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Voices for Equity: Advocating for Charter School Funding in Washington State

Voices for Equity: Advocating for Charter School Funding in Washington State

February 9, 2024

In Washington state, a chorus of voices is rising, echoing the urgent need for equitable funding for all public schools and the students who attend them. These impassioned pleas come from diverse perspectives—educators, students, and parents—each sharing their unique experiences and underscoring the vital importance of bridging the funding gap for students, especially those who are already historically underserved. 

“[W]e want to do what’s right for all. We know charter schools serve more students from the Global Majority. We know charter schools serve more students with special education. We know students from charter schools are actually built within the community. And what I know for sure as an educator is equal resources for a public school is what every person needs for today and tomorrow.” 

– Marcus Harden, Chief Academic Officer at Why Not You Academy 

As it currently stands, the average student at Washington state charter schools receives 25% less in ongoing funding than a student attending another type of public school, a gap of approximately $3,000 per student on average.  

That isn’t right. Especially when you consider that Washington state’s charter schools serve a higher percentage of students who come from low-income households, receive special education services, or are Black, Indigenous, or people of color. 

“Charter public schools are amazing schools where many students attend and reflect on different learning strategies. We are public school students and we deserve to have equal funding just like students in district schools. Equal funding means students like me receive the same access to resources that my peers that traditional school districts receive.”  

– Betzy Espinoza, an 8th grade student at Pinnacles Prep in Wenatchee, Washington 

Additionally, Washington state’s charter public schools deliver results for students and families. According to the state’s latest Smarter Balanced standardized test results, the percentage of charter school students in Washington state scoring proficient in math went up nearly 15 points compared to those administered in the 2020-21 school year. 

These students deserve a public education that puts them on a path to a successful future—without the loss in funding. 

“This isn’t a matter of whether you like or dislike charter schools. This is a matter of how well you treat and protect our Black, Indigenous, and Global Majority children. This is about education needing to be fully funded for all our children as a basic education right. Anything other than a vote of yes on this bill highlights the racism and anti-black sentiments riddling our policies and social mindsets.” 

– Baionne Coleman, CEO of Ranier Valley Leadership Academy 

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As these voices and dozens more unite to advocate, their stories weave a powerful narrative that transcends individual experiences. The call for equal funding in charter public schools is not just a plea for financial support; it is a collective aspiration for a fair and inclusive education system that uplifts every student, regardless of their background or learning style. 

We should all agree funding students who attend public schools equally is a no-brainer. Let’s hope Washington state’s legislators see it that way too. 

Melinda Tolliver is the director of digital strategy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 

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