Parents and Students Take a Stand Against Attacks on Their Schools

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 23, 2016
CONTACT: Cynara Lilly at (206) 915-7821 or Maggie Meyers at (724) 263-9826

Families from Each of Washington’s Charter Public Schools Announce They Will Join in Filing a Motion to Intervene 

Group Also To File Motion Calling for the Dismissal of Politically Motivated Plaintiffs

RobMcKenna and Families

SEATTLE, Wash. – Twelve families, representing each of Washington’s eight existing charter public schools, as well as the community of Yakima, which has been organizing to open a charter public school, the Washington State Charter Schools Association and several individual existing and planned schools came together today to announce they are going to file a collective motion to intervene in the recently filed law suit El Centro de la Raza v. Washington, designed to harm their schools and overturn the will of Washington voters. The parents, students and schools seek to join the State in defending Washington’s newly reaffirmed charter public school law against the politically motivated lawsuit, filed by a coalition led by Seattle group El Centro de la Raza, League of Women Voters and the Washington Education Association.

The families and schools represent parents, students and educators throughout Washington focused on ensuring all students have access to an excellent, personalized education and on closing Washington’s persistent equity and opportunity gaps through quality schools.

“We are proud of how hard we fought during the legislative session to save our schools, and we are ready to keep fighting,” said Shirline Wilson, a Seattle parent with a son attending Rainier Prep. “We will not be intimidated by lawsuits. Families like mine are more determined than ever to standup not only for children’s right to a quality public education, but for the rights of all Washington families.” Wilson and the 12 families will be represented by Orrick law firm in their request to intervene.

Intervenors will also be filing a motion to dismiss all of the organizational plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. The motion was filed on the grounds that the advocacy organizations are merely attempting to rehash policy arguments in a courtroom by recasting them as constitutional concerns – policy arguments that were decided on at both ballot box and in the 2016 Legislative session. The Washington Education Association, the League of Women Voters and El Centro De La Raza are among the lobbying groups the group is asking to have dismissed.

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. When 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 specifically designed to address the High Court’s concerns. Legal experts from both sides of the aisle, including non-partisan staff attorneys, combed through SB 6194 to ensure it would pass constitutional muster and restore the will of the voters by creating a path for charter public schools’ long-term success.

Washington’s operating charter public schools began their second school year in August, having quickly become a vital part of Washington’s public education system. The schools already are making a quantifiable difference in the lives of hundreds of Washington families, particularly in historically under-resourced and under-served communities. More than 67 percent of charter public school students in Washington are students of color, as compared to 43 percent statewide. In addition, approximately two-thirds of charter public school students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. At four of Washington’s charter public schools, the number exceeds 70 percent. According to mid-year assessment results, students at Washington’s charter public schools – many of whom entered the school year a grade level or more behind – are making impressive gains in reading and math toward meeting or exceeding state and national standards.

“It is irrefutable that Washington’s charter public schools are working and are a key part of Washington’s future. They are providing innovative, personalized, and high-quality educational opportunities to students who frequently were left behind and limited by the traditional system,” said Thomas Franta, CEO of the Washington State Charter Schools Association. “Shutting down our state’s tremendous progress is not what is best for kids. This baseless lawsuit aimed at intimidating and bullying hardworking families from choosing the best educational option for their children is a despicable and cynical move. WA Charters is proud to support the brave families taking a stand to defend their schools. We are confident that Washington State has the strongest charter public school law in the country. We are as determined as ever to keep fighting for Washington families and the high-quality school options they deserve.”

The brave families planning to intervene to defend Washington’s high-performing charter public schools are:

  • Shirline Wilson and her son Miles, a Rainier Prep student, who live in Seattle
  • Delanas “Del” Johnson and his son Jalen, a Summit Sierra student, who live in Seattle
  • Natalie Hester, a parent of a Summit Sierra student, who lives in Seattle
  • Roland Bradley and his grandson Ben, an Excel Public Charter School student, who live Seattle
  • Jennifer Lee and her daughter Angie, a Spokane International Academy student, who live in Mead
  • Heidi and Scott Mitchell and their son JD, a PRIDE Prep student, who live in Spokane
  • Darcelina Solaria and her son Kai, a Spokane International Academy student, who live in Spokane
  • Gen Fiorino and her grandsons Dylan and Tyler, PRIDE Prep students, who live in Spokane
  • Gustavo Cueva and his daughter Tatiana, a Summit Olympus student, who live in Tacoma
  • Crystal Swaffer and her sons Tristen and Asher, SOAR Academy students, who live in Tacoma
  • Gahyun “Sunny” Lee and her son Wonoh and daughter Yulan, Green Dot Destiny students, who live in Tacoma
  • Eduardo Pacheo and his daughter Ava, who live in Yakima and are organizing to open a charter public school in their community

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. More than 67 percent of charter public school students in Washington are students of color, as compared to 43 percent statewide. Two-thirds of charter public school students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, as compared to 45 percent statewide. At four of Washington’s charter public schools, this number exceeds 70 percent.

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 charter public schools are making impressive gains in reading and math.

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