A bill to salvage the state’s charter-school law is back in play two days before the end of the legislative session.
A bill to salvage the state’s charter-school law is back in play two days before the end of the legislative session after stalling in the House Education Committee last month without a vote.
Tuesday afternoon, Senate Bill 6194 was plucked out of the committee and placed in the lineup of bills that could receive further debate and possibly votes on the House floor.
The bill, which has passed the state Senate, would establish privately operated charters as public schools outside the state’s “common school” system, using lottery funds to pay for them.
The Washington Supreme Court in September ruled the voter-approved charter-school law unconstitutional, in part because charter schools aren’t “common” schools and therefore not entitled to public money exclusively for those schools.
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The hope is that the Senate bill, if passed, would be constitutional, and that the state’s eight existing charter schools could keep their doors open, although opponents may challenge them again in court.
Nine charter schools have opened since voters approved the charter law in 2012; one has since reverted to operating as a private school.
Six of the eight have contracts with the small Mary Walker School District in Eastern Washington, operating as what’s known as “alternative learning experiences,” and two have decided to become home-school centers. All continue to receive some public funding.
Charter supporters, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have spent millions of dollars to help keep the eight charters going and to lobby for a legislative fix.
Together, the charters enroll about 1,100 students in the Seattle, Highline, Kent, Tacoma and Spokane school districts.