Since state lawmakers again failed to address the systematic underfunding of public charter schools this session, they should include money in the supplemental budget to offer short-term relief.

Washington’s free public charter schools are intended to offer educational alternatives for students whose families can’t afford expensive private education. But unlike traditional public schools, charters can’t supplement state funding through local property tax levy requests. This unfairly shortchanges charter schools’ budgets by about $1,550-$3,000 per student, depending on the district, according to the Charter Schools Association. Charter school advocates have been asking lawmakers to fix this inequity since 2019.

A $6.5 million proviso in the Senate budget would help charter schools make up the difference during the 2022-23 school year. A similar proposal in the House draft budget earmarks $7 million for charter, tribal compact schools and school districts with fewer than 800 students.

Last year, a provision similar to the Senate budget proposal was stripped during budget negotiations. This time, budget negotiators should leave the funds intact. Otherwise, they are shortchanging the education of public school students.

These one-time allocations will provide much-needed resources in the short term. But they don’t excuse lawmakers from their responsibility to support Washington’s public charter schools — which they’ve consistently failed to do in recent sessions.

Charter schools opponents, including the teachers union, have traditionally held strong sway over lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. But lawmakers are there to serve, in this case, the students, not special interest groups. Knee-jerk opposition to Washington’s charters fails to recognize the state’s well-designed and voter-approved charter law, which protects against the sorts of missteps and abuses they cite in other state’s experiences.


House bill 1591 would have given charters access to levy equalization funding of up to $1,550 per student. But like a similar 2020 bill, it died in the House Committee on Appropriations.

A second bill, HB 1962, would have extended the authorization deadline for new charter schools to 2027 without expanding the number of charters approved in legislation. But the House Education Committee, under the leadership of Chair Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, failed to even give the bill a public hearing. To date, only 24 of the 40 charter schools allowed by law have been approved.

Lawmakers’ persistent foot-dragging over these common-sense and necessary changes is an affront to the parents and community members who have worked so hard to make charter schools a reliable option for Washington’s students.