By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
On Sept 4, Washington State Supreme Court proclaimed that it is unconstitutional for charter schools to use state funding. Summit Public (charter) School immediately emailed parents for an emergency meeting in its Chinatown International District school on Sept. 8.
In 2012, Washington state voted to allow publicly funded schools to run privately. That meant the state will fund $7000 for each student Summit has, the same amount for a public school student. Students enrolling in charter schools are not required to pay tuition.
Could that funding for charter schools be in jeopardy now? Does it mean charter schools, which should receive their funding from the state, by the end of September, won’t get a dime?
Jen Wickens, chief Regional Officer for Summit Public Schools, said she is shocked and devastated when she got the news on Sept. 4.
Principal Malia Burns, said she experienced “a range of emotions” and felt, “sad and disappointed.”
“We are inspired by our families’ deep commitment to our school and to the Washington charter movement,” said Wickens. “While Friday’s news about the Supreme Court ruling was shocking and devastating, it is already making our community even stronger. Our families are relieved that we will continue to offer the same high quality, personalized program we’ve provided over the last three weeks.”
Close to 100 parents came to the meeting. The parents and students were reassured that the school is open.
One parent asked if they needed to pay tuition from now on. Wickens said, “We never accept tuition. I am sure 100 percent.” The parents applauded. One parent complained the timing of the Supreme Court announcing its decision—in Sept. and not before the building of new charter schools. “They knew that they (charter schools) were organizing new schools a year ago.”
“Whatever we need, we will keep the school open,” said Burns.
What are the options and strategies for Summit?
Create a new law to make charter schools legal and state-funded was one of the solutions, mentioned at the meeting. Being the 42nd state to create charter schools, Washington state now has 9 charter schools. What Washington state is going through is not uncommon in other states. For the past four days since the court’s verdict, Summit and state’s charter schools associations and members met daily to find solutions to resolve their crisis.
Parents are now urged to play an active role to speak to media and lobby legislators.
Burns said Summit has a little more than a year of reserve funds to sustain the schools. “We need to create a new plan.”
Summit held a rally on Sept. 10 to drum up support for charter schools.
“We want to raise awareness of the impact the Supreme Court decision had on our students and families,” said Wickens. “And, we want to show our commitment to ensuring the WA charter law is reinstated so our families and other families across the state have more high quality, public school options.” (end)