Charter schools can continue to operate in Washington state, after all.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that he would not veto a bill saving the charter school movement. The bill passed March 10.
“I am not interested in closing schools in a manner that disrupts the education of hundreds of students and their affected families,” Inslee said in a letter.
But Inslee was tepid in his support. He said the bill would allow unelected boards to make decisions about how to spend public money earmarked for charter schools. (Members of public school boards are elected.)
“Despite my deep reservations about the weakness of the taxpayer accountability provisions, I will not close schools,” Inslee said.
This solidifies the future of charter schools, which were thrown into limbo in September after the Washington State Supreme Court ruled 6-3 they were unconstitutional. That decision came just days after some schools opened their doors.
Tom Franta, CEO of the Washington State Charter Schools Association, said “there’s a sense of relief” with Inslee's decision.
“That families have finally found the option that is working best for their children, and the opportunity to keep that is tremendously important not only for them, but for their communities, too,” Franta said.
The Supreme Court ruling made it clear that charter schools should not receive money from the same education budget as traditional public schools.
Under Senate Bill 6194, money from the state lottery will support charter schools. The lottery’s contributions to education had been limited to grants, scholarships and early childhood education.
Washington state voters approved charter schools in 2012, after rejecting them three times.
Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run – each charter school is effectively its own school district.
A coalition of groups, including the state teachers union, a group of Washington school administrators and the League of Women Voters, sued the state in 2013 to stop the new charter system, adopted by voters in 2012.
Last year, Washington state had one charter school. Since the ruling, it returned to its previous incarnation as a grant-funded private school.
This year, eight opened in Spokane, Tacoma, Kent, Highline and Seattle. They serve about 1,000 students.
David Ammons of the Washington Secretary of State's office says the last time a governor let a bill become law without a signature was in 1981.