A ruling by the state Supreme Court has put 1,200 charter school students in jeopardy.
ON Friday, the Washington state Supreme Court released a stunning decision stating that the Washington Charter Schools Act is unconstitutional, despite voter and parent support for high-quality public school options offered by our state’s public charter schools. The timing of the decision is deeply troubling, as many of the newly opened public charter schools have been serving students for three weeks.
The implications of this decision are still unclear, but what is clear is that the futures of more than 1,200 students who have already started school this year are in jeopardy. Families put their trust in the state and these schools.
This includes my school.
I’m a founding math and computer science teacher at Excel Public Charter School in Kent. We opened our doors to 160 sixth- and seventh-grade students almost three weeks ago. Excel has high numbers of children with special needs, children facing poverty, children here as refugees, and children learning English as a second language. The economic and cultural diversity at our school is extraordinary.
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Our public charter school is truly a special place.
It’s hard for me to fully articulate how much these first three weeks have bolstered my faith in the potential of public education. The flexibility and strong leadership found at Excel and at the other public charter schools that recently opened their doors creates an incredible opportunity for all families — particularly those who have historically been underserved by the public education system.
I’m gaining hope from reflecting on the good moments over the past three weeks. I have hope because I watched a class of seventh graders give a marginalized classmate a standing ovation when he made a basketball shot in a gym class competition. I have hope because a quiet student told me that he realized that there is a lot to learn just from discussing one math question when students come together to teach one another. I have hope because I heard our students play their instruments in unison in orchestra class after less than three weeks of practice. I have hope because I see the way that my colleagues continue to work for our students even in the shadow of this decision.
As a former high school teacher in Federal Way and Washington Education Association member, I understand why some don’t see public charter schools in the same light. A close look at New Orleans highlights the fact that there are no easy answers in public education and that public charter schools are not a silver bullet. However, they can and should be part of the solution.
I can’t ignore the irony of the fact that Washington’s public charter schoolteachers will be at school with students on Wednesday morning, while public school teachers in Seattle may be on strike, leaving their students behind. My colleagues and I will greet our students with open arms. We will do this gladly because they matter, because their education matters, and because the trust their families have given us matters.
The court’s 6-3 ruling undermines the work that we’ve started. A parent asked us what she could do to help in response to the ruling. She shared that this is the first time that her son has come home excited to talk about school. If this isn’t a victory for public education, I don’t know what is.
Public charter schools have given our children a chance to fulfill their unique needs and interests. We shouldn’t let them and their families down. It’s time for Gov. Jay Inslee to hold a special legislative session immediately to address the law — supported by voters and parents — and ensure there is no disruption for these 1,200 charter-school students.
The time to act is now. Help us by urging Gov. Inslee to take action today.
For me, I can only think of my students attending our first charter schools.