Every day at Summit is an experience: Finding myself and fostering independence, by Sumayo Hassan

Every day at Summit is an experience: Finding myself and fostering independence, by Sumayo Hassan

Today’s planet faces many tough challenges. High school has helped me understand that while challenges can be daunting, they can be overcome by hard work and innovation. I’d like to study bioremediation, which is learning how to clean up the environment from toxins that degrade our ecosystem and the organisms that live in them.

One of my most memorable experiences at Summit Sierra was seeing — in real-time — the impact bioremediation can have. We conducted an experiment in science class that demonstrated the process of cleaning up radiation from nuclear fallout where we planted mustard seeds. To see this powerful process in-person reinforced my interest and determination to improve our environment and that it’s possible to work toward a sustainable and more livable planet.

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Here's the real reason people oppose charter schools in Washington State

Here's the real reason people oppose charter schools in Washington State

Yet again, charter schools and the principle of school choice prevailed this week in Washington’s courts.

Great, wonderful, fine, etc. This is important, but at the same time, we’ve had this conversation before. It’s time to dig deeper.

Why has all this been happening? Moving beyond talking points and rhetoric, why have people and organizations really been fighting charter schools so vehemently?

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'Parents want to be authentically included. They want to be respected.'

'Parents want to be authentically included. They want to be respected.'

Recapping the Washington State Charters Schools Association Conference morning general session:

The conference's lunch session got underway with a slip of the tongue from WA Charters CEO that tickled me as he introduced Michael Wooten, the inspiring, passionate grandparent of a young student who has found hope and a home at one of Washington's charter schools.

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SOAR Academy in Tacoma ‘blows the roof off the myths’ about charter schools

SOAR Dancers Get Up
SOAR Academy students get up and get down during Erricka Turner's dance class in September 2017.

SOAR Academy students get up and get down during Erricka Turner's dance class in September 2017.

Walk through the front doors of SOAR Academy these days and you’ll find the building teeming with life and energy, like a dream realized.

In many ways, that’s what the public elementary school in Tacoma represents: the manifestation of a set of beliefs and ideas about what’s possible in public education.

SOAR Academy’s founders sought from the outset to design a public school that would reach students being neglected by the larger system, those who are typically on the wrong end of the opportunity and achievement gaps. 

Just two years after first opening its doors to students, those ideas have become a way of life at SOAR Academy, and the dreams of a nurturing, equitable school open to all have become reality for an engaged, grateful community of students and families.

“Here at SOAR we’ve seen tremendous growth and a fulfillment of the whole concept and vision of the alternatives and options that charter schools can provide in a publicly funded setting,” said Dr. Thelma Jackson, chair of the SOAR Academy Board of Directors. “Those of us that have been with SOAR from the very beginning, we’re just pleased as punch to see the school, to see the full classrooms, the waiting list. As I was driving up, just the smiles on the children’s and parents’ faces — they’re glad to be here! They’re here by choice.”

In many ways and from many angles, that’s the key word here: choice.

More than 70 percent of SOAR students identify as students of color, and Black students make up 56 percent of the student body. Fourteen percent receive special education services, and at least 12 percent are homeless or housing insecure. They all chose SOAR Academy, and they did so despite the hyper-political climate that surrounds the charter school sector.

School choice can be an especially foggy issue in Washington, where propaganda and repeated legal attacks led by the Washington Education Association — the state’s teachers union — have attempted to undermine the ability of schools like SOAR to work hard and innovate in an earnest effort to close the gaps created by our traditional public school system. In spite of that, many parents are seeing SOAR for what it is: an ambitious, free, public alternative that just might work for their student where other schools have fallen short.

“We’ve been up against so much ‘fake news’ about what charters are and aren’t, and we’re defying all of that,” Jackson said. “Anytime they say, ‘Oh, they won’t take kids of color; oh, they won’t take special needs kids; oh, they’ll cream the crop,’ [SOAR Academy] just blows the roof off of all those myths. And against all those odds, SOAR is thriving. The kids are thriving.”

Far from creaming, SOAR’S school leader Jessica Stryczek readily acknowledges that many of the school’s students arrived having already experienced such significant trauma as abuse, neglect and domestic violence. Yet thanks to a trauma-informed approach to restorative justice, not a single SOAR student was suspended or expelled last year.

In Seattle Public Schools, on the other hand, disproportionate discipline rates show up from the very beginning, as even kindergarteners of color are suspended and expelled (yes, expelled from kindergarten!) at a rate far beyond their white peers.

Seventy-seven percent of the student body at SOAR is eligible for free or reduced lunch as well, so community meals are available to all students through the community eligibility pool.

SOAR’s staff, meanwhile, reflects the diversity of its student body. More than half the staff at SOAR are people of color, Jackson says, upending yet another myth.

“The traditional line is, ‘Oh, we’d like to hire them, but we can’t find them.’ So, where are the charter schools finding [teachers of color]?” Jackson asks. “And again, they are here by choice. They’re not here through involuntary transfers and the dance of the lemons and all that stuff.”

Enough people have chosen SOAR now that the school’s journey from vision to reality is all but complete, and the early results are showing that the young charter school is delivering on its promise.

In addition to a joyful atmosphere in a building full of well-cared-for elementary students, the school is home to impressive academic rigor as well. Just last year, more than 70 percent of students showed accelerated growth, testing beyond national grade-level expectations on the STAR Early Literacy assessment.

“The concept has taken on a life of its own,” Jackson said. “The proof is in the pudding.”

Thank you, Nate Bowling, for cutting right to the heart of the perpetual argument over charter schools

Nate Bowling wrote everything you need to know to put an end to the exhausting point-missing debate pitting charter public schools versus traditional public schools.

For those unfamiliar, Nate is a public school teacher in Tacoma who, as far as I can tell, has been kicking ass for a long time now. In the last few years, he's really started to get noticed for it, too. He was a National Teacher of the Year finalist in 2016 after being named Washington State's Teacher of the Year, but he's much more than just an effective classroom teacher. He's also the kind of activist for racial justice and the rights of his marginalized students that I dream of every teacher aspiring to be.

Plus, he writes about nuanced issues with the kind of clarity that my overly wordy rants find themselves dreaming about at night (in overly wordy dreams).

In fact, if I was more internetty, I might have made this about myself and started this diatribe like this:

"TFW you write and write and write about charter schools and then someone else says everything you were trying to say much more simply and effectively than you ever have. SMH LOL!"

Obviously I'm not convincingly internetty, but you get the idea. Nate Bowling has written something important about the mind-numbing debate pitting charter schools vs. traditional public schools. He begins by acknowledging that many parents of students of color are choosing charter schools, and that this is a valid choice. Then he gives three critical pieces of advice for well-meaning folks who are still actively opposing charter schools:

First, Nate says, "you must address [the] concerns and motivations" of people of color who are choosing charter schools, because those concerns are real and warranted.

"The loudest, most vociferous opponents of charter schools I see are middle class, white, college educated, liberal-progressives entrenched within the educational establishment," Bowling writes. "In contrast, charter parents are typically from low-income neighborhoods that are serviced by under-resourced, low-performing public schools. Understanding that dichotomy is essential."

Yes! I couldn't agree more. A failure or unwillingness to acknowledge this truth is the foundation of most misunderstandings over charter schools.

Second, he says we must "improve the experience of students of color in traditional public schools," and I'm convinced he's right about this, too. If we don't, we're essentially telling those parents to accept the unacceptable for their children. That's pretty cruel.

Finally, Nate says, "you can be right on the issue and still be wrong." This is so blisteringly important that I can't believe it hasn't been said this way before. Opportunity gaps and disproportionate discipline and teacher bias and segregation are not just abstract concepts and theories. They create realities that have intense, long-term impacts on real-life kids. So it's one thing to value public education, to see it as a great equalizer and a pillar of our society, and to view charter schools as an infiltration of private money and control, but it's quite another thing to keep people from accessing alternatives to the system when it's not working for them.

If we don't acknowledge our current gap between theory and reality, between the ideals of education in a vacuum and the realities of biased schooling in present-day America, we're leaving a lot of kids to the wolves in the name of incremental progress and education theory -- including mine. My oldest son goes to Emerson Elementary in Seattle's Rainier Beach, meaning he's literally a student of color in one of the "low-income neighborhoods that are serviced by under-resourced, low-performing public schools" that Nate is describing. And I can tell you first-hand, it's not okay. We're demanding change, we're exploring all of our options, and if a charter elementary school opened up in the area, we'd probably look into switching schools.

Anyway, I'll stop now. Please read what Nate Bowling has to say. He's a smart man.

 

 

Stop Berating Black and Brown Parents Over Charters (and Give Your Twitter Fingers a Rest)
By Nate Bowling
I read too many edu arguments for my own good. It’s a known issue in my household.
The argument I find most cringe-inducing is the fight over charter schools. With the news that Secretary DeVos is coming to Seattle, I’d like to put this out there for folks.
If there's one lesson that I have learned over the last few years, it’s that you're never going to convince a black or brown mother to change her mind about where to send her child by demonizing her choices, calling her a “neo-liberal,” or labeling her a “tool of privatizers.” And since black and brown parents are the primary target of most charter operators, this presents a conundrum I want to help my (mainly white) progressive friends work through.
Before I go further, a few caveats: I’ve worked in public schools since 2006. This is by choice. I have been offered roles in teaching, as a principal, and on the board of charter operators in my state. I have declined. I consider myself a “charter agnostic.” I believe the traditional public school is the right venue for the kind of work I want to do and the student population I desire to work with. But, I don’t begrudge the choices others make for their own children.
Now that my cards are on the table, I want to give y’all some advice:
You must address their concerns and motivations: The loudest, most vociferous opponents of charter schools I see are middle class, white, college educated, liberal-progressives entrenched within the educational establishment. In contrast, charter parents are typically from low-income neighborhoods that are serviced by under-resourced, low-performing public schools. Understanding that dichotomy is essential.
The ed establishment has a lot to answer for. Folks in educational spaces systematically silence, marginalize, and awfulize parents of color and their children. We can cite example, after example, after example, after (local) example. Add to this report-after-report about disproportionate discipline practices and persistent Opportunity Gaps, it shouldn’t surprise us that parents of color are looking for options and not in the mood for finger-waggy lectures on privatization. For activists this is a long-term societal-philosophical-cultural-political issue; for parents it’s an immediate, pragmatic what-is-best-for-my-child issue. You have to approach them through that lens. 
Work to improve the experience of students of color in traditional public schools:In urban areas, students of color are the bread and butter of charter schools. If these students received the quality of education they deserve and were treated with the dignity afforded to white, suburban, and wealthy students, charter schools wouldn’t exist and wouldn’t attract families of color at the rates they do. If you truly oppose charter schools, the most impactful thing you can do is work to make public schools places where students of color, particularly low-income black and Latinx students, feel valued, welcomed, and loved. 
Every time a parent of color enrolls their child in a charter school it's a vote of no confidence in the traditional K-12 public school system. Sooner or later we have to reckon with that.
You can be right on the issue and still be wrong: Here’s the deal, friends. You’re right about neo-liberalism and the decaying of public goods, but ain’t nobody trying to hear that from you when it comes to their child’s well-being. We all know there are awful schools and school systems out there in desperate need of transformation. The folks who are supposed to send their kids to these schools deserve better.
Whether intentional or not, sometimes it seems activists value the “institution of public education” more than they value the "outcomes of the kids within it." I don’t think this is actually the case, but this is a rhetorical misstep that parents of color see and that school choice advocates seize on.  
Screeds, hot take FB rants, and 300 word newspaper comments berating folks may feel good, but they also turn potential allies into actual enemies. If you really care about public education, you’re better off standing shoulder-to-shoulder with parents of color in pursuit of fair treatment, (non-test based) accountability for teachers, better instruction, and funding equity than you are berating them in FB threads and with your Twitter fingers.
That's the real work.
Dedicated to my friends Sheree, Keith, and Korbett for putting up with more nonsense than you should ever have to about what’s best for your own children

With opposition fading, charter schools in Washington continue to grow to meet growing demand

With opposition fading, charter schools in Washington continue to grow to meet growing demand

"As we greet a new school year and say goodbye to another summer, I can’t help but notice that the rabid fervor over charter schools in Washington State has mostly flamed out.

At this time last year, everyone was still up in arms. The Washington Education Association had just led the filing of another lawsuit against the charter sector in an effort to maintain its monopoly on free public education.

Our state attorney general had just entered the fray, and the NAACP had issued its first suggestion of a nationwide moratorium on charter schools.

By February of this year, however, a judge had ruled in favor of charter schools, and the several months since have seen them slip — at last — out of the limelight for a moment. "

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Get a firsthand look this week at Summit Atlas, Seattle's newest public charter school

Get a firsthand look this week at Summit Atlas, Seattle's newest public charter school

Summit Public Schools is inviting the entire community to join them in celebrating the official opening of Summit Atlas, their new public charter school in West Seattle.

In addition to a tour of the building, students and families will be on-hand to discuss why they chose Summit Atlas, and the new school's founding principal will be there to answer questions as well.

Lots of folks with lots of different opinions about charters have never actually been inside of one. I think it's a great opportunity for folks to get a firsthand look at what a charter school really looks like and to hear from the real people involved in making it what it is.

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Let's be clear: 'Brown v. Board' was about school choice as a civil rights issue

Evidently “school choice” is a complicated idea.

I thought it was pretty simple. Parents should be able to choose a good school for their child. Seems it’s easily misunderstood though.

For instance, members of an NAACP task force wrote this week about being "concerned that the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education victory that promised a quality education for all was at risk” because of charter schools and the expansion of school choice.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, even went so far recently as to suggest that school choice’s roots are in racial segregation.

Brown v. Board of Education was not about saving Black children from inferior schools, as Malcolm Gladwell discussed recently on his Revisionist History podcast, even though that’s the version of history we were all taught in our traditional public schooling.

Brown v. Board was about school choice as a civil rights issue. It was also a case of Black children being left on the front lines during a fight between the adults.

 

Act I: Meet the Browns

In the early 1950s, Oliver and Leola Brown’s daughter, Linda, was a student at Monroe Elementary, an all-Black school in segregated Topeka, Kansas. To get to school each morning, Linda had to walk seven blocks and cross a busy street, often in cold winter weather, and then take a bus from there to Monroe. An all-white school, meanwhile, was four easy blocks away.

Some of these details are probably familiar.

At the urging of the NAACP, Oliver Brown walked into that white elementary school one day and tried to enroll his daughter. But it wasn’t, despite the popular narrative, because the all-Black school with its all-Black faculty was sub-standard in some way.

“We didn’t have any bone to pick with our school as far as education was concerned,” said Leola Brown in a 1991 interview, “nor with the teachers, because they were qualified and did what they were supposed to do.”

Leola Brown had attended Monroe herself as a child, so she knew what she was talking about. She gave her supposedly inferior elementary school rave reviews — not only for the quality of the education, but also for the quality of care she received:

“I loved it. I loved it. The teachers were fantastic. We got a fantastic education there. This case wasn’t based on that, because we learned. We learned a lot and they were good to us. More like mothers. They took an interest in you.”

She felt seen and valued by her teachers, which makes all the difference. She also felt they knew their stuff, and history tells us she was probably right. Because most professions were fully closed off to Black people in those days regardless of their qualifications, a huge number of highly educated Black folks became teachers.

The lawsuit, then, was fully a matter of principle. The Browns weren’t trying to escape some ghetto-school nightmare. They just thought they should be able to choose the school they felt was best for their daughter. They thought the school board, which the white principal blamed as objecting to integrated enrollment, shouldn’t be limiting their daughter’s options, especially based on the color of her skin.

The Supreme Court reached the same conclusion. Sort of.

The Court agreed that the Browns should be able to enroll Linda wherever they saw fit, but its reasoning gave birth to a whole host of unintended consequences. Or at least, the Browns didn’t intend for any of them. It’s not clear what anybody else expected.

See, the judicial branch of the U.S. government concluded that segregation was inherently inequitable, but they claimed this was because it was deeply harmful to Black students to be educated separately. Continued segregation, per the government, would continue to “retard the educational and mental development of Negro children.”

That’s a galaxy away from Leola Brown saying, hey, Monroe was a good school, and the teachers were great, but as a matter of principle, we should be able to choose our daughter’s school.

Let’s act it out for effect.

 

The Man: Monroe is a bad school.

The Browns: Uh, no, not exactly. Monroe is a fine school. We just believe we’re entitled to choose our daughter’s school. It’s a matter of principle that we be allowed to decide what’s best for our own children.

The Man: No, you don’t know what you want. Your educational and mental development has been retarded by your inferior schooling. Someone get a gun and escort these poor Black kids into our hallowed white halls!

Narrator: And then they all watched as most of the Black teachers were fired and most of the Black schools were closed...

End of Act I


 

Act II: The Grass is Browner on the Other Side?

If we’re wondering where all the Black teachers went, well, they got fired in the wake of the Brown v. Board decision, and the profession hasn’t recovered. It hasn’t helped, though, that other reforms and so-called improvements have managed to escort more black teachers out of the profession along the way as well, seeming like a good idea at the time. A large number of Black teachers were replaced in New Orleans, for example, after Hurricane Katrina, primarily by young, well-meaning white folks.

Black teachers being squeezed out of schools is certainly problematic in its own right, but the real trouble here is that this isn’t just an issue of adult discrimination. Our children have been impacted by the ripples for decades. Studies and anecdotes alike indicate that Black students were often faring better academically prior to integration, which seems counter-intuitive. Kind of like how Massachusetts’ literacy rate was 96% in the year prior to compulsory public schooling, and has never been as high since. Is anything what it seems?

Anyway, getting more teachers of color into the classroom is widely known as one of the most effective ways to close the opportunity gap between students of color and their white peers. A study in North Carolina showed that Black male students were 39 percent more likely to finish high school if they had one Black teacher between third and fifth grade. That’s it.

It’s not usually intentional racism that produces these discrepancies. Teachers are often unwitting interpreters, an act that relies heavily on our implicit biases unless we are consciously self-monitoring. Was that kid’s behavior an act of menace or of innocent energy? Whose struggles are due to a lack of effort and whose come from a lack of potential? Which kids just need to be challenged and which kids just can’t handle more advanced coursework? Who gets your attention as opposed to your indifference? Whose culture is reflected in the curriculum and whose is othered? Whose is erased?

Through constant subjective decisions and interpretations like these, teachers have the subtle power to shape a child’s education — and often his or her future. Think about your own experience. We know when someone doesn’t believe in us, no matter what they say. We know when we’re being paid lip service. Having someone take a genuine interest in you as a student can have a profound impact on your outcomes. It’s not that this can only happen with same-race teachers, just that it’s statistically more likely.

“Once you grant this idea that a teacher is a gatekeeper and a child needs a teacher to take an interest in them, it changes integration,” said Celestine Porter during an interview as part of Duke University’s “Behind the Veil” project. “Teachers should have integrated first, then students. Instead, we sent all these Black students to white schools, fired the Black teachers and closed the Black schools.”

Instead, white folks interpreted and implemented integration.

Who, as a result, truly saw the sharp edges and dark corners of integration? Black children.

Who was coddled and allowed to continue in their privileged ignorance? White adults.

Ever since, we’ve had everyone, regardless of race, getting schooled in white, government-run institutions.

Everything is more complicated than it appears.

Let’s act it out again. I think you’ll like Act II. This is where we start to introduce the more fantastical elements of the drama.

Our cast of characters has expanded to include the representative for the white schools and white teachers, whom we’ll arbitrarily name 1950s Randi Weingarten, as well as ageless Al Sharpton as himself. Here we’ll also meet Time-Traveling Mr. T, a spirit being who leaps eternally throughout the web of time pitying the fools who perpetuate racism on the backs of innocent children and occasionally laying the smack down.

 

1950s Randi Weingarten: Well, Black children, ye whose development has been so unfortunately impacted by your perfectly capable and loving teachers and the ill-advised choices of your perfectly capable and loving parents, we have been instructed to allow you passage into our lily-white sanctuaries of learnedness. Black parents, please find an appropriately white manner in which to express your unquestioning gratitude.

Time-Traveling Mr. T: You are a fool. I pity you.

Al Sharpton: The note I wrote to myself on the back of this large check from the white teachers union says that I agree with Randy Wine Garden.

Time-Traveling Mr. T: Reverend Sharpton, I respectfully disagree with your purchased assessment. I’m going to lay the smack down now.

End of Act II

 

Act III: Back to the Future

More than 60 years after Oliver and Leola Brown decided they wanted to choose a different school for their daughter, genuine school integration remains elusive. We continue to battle the demons of opportunity gaps and structural racism. But perhaps most puzzling is the fact that we are still squabbling about school choice. If nothing else, shouldn’t Brown v. Board have put that issue to rest?

Last fall, the NAACP called for a moratorium on the expansion of school choice in the United States, viewing the charter sector as a threat to our hallowed system of public education — as though it’s ever been what it claims to be for Black students and families — and drawing an inexplicable line in the sand between two parts of itself. After all, more than 800,000 Black students attended charter schools in the United States this past school year. That’s more than 25 percent of charter students, even though Black children account for just 15 percent of the total student population nationally.

Let’s be clear about a few things: I am not advocating for segregated schools, by any means. My son attends our “low-performing” neighborhood public school specifically because of its exceptionally diverse student body. And I understand that schools, in our capitalist present, are often where people make connections and build social capital. Schools are power hubs, like it or not.

I’m also not strictly “pro-charter,” to be frank. I’m also perfectly opposed to for-profit charter schools, and I do not support charter schools that are just more of the same — schools that claim to be different, but are run by white adults who don’t understand what’s at stake and don’t genuinely know how to educate kids of all races.

Honestly, I’m not pro-charter any more than I’m anti-traditional public school. My bone to pick is with the status quo, the one that has been perpetuating discrimination against kids of color and, thus, has led to inequitable outcomes. The status quo the unions are paid to protect. I’m opposed to bad schools and the bad propaganda that perpetuates them. I’m opposed to dogma that limits dialogue and progress. I’m opposed to ignoring the truth about our public schools.

See, I’m not saying I have any answers, but goddamn do I have a lot of questions. And instead of sitting in our respective corners waiting for the next bell to ring so we can knock each other’s lights out over nothing, why not sit down and have a conversation about some of these big questions? Why not talk through some of these real issues and strange truths and move forward together?

We’ve not only been wasting our time and money and resources in a fruitless argument, but we’ve been gambling with kids’ lives in the name of this intellectual debate about the minuscule difference between public charter schools and traditional public schools.

Enough already.

I’m calling for a moratorium on petty bullshit, on self-righteous adult egos getting in the way of what’s long been settled as a fundamental right for children and their families.

Let’s act it out one more time.

 

Matt Halvorson: Dear government and your compulsory schools. Dear teachers unions and your compulsory memberships. Dear NAACP and your pointless bought-and-paid-for squabbles. First do no harm. Then I will be open to your opinions.

Crickets: Chirp.

End of Act III

 

Talking with Chris Stewart about school choice in 'resource-rich, equity-poor' Seattle

I talked with Chris Stewart last weekend to close out the Washington State Charter School Association Conference. Chris is a writer, speaker and advocate for school choice as a means to a better education for students of color.

We talked about equity and disparity in Seattle, and Chris accurately described us as “resource-rich but equity-poor.” It made me wonder what will ever motivate us to change if we continue to have this much capital flowing into a city with this much racial segregation and discrimination baked into its schools.

We talked also about the national perceptions of charter schools, too, and about how to distinguish Washington’s charters from an unhinged federal administration advocating for odd versions of school choice. How do you stay on the right track when you’ve been given a longer leash for all the wrong reasons -- or by someone you fundamentally don’t trust?

Chris said he's "agnostic about the school, but religious about results,” talking about the pointless in-fighting about process that is happening among folks who agree that our inequitable education system needs to change. Later, someone asked a great, fairly obvious question: what results is Chris looking for exactly? What constitutes a high-quality education in the end?

Chris’ answer was simple: he wants schools to start by teaching black and brown boys to read and do math. He said you can find most of the benchmarks on the road to prison or to college in terms of literacy and algebra. First teach all kids to read and write, he said, and then let’s go from there.

That’s such a low bar! And yet it makes too much sense. If we haven’t mastered the first step, we can’t expect to take the 10th, but it threw me for a loop, for sure. Why are we having high-level conversations about education when we haven’t gotten to a point where we can teach all kids to read and write?

Yet that very truth necessarily brings to mind deeper questions. To ask what results I’m looking for is essentially like asking why I am sending my kids to school in the first place. And to frame those expectations against a school system that isn’t teaching all kids their letters and numbers… well, what’s realistic? What’s ideal?

My mind had started racing the moment the question was asked, thinking about social-emotional nurturing and liberating curriculum. About whether he’ll be taught, as I was, that Black history is the history of slavery, that communism is to be feared, and that manifest destiny explains the disappearance of indigenous people.

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy writing along these line about what's wrong with our schools — and rightfully so, I think, since there are, frankly, so many problems. I'd like to continue exploring the more positive manifestations of this work, though, and to start thinking creatively about building the positive characteristics we do want as we educate our kids.

What "should" school be? What do I want and expect for my own kids and their education? For all kids?

These are big questions to explore, and I don’t think anyone has all the answers yet, but one thing I know for sure is that the charter school sector in Washington is having the conversation. The conference showed that charter leadership in our state has a keen awareness of the inequity in our schools, along with a willingness to ask tough questions and then take new, bold action. That’s something I haven’t seen from our traditional public school district in Seattle.

How Walter Chen Is Building a Charter School That Reflects the Diversity of Its South Seattle Community

Walter Chen, the founding principal of a new Green Dot public middle school set to open in south Seattle this fall, has a pretty simple vision for the school: “I want it to be a rigorous, joyful place,” he said.

Simple, on the one hand, but incredibly complex when you think about what it was like to actually be in middle school. In my experience, “rigor” plus “middle school” did not typically equal “joy.”

But the more I hear him talk about it, the more I get the sense that maybe Walter, if anybody, can pull it off.

For one thing, he understands that before they can feel joy at school, kids have to first feel safe and accepted. More than that, though, he understands through lived experience the nuances of inequity in education — especially in the Seattle area, where Chen was born and raised.

“My parents were immigrants from Taiwan and always deeply concerned about education,” Chen said. “When we were really young they moved us [from Kent] to Mercer Island because they had just heard about the great public schools there.”

It took a few years for the impact of that move and for an understanding of what had been left behind, both in Kent and in Taiwan, to fully unfold, but as a young college student in Southern California, an education class led to an eye-opening experience for Walter.

“Because I got the opportunity to go out and visit schools,” Chen said, “I really was for the first time opened to the idea that not everyone has the same educational opportunities and outcomes, that your zip code, your race, your family’s income can change the complete trajectory of your life.”

Coming to understand that truth was enough to push Chen into a career in education, and after earning his BA in Economics at Pomona College and Master of Education at UCLA, he taught middle-school math in a public school in South-Central Los Angeles for six years.

“I really got to see what it was like to work in an urban school and really partner with families,” Chen said. “I got to see the impact of not just being a school employee, showing up to work and teaching kids, but spending time in the community, going out on the weekends to the soccer games and to the swap meets and things like that. It was really a true community feel.”

When Walter and his wife moved to Seattle together, he sought another highly impacted school community to serve and to call home, but he also “started thinking bigger picture,” he said.

“How could I impact more students at a time,” he asked himself, “and really make a change in educational outcomes for kids?”

His answer led him back to school, and in completing the Danforth Program for Educational Leadership at the University of Washington, he refined his view of education as an urgent social justice issue, and it marked the beginning of putting down new roots in the Rainier Valley.

After an internship at SouthShore K-8 in Rainier Beach, Chen has continued to invest in southeast Seattle, spending two years as the assistant principal at Aki Kurose Middle School and two more as the principal of Graham Hill Elementary. He and his wife and young daughter also live in the neighborhood.

“I’m just deeply invested in this community and the social, academic and emotional well-being of our kids,” Chen said, “because I know that strong schools make strong communities. Being someone who works in the community, who lives in the community, and as a person of color — specifically an Asian-American — I’m very aware that children of color don’t see many representations of themselves in their teachers and their school leaders. I believe it’s important to provide that voice.”

A rendering of the new Green Dot Middle School seen looking south on Rainier Ave. in Seattle.

For that reason, Chen hopes to build a staff at the new charter school that's as diverse as the community they will serve. He plans “as much as possible to provide opportunities for people of color to work in education, because if [students] don’t see themselves in their teachers, then we won’t have teachers who are people of color who are representative of the community. If you don’t have teachers of color, you’ll never have leaders of color either.”

It doesn't take much imagination to picture one of Walter's first students coming in this fall as a sixth-grader, leaving SPS in another seven years as a high school graduate, and then returning in another seven to teach middle school in his old neighborhood — maybe at the same school Walter's children will by then attend. And suddenly, as you consider the reality that we are always educating our babies' future teachers, building schools grounded in equity that infuse joy and acceptance into their curriculum sounds less like a pipe dream and more like the only way forward. It starts to sound like a vision for a holistic education that nurtures students as it pushes them to new heights.

“I think it’s possible to have very high expectations and high structure and a very rigorous college-prep curriculum, but when you demand that and you push kids to be the best that they can be academically and to really succeed, you also have to make it fun to come to school, and to help them feel a lot of joy in school. To take pride in their school and take pride in their community. I think that’s my ultimate vision for this Green Dot Middle School in Southeast Seattle.”

 

Green Dot Middle School is a tuition-free public charter school serving a diverse population in Southeast Seattle. Their mission is to help transform public education so ALL students graduate prepared for collegeleadership, and life.

Green Dot is currently enrolling incoming sixth-graders. Click here for more information.

Saturday is Enrollment Day at Tacoma's Destiny Middle School

Destiny Middle School will be enrolling current 5th, 6th and 7th graders from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 18 at its third annual Enrollment Day. Interested parents, students and community members are invited to visit Destiny, part of the Green Dot network of charter schools, at 1301 E. 34th St. in Tacoma, Wash.

Washington State's charter schools are showing success closing opportunity gaps created by our traditional public school system, and Destiny may be the cream of the crop. It's worth checking out.

Students can be fully registered at the event. Food and kids' activities will be provided.

Check out the event page on Facebook for more info.

Green Dot Destiny Middle School in Tacoma, Wash.

Green Dot Destiny Middle School in Tacoma, Wash.

Charter schools have been upheld in Washington courts yet again

Attorney Rob McKenna, who represented intervening charter school parents and families in the recently settled case, speaks alongside a group of charter school students and parents in January. (Photo by Matt Halvorson)

Hey, great news! The charter school lawsuit is over! A judge upheld the law as constitutional.

It's time to celebrate and put all this hyper-political nonsense behind us. It's time to move forward, building a network of great schools with the ability to operate outside the purview of our systemically racist, intentionally colonial public school system.

Wait... didn't we already do this?

Yes.

First, the details, courtesy of Paige Cornwell of the Seattle Times:

A King County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Washington’s charter-school law didn’t demonstrate that charter schools are unconstitutional.
Friday’s ruling is part of an ongoing legal battle over the constitutionality of Washington’s charter-school law. The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of parents, educators and civic groups.
Coalition members haven’t decided whether they’ll appeal yet, said Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association.
The state’s eight charter schools are public schools, open to any student, but they are run by private organizations. About 1,600 students attend charter schools in the state, according to the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

"With [this] decision, students can return their focus to learning, and parents can rest easy knowing their kids’ schools can continue to provide their kids with the quality public education they deserve," said said Tom Franta, CEO of WA Charters.

But can they?

After all, Rich Wood and the teachers union "haven't decided whether they'll appeal yet." They haven't decided yet whether they will continue this specific version of their dogged defense of the status quo. They haven't decided yet whether they will needlessly repeat history for a third time.

"We face a group of politically motivated and powerful organizations who want to keep us in court and attempt to make our future uncertain," said DFER's Shirline Wilson at a press conference last month prior to the final hearing. "In the case of El Centro vs. Washington, I want you to understand that this is purely an attempt to shutter these effective public schools and remove our choices for gap-closing education. We refuse to be intimidated, and we refuse to stand down."

I like to think maybe the WEA and its cronies might give up this costly, distracting fight against its own past and future, but history tells us this lawsuit isn't over.

At least we can rest assured, based on that same history, that school choice won't go down without a fight in Washington.

"We will not be silenced by lobbying groups that value politics over truly improving public education outcomes," Wilson said.

And for now, we get to celebrate again, and breathe a rare sigh of relief. Whatever the politics suggest, whatever the status quo would have you believe, public school choice is an important civil rights issue, and it won the day again in Washington. Thank goodness for some good news.

Huge surprise: Washington’s Charter Schools are still under attack — and still plugging away

A coalition of unions, led by the Washington Education Association, is once again pushing to eradicate charter schools in Washington State. That’s nothing new. The WEA has been fighting hard to maintain its monopoly on public school choice across the state for years now.

In fact, it’s been such a long and dogged battle that it’s easy to get lost in the fray. Let’s catch up.

Washington State is currently home to about 1600 charter school students, and plans are in place to open Willow School in Walla Walla next fall, along with a Summit school in West Seattle and a Green Dot middle school in South Seattle.

Everything is on track to continue.

Also set to continue, often seemingly to infinity, is the coordinated opposition to our state’s charter school movement.

What’s all this about unconstitutionality?

The Washington State Supreme Court questioned the constitutionality of charter schools in 2015 based on a technicality around such schools’ oversight. The court’s initial opinion was lifted almost word for word from a document produced by the Washington Education Association (WEA — the state teacher’s union.)

The unconstitutionality loophole was closed last spring through a partnership with the Mary Walker School District near Spokane, which agreed to host the state’s existing charter schools and designate them as Alternative Learning Environments (ALEs).

This action was based on a resolution passed by the district’s board, part of which read, “the District believes that all students should have a choice in their educational program.”

Another key part of last spring’s decision is that funding for the charters in Washington comes from a specially designated lottery fund, which is separate from the pool of money used for public education.

But the saga does not end here! The Charter School Act was challenged again late last summer so the movement remains under fire.

What’s happening with the current lawsuit?

This time around, the plaintiffs have been led in name by El Centro de la Raza, a Seattle-area non-profit that receives grant funding from the WEA, but the case is almost entirely union-driven. Many unions involved have ties to education, but many don’t. Here’s the full list of plaintiffs (unions in bold):

  • El Centro de la Raza
  • Washington Education Association
  • Washington Association of School Administrators
  • International Union of Operating Engineers 609
  • Aerospace Machinists Union DL 751
  • Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • United Food and Commercial Workers Union
  • Washington Federation of State Employees
  • American Federation of Teachers, Washington
  • Teamsters Joint Council No. 28
  • League of Women Voters, Washington State
  • Pat Braman, on her own behalf
  • Donna Boyer, on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor children
  • Sarah Lucas, on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor children

This list is significant because it shows that the WEA views charter schools as a threat to unions, not to education. They are not looking at this through an equity-based, student-first lens, but rather through a lens based on the best interests of teachers and their union as an institution. As a result, the WEA has pulled together a group of unions and of predictably supportive grantees to protect their own self-interest, disregarding the specific needs of the students they serve.

A hearing last November before a courtroom packed full of charter teachers, parents and students saw a slew of procedural decisions, almost all of which fell in favor of charters.

The primary question at hand was, do these unions have standing in this case? Can they even claim they are somehow impacted by the charter law?

The judge struck down most of the plaintiffs as not having taxpayer standing, but left an opening for them to come back with a named party leading the way with a rewritten complaint. They will basically return as individuals representing their unions and organizations.

One claim from suit is that the ALE designation was more workaround than satisfactory solution, and the plaintiffs wanted to make sure the ALE wasn’t an option again. Judge John H. Chun said essentially said he considered this too much supposition and too little substance — that he wouldn’t rule on something that wasn’t presently an issue.

Chun also threw out the plaintiffs’ red-herring claim that charters shouldn’t be funded before we have met the McCleary mandate to fully fund our broader public school system, calling it speculation at best. The state legislature will have to to do something about McCleary no matter what, and charters are unlikely to impact McCleary as the two are funded separately, pulling from separate pots of money.

All of this is building toward another hearing on Jan. 27, 2017, to debate whether charters are constitutional and whether the money funding them is still somehow affecting the common fund. They will argue the meat of the case and the judge will rule. And then we’ll keep on going.

So, the existing handful of charter schools continue to operate, offering much-needed school choice to hundreds of families in different communities. They will keep moving forward as well and keep running good schools. The proof, ultimately, will be in the pudding. Great schools will overcome great opposition in time.

In the meantime, even as the charter school association and its attorneys work to take the burden of this distraction off the schools and their students, the environment created by this union battle axe remains unsettling for all involved. It’s scary for families, nerve-wracking for teachers and administrators. It’s exhausting.

But we will keep on moving. Change isn’t always comfortable, but the status quo won’t do any longer. We need more and better school choices for our students, and we need better outcomes in our traditional schools. If the price for that is being exhausted, so it goes.

It's about the 100% of Black children: the 94% in traditional schools and the 6% in charter schools

It's about the 100% of Black children: the 94% in traditional schools and the 6% in charter schools

Black parents do not have time for this distracting “divide and conquer” strategy pitting the NAACP Moratorium versus education reformers.

News flash: the pre-K-through-12 education system is not about the grown folk and their feelings! It is about ensuring all children, regardless of their zip code have equitable access to safe school environments and quality educational opportunities – period!

Read More

As the charter dust settles, will the line in the sand remain?

Gov. Jay Inslee has passively allowed charter schools to move forward.

The bill has become law, and the questions of constitutionality have been addressed -- at least to the court's satisfaction.

The dust has begun to settle, which means everyone who has been embedded in this squabble can take a breath, take stock, and take a look ahead for the first time in months.

This much is clear: charter schools have become a line in the sand on the beach of public education.

The question is, will we keep re-drawing the same line? Or will we let it wash away with tomorrow's tide and focus together on forging ahead?

Both sides have always shared considerable common ground, but now that charter schools are an active part of Washington’s public school system, the separation between one and the next is even more negligible.

Both sides are advocating loudly for a stronger public education system. Both sides, I have to believe, want only the best for students. We may have different opinions as to what that looks like -- about which students most need our advocacy or how precisely to deliver the education and attention they deserve -- but the goals of all education advocates are much more similar than they are different.

Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) and an affiliate faculty member at the University of Washington Bothell, wrote a razor-sharp op-ed for the Seattle Times that asks important questions and rightly challenges all sides to move forward together:

“But moving beyond vitriol and petty political squabbles requires leadership from community leaders, charter-school leaders, and district and elected officials — all of whom must set a tone for others to follow.
It is time to stop wasting time, energy and money mounting fights to oppose charter schools that serve some of our state’s most at-risk students. Those resources could be marshaled instead to tackle structural inequities — such as a wide achievement gap between minority and nonminority students, inadequate school funding and uneven teacher quality — in all our public schools.
It is time for charter leaders to work with local schools to build relationships between teachers and parents.
It is time for visionary district leaders to imagine ways that nimble charter schools might help them reach their goals of helping all students achieve their potential.
It is time to recognize that public education embodies a set of goals and ideals — equity, transparency, accountability — not a particular set of institutions grounded in norms developed hundreds of years ago for a largely agrarian society.
Charter schools aren’t some magic solution. But they are proving themselves a valued component of 21st-century public schooling by demonstrating what’s possible when schools are freed from certain rules and regulations in exchange for being held accountable for student outcomes. Far from a distraction, charter schools are here to stay. Far from damaging public education, when ably implemented, charter schools enrich and strengthen the fabric of public education.
It is time to move on and focus on students, not battle lines.”

 

Dear Gov. Inslee: 'Every Child Deserves a Chance to Succeed'

Dear Gov. Inslee,

I know that the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that charter schools like Summit Sierra are unconstitutional. I believe that despite this, these schools can help us in the long run. This is because of how differently these schools operate than the traditional public school.

From experience, I can say that Summit Public Schools as well as other charter schools offer different options to students looking for a good education. Many people believe that these schools are a waste of taxpayer money, but that is not the case. The student body is quite diverse, so it allows people of every race, gender, religion and income the chance to have a great education.

Summit Public Schools in California have a 100 percent graduation rate. This means that literally all of our students will have the opportunity to go to college. This will benefit everyone here in the great state of Washington because there are going to be thousands of new kids ready for college each year when they graduate from charter schools. Everyone should be able to receive a great education, and everyone should be able to go to college.

If Seattle wants to continue being a fast-growing city, it’s going to have make some changes to the school system. Our city and our state need charter schools to make sure this generation and every generation after will have the opportunity to go to college.

And this is the greatest thing about charter schools: they allow students to reach their full potential. These schools push to make sure each student succeeds, not only academically, not only during each school day, but in life. The current public schools attempt this, but Summit Public Schools has perfected it. The individualized approach to learning helps prepare students for college by teaching them how to be a self-directed learner.

At Summit Sierra, and other Summit Public Schools in Washington, we use a program called the PLP (Personalized Learning Plan). It provides information on what we need to do to get into certain colleges. It also allows us to set goals, check assignments, and lets us each work at our own pace.

Being able to self-direct your learning is an essential skill in college, and when all the students graduate, they will use this skill in the workplace. Being self-directed is great to learn at young age, too, because the earlier you learn, the sooner you can be independent.

When a child first enters a Summit School, they will get a mentor. Their mentor will guide them throughout their years in school. The student and mentor will have a bond form between them, as well as with the larger group of mentees.

The mentor program gives students someone to look up to. During the mentor check-ins every Friday, the mentor checks in with his mentees to see how they how they are doing both academically and psychologically. This key piece of the Summit Public School experience of learning allows each child to feel like they matter.

Every child deserves educational options.

Every child deserves a way to show their creativity.

Every child deserves a place to grow.

Every child deserves to go to college.

And most of all: every child deserves a chance to succeed.

 

Thank you in advance for your consideration,

 

Kai Worley-Flannell

Dear Gov. Inslee: 'We need you to be strong.'

Dear Gov. Inslee,

My name is Zoe Mitchell, and I am a 9th grader at Summit Sierra Public charter school in Seattle. Last fall, the legislature ruled that charter schools were unconstitutional, and as a student attending a charter school, I feel very lost in the conversation.

Every student shares the feeling of injustice over this plan having been put through without any consideration of our thoughts. This is absurd seeing as how we are the ones who are most affected by this, and we feel that our opinions carry a lot of weight concerning the matter. We have attended this new high school for more than six months and by now have established firm relationships with our teachers and peers.

All of us students would be devastated if our school were to be closed down. All of us have put so much faith and effort into this school. To see it all go down the drain is despairing and leads to some serious doubts about democracy and our government, which is supposed to protect its people’s needs.

Personally, I have had more fun learning here in a few weeks than I've ever had at all the time in my public middle school. There also seems to be a lot of complaining about crowded schools. Don't charter schools take the pressure off and give children more options? They are a public school and should be considered an equal alternative. 

I write this letter to you with the hope that you will take into the consideration the opinions and lives of charter school students and their community. I don't want to leave this school so early in my efforts.

Please sign the charter school bill. 1909 was over a hundred years ago and deciding that a rule written so long ago should affect the education of students in 2016 seems weak. We all need you to be strong.

Thank you for your time. 

Sincerely,

 

Zoe Mitchell

An Open Response to Rep. Noel Frame

This rolled through my Twitter feed during the height of the charter school political advocacy campaign during this most recent legislative session.

I shared it with the 24 other "people" following me on Twitter at the time. I also tagged Rep. Noel Frame (D-Seattle) in replies making clear that this was not an acceptable response.

I also left her a phone message a couple nights later as part of phone-banking for charter schools. I made sure to mention this Tweet then, too.

She sent me a message on Twitter the next day asking for my email address, and a day or two later I had a note in my inbox:

Hi Matt,

Thank you for sending your email over.

In response to your phone message stating:

"And the lack of foresight that she is showing and this is really troubling me and I am also seeing someone who doesn’t understand her privilege she told one of our parents to just consider enrolling her child in private because students in public school often get the short end of the stick.  And the idea that a legislator is going to recommend private school to a parent who is trying to keep her kid in a functional public school is really hard to stomach."

I absolutely did not tell a parent to "consider enrolling her child in private school." I told her in-person that I respect her right as a parent to do what is best for her child, reiterated this on Twitter, and added on Twitter that I respect her views and advocacy, but we have to agree to disagree.

Two Charter School parents who have been in touch with me before this were so embarrassed by this parent's mischaracterization of my words on Twitter that they came to apologize to me personally yesterday.

Also, today I met with three students and a staff member from Summit Sierra. I took the time to hear their views and shared mine in a very respectful and encouraging way.

I hope you'll take it upon yourself to let your Twitter followers know I responded and correct this misinterpretation.

Thank you,

Noel

 

Below is my response:

 
Noel,
Thank you for your email.
If my phone message was overly zealous, it was only because I feel such a sense of urgency about the issue of charter schools. I only hoped to get your attention and urge you to reconsider your position.
My Twitter followers are few. That aside, I've given this a lot of thought, and I have not "corrected my misinterpretation." Unless some significant new information comes to light, I do not plan to do so.
For starters, unless you are accusing this parent of intentionally lying or misrepresenting you, then even if your words meant something different to you, that parent is summarizing what you communicated to her. She is free to do that even if you wish she had understood you differently.
Perhaps more importantly, though, I don't believe your position on this issue has been misrepresented. Whether or not you specifically said those words, they do summarize the effect your beliefs and your actions on the matter of charter schools have had on this parent and many like her. Even if the story isn't true, per se, the message is accurate.
Roughly 30 percent of school-age children in Seattle attend private school. Typically, this is done in pursuit of a better education than they believe their neighborhood school can offer. But most private school parents, of course, have to pay tuition, so it’s a school choice that’s not available to everyone. Unless there is similar free option for all parents, then school choice has become a privilege.
But that’s okay, right? Even without a second option, all parents are still being offered a free education for their children. Why do they need another option? After all, the system works for many students.
The problem is that it’s also failing many students, and you can identify who those kids are most likely to be based on their race and their families’ income. That’s a huge problem.
Just a few years ago, for example, Seattle Public Schools were the subject of a federal investigation into their disproportionate discipline of students of color.
If you’re raising an African-American boy, now you know both statistically and anecdotally that your son will be disciplined more frequently and treated more harshly in school because of the color of his skin. He is likely to be tracked into less-rigorous classes and taught by teachers who expect less of him because of how he looks.
So, while the system works for many, you know your son is particularly at risk of it not working for him. No matter what you do, the deck is stacked against him.
Imagine being a parent in this situation, knowing that you are being told to send your child into an environment like this, into a system built to work against him from the very beginning. It makes you angry. It makes you afraid of what that might do to your little boy. It makes you desperate to do something, to get your kid out of that school and out of harm’s way.
But instead, if you can’t afford private school tuition, you’re all but stuck in the system. You can try to choose a different public school in the same problematic district, but option schools fill up quickly, too. And in some ways, this just represents a new school that’s still inevitably playing by the same problematic rules, still part of the same problematic system. It's still a big risk.
So, given that it’s possible for an entire district to be impacted by the same problem, having some free public schools — like charter schools — that are allowed to be different, allowed to operate outside the norm of a system that is rigged based on race, allowed to hire people they believe will teach all students... I can see how that might be a good thing.
And this is the key to understanding charter schools as an issue of racial and social equity. Charter schools help extend that privilege of school choice — a privilege so many families of means are already exercising by moving to expensive neighborhoods with higher-performing schools or by enrolling in private schools — to all students and all families.
Let's be clear: charter schools aren’t perfect. They’re not The Answer. But if nothing else, they’re trying to be different, and that’s important, given the state of things.
This is about more than the 1,100 students currently enrolled in charter schools in Washington. This is an issue of equity. It is an issue of building a network of schools that can and will serve our most vulnerable and most oppressed populations as well as our most privileged are already being served. It is about extending school choice to all families, not just to those who can afford it. It is about putting some real weight behind your vote to "close the opportunity gap."
Thank you again for your email. I appreciate your engagement and your thoughtful reconsideration of this issue.
Best,

Matt Halvorson

 

I have not heard back from her.

Senate Joins House in Voting to Save Charter Schools

By Matt Halvorson

Every day this school year, every kid in every charter school classroom in the state has studied and learned without knowing if his or her school would be allowed to stay open.

Every day this year, every teacher in every charter school classroom in the state has worked hard to teach every single kid, all while knowing the schools that pay them might be forced to shut their doors.

Every day this year, each one of the 1,100 charter school students in our state -- including some in my neighborhood, and probably in yours -- have heard the daily expressions of systemic and overt racism and classism directed at them and their school.

They have felt attacked and unwanted by their own communities and their own state, even as a wall of teachers, administrators, parents, friends, advocates and legislators did their best to shield them and fight for them.

But today, finally, we are on the verge of something different.

The Washington State Senate voted in favor of equity in education today, approving a bill by a 26-23 margin that will save public charters schools and create a long-term path for their success.

The vote comes on the heels of yesterday's bipartisan show of support in the House. The bill now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee's desk to be signed into law, finally putting to rest this last-ditch effort on the part of the state teacher's union and other stagnant education organizations to block charter schools from gaining a foothold in the state.

“We expect Gov. Inslee will respect the bipartisan legislature’s vote, respect the will of the voters, and most of all," said Tom Franta, CEO of the Washington State Charter Schools Association, "respect the parents and students who worked so hard for this victory today on behalf of not just their schools, but every kid statewide.”

Advocates mounted a powerful grassroots campaign which, coupled with a paid effort, called steadily on legislators to reinstate the 2012 law overturned by the State Supreme Court last fall.

More than 1,100 families already benefitting from public charter schools were joined by many more voices from Yakima to Walla Walla, Spokane to West Seattle, all advocating for equity in education.

The bill that passed today reflects that effort but does contain some clear compromises that differ from Initiative 1240. The bill eliminates charter school access to local levy monies, and it removes provisions authorizing the conversion of traditional public schools into charter schools.

Still, this bill's passage represents a resounding success for low-income families and families of color in Washington State. And we may see the charter school movement bloom even brighter for having gone survived this assault.

Many, many of those 1,100 students and parents and siblings became activists and advocates in recent months. At first it was simply a fight for themselves and their own schools, but they became part of something much bigger.

For all the dark sides this unconstitutionality business has evoked, and for all the ignorance and fear it has revealed, this is at least one glimmer of a silver lining. In the midst of its shadowy maneuvering, maybe the WEA and its fellow clingers-on to the status quo accidentally activated the Puget Sound's next generation of homegrown advocates for equity in education.

I hope they did. It would serve them right.