Dear Rep. Santos: 'Why don't you care about my school?'

Dear Rep. Santos,

My name is Olivia Zilavy, I'm a ninth grader at Summit Sierra Public Charter School in the ID, I am one of your constituents, and I am angry.

I’m angry at the situation that the Supreme Court has put me and my family in. I am angry that we have to fight for our right to receive a good education. I am angry that a public school with an amazing track record is being questioned. I am angry that my representative isn’t supportive of something that my family and I believe in so strongly.

I understand that I am only one of the many students that you represent, but let’s just say I’m liking Rep. Pettigrew a whole lot more that I’m liking you right now. I understand that you are adamantly against charter schools, and have been since 2012. I am writing to try and sway your stance on this issue.

Your website talks about how much you care about quality public education, and how much you care about closing the achievement gap. I’m sitting here wondering, if you really care about these issues, why don’t you care about my school?

Despite the fact that nearly half of the freshman class started the school year an average of 3.5 years below grade level in both reading and math, my school, Summit Sierra, outperformed the national average in reading by 40 percent, and more than doubled the national average in math. Washington State has never closed down a low-performing public school, so why are you trying to shut down a school that has made such amazing progress toward closing the achievement gap?

Your website says, and I quote, that, “Washington state must strive for providing education excellence and opportunities for all students to learn.”

My school does that.

If traditional schools aren’t working for students, why shouldn’t they be allowed an excellent, free alternative? When a school has a 96 percent acceptance rate into four-year colleges, in comparison to the statewide high school graduation rate of 77.2 percent, why should it be called into question at all?

My school is effective in teaching its students, has high-performing test scores, and is successful in graduating 100 percent of its students. So why are you trying to take away such an amazing institution, opportunity, and community?

My school offers “level playing fields that allow those who work hard to succeed” (another quote from your website), and provides support for those that need it. If you truly care about the aspects of education that you claim you do, then I’m struggling to understand why you refuse to support a public school that succeeds in addressing all of your concerns about K-12 education in Washington.

I hope this gave you something to think about.


Olivia Zilavy,
Founding class of Summit Sierra Public Charter School



Second Bill to Save Charters Proposed in Washington State Legislature

A second bill to save charter schools was floated in the Washington State Senate yesterday.

Proposed by Sen. Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island) and Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-Renton), the bipartisan bill would use state lottery earnings to fund charter schools. It joins a bill proposed earlier this week by Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) and Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) that would assign more control over charters to local elected school boards, giving the legislature at least two options to consider to save the state's charter schools during the January session.

As reported by John Higgins of the Seattle Times:

"Their proposal would, among other things, direct charter-school funding to come from the state’s Opportunity Pathways Account, which uses state lottery money for early childhood education, higher-education grants, scholarships and other programs aimed at innovation.
The Washington State Supreme Court ruled Sept. 4 that the charter-school law is unconstitutional because charter schools aren’t “common” schools and therefore aren’t entitled to public money exclusively intended for those schools.
Lottery revenue isn’t restricted to common schools, but the high court also ruled that lawmakers couldn’t use money from other general-fund accounts because the state can’t tell which dollars come from which sources."

This bill has garnered significantly more support from charter school proponents because it offers a pathway to save the entire charter school system without sacrificing control over operations.

“We applaud Sens. Litzow, Fain, Mullet, and Hobbs for their commitment to reinstate the will of the voters by fixing the mess that threatens to close public charter schools," said Tom Franta, CEO of the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters). "Today’s proposal demonstrates legislators' commitment to Washington families and students. We are especially pleased to see lawmakers from both sides of the aisle come together around a solution that maintains the ability of all parents in Washington—not just those in some districts—to choose the public school that best fits the needs of every child.”

Litzow has been a steadfast champion of charter schools.

“Public charter schools provide a meaningful opportunity for students—especially minority children from low-income families—who are disproportionately failed by Washington’s inequitable public school system,” said Litzow, chairman of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, in his announcement of the bill yesterday. “Education quality—and inequality—is the paramount concern for students, parents, teachers and lawmakers, as well as voters, who made Washington the 42nd state to allow charter schools. No single reform will alone ensure we can meet Washington’s duty to provide a high-quality education to all children. Historic investments for public education in 2015, the expansion of charter schools and other research-based reforms supporting our most at-risk students will help close the state’s opportunity gap and strengthen the entire public education system.”

The proposed bill will receive a public hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 12, the second day of the 2016 legislative session, at 1:30 p.m.