The state House Education Committee is stalling on a charter-schools remedy. Speaker Frank Chopp should find a workaround.
HEAVEN help the 1,200 students attending Washington’s eight fledgling charter public schools. They seem too often to be at the mercy of adults with a penchant for slow-rolling.
Now, it’s up to Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, to stop the fooling around. He should bring a bill to the House floor that once and for all restores some certainty to this promising alternative to traditional public schools, which voters wanted when they approved Initiative 1240 in 2012.
Time for this drama to end.
Give charter schools a House vote
Email Speaker of the House Frank Chopp:
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan:
First, the state Supreme Court waited until Sept. 4 — after the school year started — to overturn the initiative allowing this alternative to existing public schools because of its funding source. And that ruling came 11 months after justices heard oral arguments — an inexcusable delay that put the schools, students and their families into a panic. Temporary measures have kept the schools open.
But in January, the state Senate acted swiftly to approve ESSSB 6194, a bipartisan remedy to the high court’s concerns that would keep the charter-school law mostly intact. Instead of pulling money from the state general fund, which funds school-board-controlled traditional public schools, the bill would fund charter schools from the state’s Opportunity Pathways Account, which has revenue from the state lottery.
And then the slow rolling began again.
House Education Committee Chair Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, did not schedule a hearing until 33 days later — on Monday. Though the bill, which is vehemently opposed by the powerful teachers union, was scheduled for a possible vote Thursday that was canceled. And committee Democrats the same day fended off an effort by Republican members to bring the bill up for a vote.
State Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, said he, Santos, House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, and two other Democrats, Chris Reykdal of Tumwater and Christine Kilduff of University Place, are working on a new bill that could save charter schools from any challenges in the future. That group has no bill yet, and key deadlines are pending, with only 15 days left in the session.
Don’t hold your breath on this lame, last-minute effort.
Voters wanted charter schools as an option in this state. The Senate approved a bill that answered the Supreme Court’s concerns. The House Education Committee has deliberately let the issue languish and now seems to be obstructing a solution.
Which brings us back to those 1,200 charter-school students. Without a remedy, those schools will be decimated, unable to plan, apply for grants, keep their fine teachers. That is unacceptable.
Time for Speaker Chopp and Rep. Sullivan to make sure the full House gets to vote on this charter-school remedy.