Bipartisan plan to keep charter schools open passes Senate

Bipartisan legislation to preserve public charter schools as an option for Washington students, sponsored by Sen. Steve Litzow, received final approval today by the Washington State Senate following passage in the House of Representatives Wednesday evening. Washington voters approved Initiative 1240 in 2012 creating public charter schools, but their future has been uncertain after the state Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional in September.

“Education inequality is one of the greatest challenges facing Washington students and our state as a whole,” said Litzow, of Mercer Island, who serves as chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. “Charter schools are one of many tools we have to strengthen our overall education system and ensure all children have access to a great education that prepares them to enter and succeed in college and compete for a good job.”

The legislation directs funding to come from the state’s Opportunity Pathways Account, which contains state lottery revenues not restricted to common schools.

Litzow sponsored the legislation ahead of the 2016 session to maintain voter-approved charters to address Washington’s opportunity gap. The bill originally passed the Senate on Jan. 20. During the 2016 session lawmakers also approved new legislation aimed at closing the opportunity gap in traditional public schools.

In September the state Supreme Court declared charter schools unconstitutional and denied a reconsideration request from state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers, including Litzow, filed a brief with the court raising concerns about the ruling.

The bill now heads to the governor for final endorsement.