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Saturday, March 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Charter schools supporters rally at Pride Prep

Adults and students from Pride Prep and Spokane International Academy gather at Pride Prep for a rally supporting charter schools Friday in Spokane. (Dan Pelle)
Adults and students from Pride Prep and Spokane International Academy gather at Pride Prep for a rally supporting charter schools Friday in Spokane. (Dan Pelle)

Kyle McCarty’s sixth-grade daughter wakes up early because she’s excited to go to school at Pride Prep, one of Spokane’s two charter schools. That’s a big change for the 11-year-old, he said.

“I had to drag her out of bed for regular school,” McCarty said.

On Friday roughly 300 parents, teachers and administrators crowded into Pride Prep, to listen and share similar stories. They chanted “Save our schools” and other slogans.

“I love my school and I want it to stay open,” said sixth-grade Pride Prep student Marshall Wheatcroft.

The rally, one of several across the state, was staged a week after the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that state funding for charter schools is unconstitutional. Despite the ruling, administrators, parents, students and advocates are confident charter schools will remain open, even if that means funding them privately.

“I feel hopeful that our school can be here for this year, and many years,” said Travis Franklin, the founder of Spokane International Academy.

Pride Prep and Spokane International Academy will stay open for at least the remainder of the school year, thanks to a rescue fund established by the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

“Should the worst-case scenario come to fruition we will be well-positioned to make sure the kids and families are supported,” said Thomas Franta, the CEO of the association.

The worst-case scenario, according to Franta, is if the state cuts all funding for Washington’s charter schools.

“Our primary intent in doing this – in reaching out across the country for support – is we want to minimize disruption for kids and families,” Franta said.

The association has enough money to cover the estimated $14 million to $15 million Washington’s eight charter schools need to operate for the remainder of the school year, he said.

Although Franta didn’t disclose specific donors or amounts, he’s confident there will be plenty of money for the schools.

Still, he emphasized that for charter schools to last, there needs to be a change at the state level.

“Any fix that’s coming from me is going to be a short-term fix,” he said.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that he will file a motion asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling.

Chris Cargill, the Eastern Washington director of the Washington Policy Center, said charter schools are an important facet of education reform.

“Public charter schools are nothing to be afraid of,” said Cargill, who spoke at Pride Prep on Friday. “Washington state is actually late to the party.”

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