As of Tuesday, April 5, 2016
OLYMPIA Charter school backers in Washington state are breathing a sigh of relief after legislation funding the schools became law Sunday.
In response to a state Supreme Court ruling last September, Senate Bill 6194 designates money for charter schools from state lottery funds, rather than local tax levies.
Legislators in the House and Senate approved the measure, putting it on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.
Friday afternoon, Inslee announced he would let the bill become law without his signature.
“I am not interested in closing schools in a manner that disrupts the education of hundreds of students,” Inslee wrote in a letter to Secretary of State about his decision.
“However, I remain deeply concerned about the public accountability and oversight provisions of the bill. This bill provides an option for similar oversight, but would ultimately allow unelected boards to make decisions about how to spend public money,” Inslee wrote.
Inslee’s decision marks the first time in 35 years a Washington governor allowed a measure to become law without signing it.
David Ammons with the Secretary of State’s office said the previous occurrence was Gov. John Spellman. In that instance, Spellman let bills related to mandatory school busing and ferry labor issues become law minus his signature.
A Republican challenger for governor in this November’s General Election, Bill Bryant, said Inslee’s decision reflects, “…zero leadership on education.”
Bryant added, “By refusing to take a position on charter schools, (Inslee) has shown political favors are more important to him than kids.”
Senate Bill 6194 officially became law Sunday, and preserves funding for charter schools after last year’s Supreme Court ruling threatened to close them.
Nine charter schools served students during the 2015-16 school year. They were created following passage of Initiative 1240 in 2012.
A Sunnyside group tried to establish a charter school here after voters approved Initiative 1240. The group’s application to state officials was unsuccessful.
One of the organizers of that effort, Brittany Weaver, praised passage of Senate Bill 6194.
“We are thrilled,” Weaver said, noting the bill allows “…charter schools to continue as an education option in our state.”
The news, though, isn’t enough to prompt the group to try again for a local charter school.
“Charter Schools of Sunnyside has no intention of reapplying in the foreseeable future,” Weaver said.
She said the group instead plans to work within the current system.
“As individuals, we are continuing to add our support to the improvement of the Sunnyside School District,” Weaver said.