Sunday, June 5, 2016
By Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-32
A number of people have asked me why I voted for Charter Schools last session. I would like to provide a response.
The Charter School vote was one of the hardest I have ever taken. I voted against Charters in the legislature a decade ago, when the bill passed and was repealed by the voters, and I voted against the initiative to create Charters. However, the initiative passed, very narrowly, but it became the law. Many bills pass the legislature narrowly – the margin doesn’t matter. They become law.
Nine Charters were created as a result of the initiative passing. I went to visit one of those schools, Summit, in January before returning to Olympia. I met many students who had struggled in their schools and were two or three years behind. It was a remarkably diverse population of students with a high percentage on free and reduced lunch. The students I met were excited about their new school and were engaged in their education. I could not see the benefit of closing their school.
My primary focus in the legislature during my entire tenure has been creating opportunities for children and youth who face the greatest barriers to success. That is why I have fought for high quality early learning opportunities for low income children. Research shows that is absolutely the best investment we can make in their future success. A drop-out reengagement bill I passed six years ago has allowed over 4,000 drop-outs to get their high school diploma. I have sponsored bills to improve education for foster children, mental health services for children, and bills to provide stronger support for children struggling to stay in school.
I do not see the Charter School bill as a threat to public education, or I wouldn’t have supported it. The bill we passed limits the number of Charter Schools to 40. We have over 2200 public schools in this state. The funding in this budget for Charters is $10 million. The funding for K-12 is over $18 billion. Charter Schools are not a threat to our public education system. Our failure to fully fund our public schools is the threat; it should be the main focus of this campaign and of the Democratic party this year.
I voted for over a billion dollars in taxes three years ago when the House passed Representative Reuven Carlyle’s bill closing tax loopholes and extending the B&O surcharge. The funding was dedicated to public education. We would likely not currently be in contempt of court if that bill had passed the Senate. We must now raise over $3 billion next year to meet our constitutional obligation. The Charter School issue is a distraction from this imperative.
Rep. Kagi represents the 32nd legislative district in Washington state House of Representatives. The 32nd Legislative District includes the city of Shoreline, part of northwest Seattle, the town of Woodway and nearby unincorporated areas of Snohomish County, south Edmonds, the city of Lynnwood, and part of Mountlake Terrace.