OLYMPIA… Public charter schools would remain available to Washington students under bipartisan legislation passed today by the Washington State Senate. The plan, sponsored by Sen. Steve Litzow and Sen. Mark Mullet, directs charter school funding to come from the state’s Opportunity Pathways Account, which contains state lottery revenues not restricted to common schools.

“One of the greatest challenges facing our state is education inequality,” said Litzow, who serves as chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. “We must continue to find innovative ways to ensure all children have access to a great education, one that prepares them to enter and succeed in college and compete for a good job.”

Bipartisan sponsors in the Senate and House of Representatives released the proposal ahead of the 2016 session to maintain voter-approved charters as one tool to address Washington’s opportunity gap following a state Supreme Court ruling declaring the schools unconstitutional.

“I believe we have an obligation to the more than 1,200 children attending charter schools to allow them to stay at the schools they have come to depend on to meet their educational needs,” said Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah. “I fear that if we don’t do something to protect these charter schools they will become a private option only available to families who have money. By keeping these schools public, we can make sure that all children regardless of economic standing have a wide range of educational options.”

This session the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee and Ways and Means Committee held public hearings where students and parents shared their experiences.

In September, 2015, the state Supreme Court declared charter schools unconstitutional and denied a reconsideration request from state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers, including Litzow and Mullet, also filed a brief with the court raising concerns about the ruling. Washington currently has eight open charter schools following the 2012 passage of Initiative 1240, which allows up to 40 schools to be opened by state-approved non-profit organizations.

The bill passed the Senate by a 27-20 margin and now heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration. The Legislature is in the 10th day of 2016’s 60-day session.