business backgrounder | education & workforce
Charting a Course on Public Charter Schools
As two opposing views and the state Supreme Court collide on the merits and
constitutionality of voter-approved public charter schools, the path forward on
the issues of school choice and educational equity is bound to be challenging.
On Sept. 4, the Friday before the Labor Day holiday and, for many students, the start of the new school year, the
state Supreme Court dropped a bombshell. It handed down a 6-3 ruling striking down voter-approved public charter
schools as unconstitutional, leaving more than 1,200 students enrolled in the nine newly-opened schools hanging in
the balance. The political differences on school choice and how to close the educational equity gap for low-income
and minority students sets the stage for a prickly debate on the value of public charter schools versus traditional
public schools in the 2016 Legislature and the state’s high court.
The news could not have been worse for
parents of the 1,200 children enrolled in
the state’s first-ever nine public charter
schools this fall: The state Supreme Court
ruled the law that allowed for the creation
of the schools unconstitutional — at 4 p.m.
the Friday before Labor Day and the start
of the 2015 school year for many students.
Making matters worse is the data that
shows the majority of parents moving
their kids from traditional public schools
to the new public charter schools are from
underserved low-income and minority
public charter school student
According to the Washington State Charter
Schools Association (WSCSA), 70 percent
of those attending the schools are students
of color and two-thirds of the children live
Maggie O’Sullivan, school leader at
Highline area Rainier Prep Public Charter
School, which serves fifth- to eighth-grade
students, said the population at the school
is mainly low-income children, 80 percent
of whom qualify for free or reduced-price
lunch, and 90 percent are students of color.
“There are clearly identifiable
achievement gaps by income, race,
and ethnicity, and by disability status,”
said Washington State Charter Schools
46 association of washington business
Hundreds of public charter school students rallied at the state Capitol in November, calling for
lawmakers to “fix this mess” to ensure that their schools can stay open.