Public Charter Schools Narrow in on Solution to Keep Schools Open Through 2015-16 School Year

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Supporters outline legislative solution that reflects spirit of voters

SEATTLE — Washington’s public charter schools are narrowing in on a stopgap solution that would keep eight of the state’s voter-approved charter schools open and public for the remainder of the school year while advocates work with the legislature on a permanent fix that reflects the will of the voters.

A proposal by the Mary Walker School District to welcome the schools as Alternative Learning Experiences, or ALE’s, would allow the schools to stay open without disruption or harm to enrolled students.

“Our primary focus continues to be ensuring that we do what is best for kids, and that means keeping pubic charters schools open and doing all we can to ensure the Court’s foolish decision causes as little harm as possible to already underserved students,” said Tom Franta, CEO of the Washington State Charter Schools Association. “We are extremely grateful to the Mary Walker School District for their consideration of temporarily partnering with our schools, and for their commitment to providing every student with a great education. The next step is for the Legislature to act and pass a permanent fix.”

While there are no formal agreements in place, eight public charter schools have entered into conversations with Mary Walker, the district’s Superintendent, Kevin Jacka, confirmed in a letter to community leaders, family and press yesterday. The stopgap solution would keep the schools open through the 2016 school year after the WA Supreme Court relied on 100-year old case law to rule that the charter law’s funding mechanisms did not comply with the state’s constitution. Meanwhile education advocates, parents, teachers and school leaders are working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to develop a solution that fixes the glitch that threatens public charters by urging a fix that recognizes the will of the voters.

That solution would:

  • Keep current schools open and delivering successful education programs while maintaining autonomy and delivering on Washington’s strong charter accountability framework.
  • Allow all previously authorized charter schools to open next fall and allow communities to pursue opening new, innovative schools in areas where students are underserved by their existing choices, as allowed for in the original law.
  • Update the funding mechanism for public charter schools, Running Start, tribal compact schools and other public non-common schools that meets our best understanding of what the Court requires.
  • Ensure that public charter schools have a statewide independent authorizer that can evaluate charter opportunities and maintain rigorous accountability standards that set Washington’s voter-approved charter law apart from other states. This necessarily involves reinstating the Washington State Charter School Commission.
  • Honor the intent of voters who passed the charter school law in 2012 by delivering on funding equity with other public schools, guaranteeing that every student is afforded equal access to a great education.

Education leaders on both sides of the aisle have stepped forward to support a legislative solution that would fix the glitch that led to the court’s ruling and the current mess that threatens the more than 1,100 kids and families that are currently enrolled in Washington’s innovative public charter system.

About the Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) Pathway

The ALE pathway is a one that allows charter schools to remain public entities that are funded by state apportionment and federal education dollars, while maintaining the programmatic autonomy they need to continue delivering successful academic programs to the students they serve. The intent of this type of pathway is to give schools flexibility to serve a diverse student population. For charter schools, the ALE option is intended to be a temporary,stopgap measure, to allow schools to continue to serve public school students while the Legislature works on fixing the charter school law.

About Act Now for Washington Students

Act Now for Washington Students is a parent-led coalition founded in partnership with Democrats for Education Reform, the League of Education Voters, Stand for Children and the Washington State Charter Schools Association, and is dedicated to ensuring that parent, student and voter voices are elevated in the fight to keep public schools open and serving kids.

About Washington’s Public Charters

Washington’s public charter schools are helping to close the education equity gap. Nearly two-thirds of students in public charter schools are from low-income families and almost 70% are students of color. Allowing public charter schools to close down will disproportionately affect families who turned to charters because their child’s needs were not being met.

The schools were created after voters passed a law in 2012 calling for more public school options for Washington families. 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.

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