Will Governor Inslee sign the charter school bill?

Mar 28, 2016

This week the eyes of everyone who cares about public education are on Governor Inslee. 

In the closing days of the session the legislature, with the support of all the Republicans and many Democrats, passed ESSSB 6194, a bill to save Washington’s eight charter schools and to allow a limited number of these popular schools to open where needed in the future.

A popular initiative passed by voters in 2012 made Washington the 42nd state to allow charter schools.  The matter seemed settled, and parents in underserved communities were joyful at the chance to send their children to an alternative public school.  Dogged efforts by the WEA union to close the schools, however, proved surprisingly successful in the courts, where a controversial supreme court ruling cut off funding.  SB 6194 restores full funding and, if signed in time, will keep these innovative public schools open in the future.

The governor has until April 2nd to veto the bill or sign it into law.  The situation is particularly tense because in recent weeks Governor Inslee has vetoed 27 bills, which must be a record, both in state history and among the 50 states.  We don’t yet know whether he plans to veto the bill to save charter schools – but we will know soon.

A third option is he may do nothing, in which case the bill will become law without his signature.

Charter school supporters are understandably anxious.  State representative and education leader Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle), sums up the case for charters in a well-crafted Seattle Times column that appeared over the weekend:

“...our public charter schools are working.  Across the board, students in Washington public charter schools who entered entire grade levels behind in math and reading are back on track.  The students who chose public charter schools – and more than 70 percent are students of color and more than two-thirds qualify for free or reduced-price school meals – are receiving an excellent education in communities that historically have had few high-quality options.”

In tracking the issue on Facebook and Twitter, I see that hundreds of parents and students have written to the Governor asking that he sign the bill.  These days signing an online petition is common – ordinary citizens writing individual letters in support of a single bill is not.

Governor Inslee faces a choice.  He can stand with parents, teachers, students and the bi-partisan legislative majority that voted to save charter schools, or, by vetoing this bill, he can make Washington the first state in the country to close its charter schools.

Washington Policy Center has long supported legalizing public charter schools because, first, many parents and teachers want them and, second, extensive policy research shows charter schools expand learning opportunities for children who are underserved by the traditional public schools in their area.

Governor Inslee may or may not be aware of the research, but in any case let’s hope that in the coming days he makes the right choice...for the children.

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