Washington state Senate passes charter school fix

Jan 20, 2016

Today the state senate voted 27 to 20 to pass E2SSB 6194, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator Litzow (R-Mercer Island) and Senator Mullet (D-Issaquah) to save Washington’s charter schools. This bill would bring charter schools and other uncommon school programs into compliance with last fall’s state supreme court ruling.   

Senator Mullet (D-Issaquah) testified in support of the bill:

“...After the supreme court ruling I visited Summit Sierra Charter School.  For the first time in my life, I visited a charter school. I took my children along. I was greeted by school kids chanting “Save our School.” You can imagine my shock seeing kids this in love with their school. It quickly became apparent that they viewed the elected officials working to close down charter schools as the equivalent of the First Order in the new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens.” As an elected official, I am supposed to be Han Solo or Luke Skywalker, not Darth Vader. What the supreme court did that day was evil and unfair. My daughter made an interesting comment, saying “Dad, if the parents and the students both love the schools, why does somebody vote to close the school?...” 

Senator Dammeier (R-Puyallup), Vice-Chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, also said:

“….At Destiny Charter Middle School in Tacoma the charter school model has already improved the academic achievement of its students. At Destiny, 86 percent are students of color, 83 percent are low-income, and 80 percent of student entered one or two grades behind their reading level. At Destiny, halfway through the school year, a third of those kids are already at grade level in reading….. The question before us today is whether we are going to close Destiny Middle school, Summit Sierra and affect all these students’ education. We cannot turn our back on these children when they are getting a successful education….”

The focus now shifts to the House, where representatives are now likely to consider HB 2367, the companion bill to SB 6194. HB 2367 is sponsored by Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle) and Chad Magendanz (R-Issaquah). Notably, last Friday night on TVW, House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan signaled his support for charter schools, as I wrote here.

Senators Litzow, Mullet, Dammeier and other Senate leaders have persuaded their colleagues to protect charter school students and their families. While opponents are still working to close the doors of charter schools, these leading senators have now made the moral and ethical case for keeping charter schools open. As Senator Dammeier said “We cannot turn our back on these students when they are getting a successful education.” 

This report is part of WPC's Charter School Follow-up Project