of color, as compared to 43 percent statewide, and a majority of charter public school students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, as compared to 45 percent statewide.
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 2015-16 mid-year and end-of-year assessment results, students at Washington’s charter public schools are making impressive gains in reading and math.
For Immediate Release: October 31, 2016 | Contact: Cynara Lily at 206-915-7821 or Maggie Meyers at 724-263-9826