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How Washington's Charter Schools Plan to Stay Open After Court Ruling

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Washington-state-charter-protest-2-blog.jpgThe Washington State Supreme Court's unprecedented September ruling that charter schools in the state were unconstitutional came right after school had started for several of them. 

Now that the state supreme court has refused to reconsider its decision, local charter school advocates have had to be resourceful in coming up with short- and long-term fixes to keep schools open.

One publicly-funded approach that eight of the state's nine charters are hammering out is to contract with a district as "alternative learning experience" programs. That designation allows districts to contract with outside groups to offer services such as online classes. In this case, the Mary Walker School District in Springdale, Wash., has said it's willing to host the schools.

Meanwhile, Washington's first charter school to open, First Place Scholars, which serves homeless students, has opted to convert back to a no-tuition private school.

But in speaking with Thomas Franta, the CEO of the Washington State Charter School Association, for a recent Education Week story on this issue, he emphasized that the alternative learning experience route was only a temporary solution. And if it doesn't pan out, Franta says the schools could stay open with private dollars through the rest of the school year, but no longer. 

In the meantime, advocates like Franta are looking to sympathetic lawmakers to come up with a bill to tweak the state law to fund charter schools in a way that meets constitutional muster. [UPDATE: The association announced on Thursday that it had formed a political action committee and contributed over $20,000 to campaign accounts of members of both chambers and parties.]

But any legislation may face stiff competition from another high-profile education issue facing lawmakers, as well as pushback from charter school opponents. To read more about those potential roadblocks, as well as how national advocates are reacting to the Washington State Supreme Court's decision, check out my more in-depth story, here.


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Students and other charter school advocates rally at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., in November. —Rachel La Corte/AP-File

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