By Felicia Hyllested, West Seattle Parent
As a West Seattle family, we are heartbroken and deeply disappointed by the Washington Supreme Court’s ruling that charter schools’ public funding is unconstitutional. This unjust ruling is not only affecting 1,300 students who are currently enrolled in these schools, but also impacting hundreds more like ourselves who were eager for the choice of a public charter school.
Nine years ago we moved to Seattle because we wanted to raise our children in a forward thinking, open-minded city that was culturally diverse and intellectually progressive. We were excited to apply for Summit Public Charter School’s new West Seattle school, set to open in 2016, in particular because of their mission to provide an intentionally diverse student population under a successfully proven educational model.
My kids want to attend a middle school where they have a voice in what and how they learned. We as parents were elated to know that the voters in Washington were acknowledging the need for some type of educational reform — or at the very least more choices for families. And I, as a city of Seattle taxpayer and active parent volunteer in the Seattle Public School system, was excited to see a public school option that was providing an alternative to moving my kids into an overcrowded middle school where they would get lost in the system.
My support and excitement to be a part of the charter school environment has brought with it an overwhelming amount of criticism and backlash from people who have been led to believe that charter schools take money away from the public schools. This is not true. The money follows the children, and the public schools in West Seattle in particular are losing those kids to private schools, the Vashon Islands School District, and homeschooling. These alternative schooling choices are not viable options for most families, especially those who are lower income. The charter school initiative was approved by voters as a public school option, and it is therefore open to the public.
Currently two-thirds of the charter student population comes from low-income families and nearly 70-percent are students of color. Washington voters should be appalled and ashamed to know that an initiative that they passed was revoked potentially displacing these children who were vested and thriving in the charter school environment.
I urge our elected officials to represent these children and do all they can to get this ruling overturned. Something needs to change in regards to our public education, and taking away a positive life-changing opportunity for children who may not have the chance otherwise is simply wrong.