WA Charters Announces Top Priorities for 2017 Legislative Session

For Immediate Release | Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Contact: Maggie Meyers at (724) 263-9826

“We Stand With All Public School Students”

Charter Public School Advocates Call for End to Politically Motivated Attacks; Renew Focus on Working Together to Find a Fair and Equitable Public School Funding Solution to McCleary Crisis

SEATTLE, Wash. – The Washington State Charter Schools Association has announced it will pursue two definitive priorities for the upcoming 2017 legislative session:

1. Supporting every Washington public school student and parent in securing a public school funding solution that is equitable, fair for all kids, and eliminates reliance on local levies to provide for basic education;

2. Protecting the integrity of the charter law by promoting a greater understanding around the function and role of charter public schools and how they benefit families across the state.

The 2016 legislative term resulted in a major victory for WA Charters, as the state legislature passed a strong, bipartisan charter public school law that reaffirmed the will of Washington voters, students and families. This year, WA Charters aims to build on that victory’s momentum by standing up in support of solutions that benefit all public school students across Washington state.

“Keeping charter public schools open and making a difference for students in diverse communities is a big step toward educational equity in Washington, but there is more work to do that includes meeting the state’s obligations under the McCleary decision. The 2017 legislative session is an opportunity to set aside tired political battles, and focus on making sure we are doing as much as we can for all students,” said WA Charters CEO Tom Franta. “To that end, WA Charters will work in support of a state public school funding solution that promises a quality education for every Washington student. It’s time for public education advocates to quit attacking each other, and begin building a more equitable funding system together.”

The Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision, which found that the state had failed to fulfill its paramount duty to “make ample provision” for the education of all children, offers Washington lawmakers the unique opportunity to set a new course for public education in the state – one that serves all students and communities adequately and equitably. WA Charters’ goals align closely with that of finding an equitable solution to the funding challenge, as the state’s existing charter public schools predominantly serve students in underserved communities who stand to benefit from a fair and equitable funding solution.

WA Charters’ pursuit of an effective McCleary solution will be supplemented by an effort to improve policymakers’ understanding of the role that charter public schools play in public education at large, and how they benefit families and communities across Washington. Charter public schools have received consistent support in recent years from the state legislature, Washington voters, and the students and families they serve. It will be imperative to continue building awareness and understanding around tuition-free, high-quality, and effective charter public options to provide Washington families and students access to schools that best fit their needs.

WA Charters is a firm supporter of quality public school options, particularly in an increasingly challenging landscape for public school education on the national scale. For more, see WA Charters CEO Tom Franta’s notes in reference to the 2016 election here.

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.