Students, Parents and Legislators Tell the Dramatic Story of Washington’s Charter Public Schools in New Documentary Short

For Immediate Release | Friday, December 16, 2016
Contact: Maggie Meyers at (724) 263-9826

 “Rescuing Washington’s Charter Schools” Tells Story of Families Fighting to Keep their Public Schools Open

TACOMA, Wash. – The passion and persistence of Washington’s charter public school parents is the subject of a new video documentary released this week by The 74, a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America.

“Now is the time, and we’re not willing to wait anymore for these solutions to be put in place,” says charter public school parent and advocate Shirline Wilson in the video. “Our kids education and lives are at stake.”

“Rescuing Washington’s Charter Schools: A 74 Special Report” tells the story of the successful grassroots campaign to reinstate Washington’s charter public school law in 2016 through the perspectives of three parents, a state legislator, and a local reporter:

  • Jessica Garcia, a charter public school parent and advocate whose second child, Isadora, attends Green Dot Destiny Middle School in Tacoma.
  • Roquesia Williams, a Tacoma mom, whose four kids range from kindergarten to high school and all attend Tacoma’s charter public schools.
  • Shirline Wilson, charter public school advocate and parent of Miles, 12, who attends sixth grade at Rainier Prep in South King County.
  • Rep. Larry Springer (D, 45th district, Kirkland), one of the architects of Washington’s new charter public school law.
  • Melissa Santos, a reporter for The News Tribune who covered Washington’s charter public school law debate.

The documentary details the aftermath of the historic state Supreme Court ruling on September 15, 2015, which invalidated Washington’s 2012 charter school law due to a funding glitch. Parents successfully rallied, saving the new, high-quality school options at which students across the state are thriving.

“It was devastating, absolutely devastating. It still brings up such raw emotion,” says Jessica Garcia of the day the state Supreme Court ruling came down.

Washington’s new charter public school law was recently awarded a perfect score by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers based on best-practice criteria that ensures a consistent, high-performing charter sector. That award followed a Department of Education’s grant of $6.9M to Washington state charter schools, a signal of the federal government’s confidence in the state’s growing charter sector.

“We deserve to have a choice of where we send our kids to school,” concludes Roquesia Williams at the end of the documentary. “[It] works for us, and we should be able to take advantage of that.”

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.