State lawmakers should end funding discrimination against charter school families

Apr 1, 2019

Download the full Legislative Memo

Key findings

  1. In 2018, the state supreme court ruled that charter schools are an integral part of Washington’s public education system. 
  2. More than 3,500 students, mostly from minority, immigrant and low-income families, attend 12 public charter schools in Washington state.
  3. Charter schools are popular; 1000 students are currently on charter school waiting lists.
  4. Unfortunately, Washington state denies charter school families access to local levy public school funding.
  5. Local levy funding is $2,295 per student on average, about 17 percent of operating revenue for most public schools.
  6. Lawmakers should adopt a policy of equity and give charter school families access to the same local levy funding provided to other public school students. 


Voter-approved public charter schools are the most innovative and fundamental reform in Washington state public education in a generation.  Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are open to all students, accountable to the public, and given the flexibility they need to meet the education needs of their students.

Applying to a charter schools is voluntary for families, and their high level of community engagement is popular with parents.  Charter school teachers have freedom to help their students without interference from school district bureaucracies and restrictive union rules.  Also, union membership is voluntary; charter school teachers can join a union if they wish but are not compelled to do so. 

Washington state, however, maintains a policy of funding discrimination against charter school families.  Charters receive state and federal funding on an equal footing, but they are denied their share of local levy funding.  The money involved is significant; local levies provide $2,295 per student on average, about 17% of operating revenue for most schools, but zero for charter schools. 

This Legislative Memo describes Washington’s charter school program, describes the success and popularity of charters nationally, summarizes the legal and political attacks on charters, reviews the policy of funding discrimination, and recommends equity-based solutions that will provide fair treatment for all students.

Download the full Legislative Memo

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