Washington’s charter school law may have been ruled unconstitutional, but the Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle’s International District will remain open.
The Washington Supreme Court’s ruling has been controversial, with some saying it halts educational progress on a technicality.
Jen Wickens, the chief regional officer for the Summit Sierra charter school, described the recent ruling as a shock. She had been told, based on what’s happened in other states, that there was no way the courts would outlaw charters.
“It’s not OK. It’s horrible. This is devastating for families,” Wickens said.
But no matter, they’re not closing. How will they continue? Summit Sierra will simply stay open as a home school, which remains legal.
“We will walk parents through the process of completing the home school form and turning it in. And we will continue business as usual,” Wickens said, noting that students are still in class with teachers at Summit Sierra.
“After Sept. 24, we will not be a charter school, temporarily, we will be running a home school program,” she said.
Wickens is hoping that state legislators can step in and solve the constitutional conflict.
“We absolutely need a special session, immediately,” she said, noting that the school will have a rally on the issue on Thursday, Sept. 10.
“I taught in Seattle Public Schools, I taught in Highline, and I see the power of what public charter schools have brought to Washington state,” Wickens said.
Wickens said that she founded a free public charter school in Haywood, Calif., and watched those founding students go to four-year colleges. She said that she returned to Washington to bring that success here.
Of course, even though Summit Sierra will remain open, it will get no state money. Since their costs are about $12,500 per student, that will mean fundraising.
“Today we gathered all of our families to show them that we are deeply committed to them,” Wickens said. “I was so inspired by their commitment to their school, not just for their child but for every single child that would have attended Summit Public Schools in the future. They want to ensure that this is an opportunity for all kids across the state.”
As for the principal of Summit Sierra, Malia Burns, the charter school law was why she moved back home from Chicago. Running this school is her dream.
She says teachers have turned this into an educational opportunity for the students.
“We will give them the opportunity to write an op-ed about how they feel about the situation. We will turn them into advocates for what they believe they deserve for a choice in school,” Burns said.
“I think about all the families that deserve options. I think about our state that should open doors to innovative tools for educations,” she said. “Although I’m personally saddened that it could be harder for us to retain our families, I’m so grateful that we have a short-term and long-term strategy to keep our school open. The idea that innovation and education reform could take longer or be hindered by this is really sad.”