New information shows why charter schools are popular

Feb 9, 2016

Last week the campaign “Act Now For Washington Students” released a Download file legislative packet on the state’s 8 charter schools. This new information reveals strong, unmet demand for charter schools in Washington state, and why charter schools are so popular with parents and the broader public. The packet includes these facts:    

  • Every space in Washington’s 8 charter schools was filled when the schools opened last fall. Most schools began the year with student waitlists, and some still have active waitlists.
  • Families in the Tri-Cities, Yakima, Walla Walla, West Seattle, South Seattle and other communities want to open additional, new charter schools.
  • Charter schools help students catch up in school. For example, in just three months at Tacoma’s Destiny Middle Charter School, more than a third of its students grew one to two grade levels in reading.
  • Charter school teachers reflect the values and cultures of the communities they serve; 39 percent of Washington’s public charter school teachers are people of color, compared to 13 percent of public schools statewide.
  • Charter schools are teaching new and traditional subjects in exciting, innovative ways. For example:
    • Every middle school student at Excel Public Charter School in Kent is learning how to write computer code and play a musical instrument.
    • Spokane International Academy immerses students in the Spanish language to deliver the rigorous Cambridge International curriculum program.  

I have noticed a few other reasons charter schools are so popular. Here is what I’ve seen:

  • Charter schools are a voluntary option, not a mandatory school assignment. This arrangement respects and engages parents by putting parents in the “driver’s seat.” Charter schools must persuade and engage parents in order to attract students and the funding that goes with them. As a result, charter school leaders and teachers are dedicated to creating and maintaining strong relationships with parents. This close bond benefits students, since children learn better when schools and parents work closely together.
  • Charter schools gives educators the freedom to create innovative school models. This independence generates energy and enthusiasm, a team spirit among charter school teachers.  Parents like this energy and enthusiasm because they know their children will directly benefit.
  • Parents like the safe and disciplined charter school learning environments. Many charter schools require students to wear school uniforms. Other charter schools teach students important character traits, such as honesty, trustworthiness, and the importance of never giving up. See recent editorial by Travis Franklin, principal of Spokane International Academy Charter in Spokane, in The Spokesman-Review.  

The fate of Washington’s charter schools now lies with the House of Representatives, as I have written here and here. The state Senate has already passed SB 6194, a charter school fix which creates a new funding source for charter schools. The good news is the House Education Committee has just scheduled a hearing on companion legislation to the senate bill, HB 2367. Testimony will be heard on this bill before this committee on February 19th  at 1:30 pm.  

This report is part of WPC’s Charter School Follow-Up Project

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