State supreme court hears second union lawsuit against charter school families
May 18, 2018

Yesterday I drove to Olympia to hear the state supreme court consider oral arguments in the WEA union’s second lawsuit to close charter schools, and shut out nearly 2,500 mostly low-income, minority students from having a better future.

During the hearing, Judge Debra Stephens and Judge Barbara Madsen appeared to be the most hostile toward charter school families.  They referred to a 1909 case (called Bryant) that may become their reasoning for voting to close charters.  Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna, representing charter school families, argued that Bryant does not apply to the state’s charter school law (at 52:44, here). 

After the hearing, about 1,500 charter school students and family members and their supporters gathered on the north steps of the Capitol Building, facing the Temple of Justice.  Their message was clear: “Supreme court judges – please don’t close our schools.”

One student, Michelle Antwi, a 5th grader at Rainier Prep in Seattle, said she has a dream to attend Harvard and become a doctor (she is the girl with the pink hairband in photo).  She said:

“Rainier Prep [charter school] 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… We deserve to have public school options that will help us succeed.”

Jalen Johnson, an 11th grader at Summit Sierra charter in Seattle, said he wants to attend U.C. Berkeley.  He said he was not a strong student when he enrolled two years ago, but now has a 3.9 Grade Point Average.  He said:

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.”

The supreme court has tried to close charter schools before.  They agreed with a union-led lawsuit against charter school families that closed their schools just as the school year began in September 2015.  A bi-partisan vote in the legislature reversed the ruling, but WEA union executives haven’t given up.  In a cynical and mean-spirited effort, they are pressing the justices to shutter charters again.

We’ll see what happens.  A ruling in the case is expected this summer.  A court ruling against charter school families would be a shocker.

If that happens the timing couldn’t be worse.  In an already-contentious political year, many candidates may not welcome the injection of a entirely new issue – highly energized and motivated parents trying to save their schools – injected into the fall campaign season.

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When we reconsider the Farm Bill let’s protect farmers and move forward
May 18, 2018

After a tense debate in recent weeks, the Farm Bill (H.R. 2) failed to pass the House 198-213 today.

Hopefully, before Republican leadership start round two of the debate will consider some of the reforms to both the food and farm portions of the bill. There are some simple reforms that can help farmers, struggling families, and taxpayers.  

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Why is it called a Farm Bill?
May 18, 2018

With $867 billion in funding going to SNAP and $199 billion going to farmers, the bill should be called the Food Bill. Why are these two very different programs tied together in a large omnibus spending bill? The answer is politics.

From a policy perspective, tying these programs together is unhealthy and bad policy.

To achieve effective reform for either of these programs they must be voted on separately. The current combination discourages legislators from seeking reforms because they will stay quiet on one part of the bill to protect their interests in other parts.

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