Editor’s Note: Two weeks ago, Republican-dominated majorities in the Washington State House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill restoring funding for charter schools and allowing new charters to be authorized, in defiance of the Supreme Court’s ruling in League of Women Voters v. State of Washington. NPI is asking Governor Jay Inslee to veto this legislation and uphold our Constitution. We laid out our reasoning in the following message sent to the Governor this afternoon, which we are releasing as an open letter.
Dear Governor Inslee:
On behalf of the team at the Northwest Progressive Institute, we write to respectfully urge you to veto E2SSB 6194 in its entirety and honor the State Supreme Court’s ruling that I‑1240 is unconstitutional.
NPI strongly believes in public schools and elected public school governance that all citizens can participate in. Public schools are the cornerstones of strong, vibrant communities. We have a mutual responsibility to each other to ensure that our youth receive a well-rounded education. Our state’s founders considered this to be so important that the Constitution they handed down to us calls this responsibility Washington’s paramount duty. Our public schools are the only schools required to serve all children no matter their background or needs.
We also believe in the professional educators in our public schools. E2SSB 6194 prohibits employee bargaining at a charter school from affiliating with other bargaining units. This is not a progressive policy in support of worker rights — it’s an inappropriate political statement.
Our public school districts and educators are working hard to provide innovative services that meet and exceed those claimed by charters even while they are challenged with strained budgets due to underfunding from the state.
The Supreme Court spoke clearly last year when it struck down I‑1240 and charters as unconstitutional in League of Women Voters v. State of Washington. We urge you to uphold the Supreme Court’s ruling and veto E2SSB 6194 in its entirety.
Although charter proponents cite the needs of disadvantaged children, the evidence from around the country shows that charter schools aren’t helping those students — and may actually be hurting them. A report released last week by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that charter schools are four times as likely to suspend black students than white students. Charters have also been blamed for accelerating the resegregation of American schools. A recent study by Duke University found that charter schools were responsible for resegregating North Carolina schools. The ACLU filed a lawsuit charging that charters in Delaware were causing resegregation.
The focus of Washington’s Legislature and executive department should be complying with the Supreme Court’s earlier decision in McCleary and producing a viable plan to raise the revenue required to fully fund our public schools.
The Legislature must do more than simply define basic education. It must provide publicly-governed school districts with the resources they need to carry out their mandate. We have over a million children in our public schools, and they’re not getting the support they need.
Sadly, at the same time the Legislature was blatantly ignoring the Supreme Court’s most recent McCleary order, which imposed sanctions on the state, majorities in both houses were intently listening to the nearly two dozen lobbyists who descended on the Capitol Campus to lobby for E2SSB 6194.
The results of the just-concluded special session and regular session that preceded it once again demonstrate the power of money in our state’s capital. Those who already have fortunes are well-positioned to ask for (and get) money out of the Legislature for their priorities, while middle and low income families are not.
Unlike the legislators who voted for E2SSB 6194, you were elected statewide to represent all Washingtonians.
We urge you to be an advocate for the more than one million public schoolchildren who cannot afford dozens of lobbyists in Olympia working on their behalf to ensure their schools are properly funded in a timely fashion. Veto E2SSB 6194, and let the well-off proponents of charters fund those schools, while keeping public money flowing solely to public schools, as our founders intended.
Northwest Progressive Institute
Founder and executive director
Northwest Progressive Institute