1,500 Students, Teachers and Parents Gather in Olympia to Attend Supreme Court Hearing on Charter Public Schools’ Constitutionality

For Immediate Release | May 17, 2018

CONTACT: Maggie Meyers at (724) 263-9826 or Salman Akhtar at (609) 558-1004

Charter Public School Students from Across Washington State Participate in a Day of Learning and Action on the morning of the State Supreme Court’s Hearing in El Centro de la Raza v. Washington

OLYMPIA, WA. – This morning, more than 1,500 charter public school students, teachers and parents gathered in Olympia for a day of learning and action, which included a live viewing of a Washington Supreme Court hearing in El Centro de la Raza v. Washington (El Centro), the legal case that will determine the constitutionality of the state’s Charter School Act.

The day was a celebration of the growth and success stories behind charter public schools in Washington state. At a press conference on the legislative building steps, student, parent, and teacher speakers spoke about their experiences at charter public schools. Key quotes from the speeches are below, edited for length:

Photos Can Be Found HERE – Credit: Huoy Chen

Jalen Johnson, 11th grade founding student at Summit Sierra in Seattle.

  • As a Black student in the public education system, historically and systemically, the odds are not in my favor. I see myself and other students of color thriving at charter public schools. Our success should be the norm, not the exception, and for me and so many kids like me, charter public schools provide exactly that – an opportunity to succeed.”

Heidi Mitchell, parent of J.D. Mitchell, an 8th grade founding student at PRIDE Prep in Spokane:

  • “I was lucky to have access to a school like PRIDE Prep in Spokane. But not everyone does. And that’s what hurts me most – every other student and parent that doesn’t have an option like my family had. I’m so proud to be part of the Washington charter school community – these are our schools and this is our voice, and we will keep fighting for them.”

Dustin Dacuan, a founding English Teacher at Summit Sierra in Seattle:

  • “My goal was always to learn the best teaching skills, and then return to Seattle and work with students that had a similar background to myself. Summit Sierra aligned philosophically with what I wanted, from the students they were serving to the type of high-quality education and values they stood for. As a Seattle native, I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, and so inspired by the possibility of each and every student that walks through our doors.”

Ciele Quiroz, an 8th grade founding student at Rainier Prep in Seattle:

  • “My charter public school is helping me dream bigger as a student and an activist. To those people who want to shut us down, I say: Come to my school. Visit my school. See for yourself how it is transforming lives.”

Michelle Antwi, a 5th grade student at Rainier Prep in Seattle:

  • “Rainier Prep is showing me how to be a scholar and a leader – from participating in Student Parliament, to engineering projects, to STEM programs for girls like TechBridge. I am relevant, my school is relevant, and us kids, we are the future. We deserve to have public school options that will help us succeed.”

Following the hearing, attending students took part in learning activities around the legislative campus. Pictures of the event can be found HERE (Credit: Huoy Chen)

Washington’s Charter Schools Act is unique because it puts students first. Voters in Washington, along with elected representatives, created one of the strongest charter laws in the nation – one that focuses first and foremost on closing the opportunity gap in systemically underserved communities. The quality of the law is reinforced by recognition at the national level, including a perfect score from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers based on best-practice criteria that ensure a consistent, high-performing charter public school sector. The law has been ranked the third strongest charter school law in the nation by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

“We are confident in the constitutionality of Washington’s charter public school law and expect the state Supreme Court to uphold the lower court’s decision,” said Patrick D’Amelio, CEO of the Washington State Charter Schools Association. “Already, our families have won at the ballot box, at the legislature, and in King County Superior Court. We have no reason to expect a different outcome here.”

The oral arguments were a watershed moment for the over 2,400 families and students who are currently benefitting from charter public schools. With waitlists at many of the state’s twelve authorized charter schools, demand for these schools only continues to grow despite the legal challenge. The families and schools are represented by former Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna and his firm, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

To learn more about the history of the legal case and meet the parents and students fighting for their schools, visit: https://wacharters.org/legalfacts/