Senate and House leaders favor saving Washington's charter schools

By LIV FINNE  | 
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Jan 19, 2016

Last week, on Friday evening, Senate Republican and House Democratic leaders told TVW’s Austin Jenkins about their support for charter schools. The legislature is moving swiftly to restore public funding to charter schools. SB 6194, Senator Litzow’s bill to save charter schools, has a companion bill in the House, HB 2367, sponsored by Representative Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle), two other Democratic representatives, and several  Republican representatives. Lawmakers are responding to last September’s illogical ruling from the state supreme court putting Washington’s public charter schools in jeopardy of losing their public funding.   

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) said this to Austin at 16:67:

“It [the charter school law] is absolutely possible to fix…I sat through the hearing in November in Ways and Means where I watched [charter school] teachers, students, parents who have been given the opportunity. They are excited about their education and I see that as a reason for why we have to fix this.”

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Kent) said this at 42:14:

“There are a variety of opinions within our caucus on how to move forward with charter schools….We’ve had a lot of debates and fights over issues that tend to deal with issues around adults, teachers, principals, school board members. The focus really has to be on the students. If we focus on the students and what is best for them we will come up with the right answer…"

Then Austin Jenkins pressed Rep. Sullivan on tying a charter school fix to the school funding plan. Rep. Sullivan refused to do that, saying at 43:28:

"They are two separate issues…I don’t want play games with the future of students. I don’t like making those connections around programs that affect our students and their success. They [charter schools and the school funding plan] are two different issues. We’ll handle them both…”

Finally, Austin asked Rep. Sullivan if he voted for charter schools. He answered like this at 44:17:

"I did not support the charter school initiative, but Excel [charter] school opened up in Kent. I visited the school, saw the opportunities that the students had. They are very excited. For many of those kids, the public school system may not have worked for them, and they looked for other options. I think we have to look at solutions that will move the system forward…”

These statements show Republican and Democratic leaders alike are working to save charter schools for Washington’s school children.

Two-thirds of Washington’s charter school students come from low-income and minority families. Senators will soon vote to pass or reject SB 6194.  This vote will reveal which senators wish to help charter school families give their children the option to attend a high-quality charter school in Washington state.          

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