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Washington Lawmakers Propose Bill to Revive State's Charter School Law

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A bill to revive Washington's charter school law, which was struck down by the state's supreme court last fall, has been introduced by state lawmakers. 

Two senators from Spokane—one Democrat, the other Republican—are sponsoring the legislation which would require all charter schools to be overseen by local school boards.

The Washington State Supreme Court's September ruling argued that charters did not qualify as common schools (basically public schools) because they are not overseen by locally elected school boards and, therefore, were not eligible for the public funding they were receiving.

Although requiring all charter schools to be overseen by local school boards may tweak the law enough to pass constitutional muster, it's not necessarily an ideal solution for many charter advocates who support the schools because they are independent from local districts.

"While this first proposal is a good starting point and should be lauded for its responsiveness to the urgency of the situation Washington families face, ultimately the goal is to enact legislation that reflects the spirit of the public charter school law passed by Washington voters - which includes a statewide public charter school authorizer," the advocacy group Act Now for Washington Students said in a statement. "We look forward to working with legislators to come together on a solution that maintains the ability of all parents—not just those in some districts—to choose the public school that best fits the needs of their children."

Since the ruling, charter school advocates have developed temporary strategies to keep schools open through the spring in hopes that state lawmakers will deliver a permanent fix this session. The state's charter school association has also formed a political action committee and contributed over $20,000 to campaign accounts of state legislators from both chambers and parties.

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