Washington state charter schools are open as usual today despite Friday’s state Supreme Court decision that charters are unconstitutional. Families of charter school students are trying to figure out what comes next.
Austin Hilburn started sixth grade at Excel Public Charter School in Kent just three weeks ago. When he got the news about the court’s decision, he was in shock. He said he gets a lot more attention at Excel than he did at his old public school.
“It’s just fun," Austin said. "Whenever you’re doing something, even if it’s not supposed to fun, when you’re doing a test, when you’re doing all these subjects, it’s not boring. You never get bored!”
Deanne Hilburn teared up as she listened to her son get so enthusiastic about school.
“He’s gone from being an angry, frustrated boy to a wonderful, responsible young man. And I know that that’s always been in him, but the poor teachers at our old school couldn’t nurture those qualities because their hands were always so full with so many other disciplinary problems.”
It’s not clear what will happen to Austin and the other 1,000-plus students who attend the state’s nine charter schools. Charter advocates’ first hope is for the Legislature to convene in a special session and allow a different public funding mechanism. Otherwise, they’re looking at ways charters could contract with school districts or become private schools.
Right now, there are more questions than answers. But one thing is for certain as far as Austin Hilburn is concerned. If Excel closes, “I will be really, really sad.”
Read more reactions to the charter school ruling — and add your own — on KUOW's Facebook page.