Huge Charter School Rally Planned for Tomorrow in Olympia

More than 500 students, parents, educators and advocates representing Washington’s public charter schools will convene in Olympia at noon tomorrow to urge legislators to support Senate Bill 6194.

A Sept. 4 ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court invalidated Washington’s voter-approved public charter school law based on a funding glitch. As a result more than 1,100 students’ futures remain in limbo with just 15 days remaining in the 2016 Washington state legislative session.

SB 6194 mirrors the original law, but includes a fix to the funding issue identified in part by the Washington Education Association and addressed last fall by the court. The bill passed out of the Senate chamber on Jan. 20 with bipartisan support.

The Act Now for Washington Students coalition (@ActNowForWA) and the Washington State Charter Schools Association (@WA_Charters) will be live-tweeting from the rally. Speakers, including students, legislators, and public education advocates, will begin speaking on the steps of the Washington State Capitol at 12 p.m.

If passed, SB 6194 will:

  1. Keep current schools open and serving students;
  2. Allow for up to 40 public charter schools over five years, as originally approved by Washington voters; and
  3. Maintain a statewide authorizer, ensuring all students and parents have access to public charter schools.

The rally is part of a broader campaign to save Washington’s public charter schools that also saw two new television ads launched this week, information mailed to more than 15 districts, and a robust digital campaign and social presence that has gathered more than 18,000 new supporters online.

In addition, parent volunteers and community activists have made more than 6,000 calls to legislators, and have been actively meeting with legislators and testifying before key committees.

“The voters didn’t ask for shortcuts or temporary patches or closed doors," said Tom Franta, CEO of WA Charters. "They asked for access to innovative schools for every community. The future of our 1,100 students and countless more families around the state rests in legislators’ hands.” 

In the first ad, high school freshman Chaka urges legislators to “keep our public charter schools open, strong, and available to all.” His classmate Jadynn adds, “This is the education we need so we can change the world.”

Meet Chaka, Jadynn and Skyler: “Dear Legislators”

The second ad features three students from Summit Olympus High School in Tacoma. Says ninth grader Katie, “I have the right to a good education; no one should take that away.”

“Our state legislators have two options: close charter schools, or do the right thing, and keep them open. Are you with us?”

Meet Katie, Tatiana C. and Tatiana V.: “Fundamental Rights"

Of course, lost in all this is the amount of time, energy and money that has been poured into this legislative battle -- a battle initiated by the WEA even as our state and our districts face well-documented budget shortfalls.