Bill to Save Local Schools Clears First Hurdle

The Washington State Senate Education Committee today voted in favor of Senate Bill 6194, just two days after hearing passionate testimony from charter school students and parents.

The proposed legislation, introduced by Senators Steve Litzow (R – Mercer Island), Mark Mullet (D – Issaquah), Joe Fain, (R – Auburn), and Steve Hobbs (D – Lake Stevens), would reinstate the public charter school law approved by voters in 2012.

As a result of a process initiated by the Washington Education Association, charter schools were declared unconstitutional in the state last September based on a funding technicality. S.B. 6194 creates a new funding mechanism for the public charter schools and other public programs through lottery funds dedicated to the Opportunity Pathways Account.

The bill is now expected to be in heard in the Ways and Means Committee on Monday.

"My family and so many others are thankful our senators listened to students and parents from across the state whose needs are being met by public charter schools,” said Melissa Pailthorp, mother of three charter school students. “We are hopeful their colleagues will also do the right thing. For my family, it's not about district or charter public schools, it's about finding the best fit for each of our daughters."

The student and parent-led Act Now for Washington Students coalition commended the bipartisan group of legislators for taking action to save public charter schools in a statement:

“The voters spoke in 2012 when they passed a law that would allow for public charter schools to be part of our public education ecosystem. We applaud legislators for taking action to ensure that these schools stay open and that diverse communities will have the opportunity to choose the public school that best fits the educational needs of their children.”

In some communities, traditional public schools are meeting the needs of local students. But in other communities – particularly communities of color that struggle with poverty – they are not.

African-American, Latino and Native American students in Washington are scoring between 15-20 percent lower on state assessments. This disparity along lines of race and socio-economic status is commonly referred to as the opportunity gap or the education equity gap.

Washington’s public charter schools are already helping to close this gap. Nearly two-thirds of students in public charter schools are from low-income families, and almost 70 percent are students of color. Closing public charter schools would disproportionately affect families being failed by the traditional public school system.