Journal of Educational Controversy

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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Washington State Supreme Court Rules Washington Charter Schools are Unconstitutional


The Washington State Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the charter school law in the state of Washington violated the state constitution.    After three earlier defeats at the voting booth, Washington voters, in a campaign that was heavily influenced by the backing of big money, narrowly voted for initiative 1240 in 2012, an initiative that created charter schools in the state.

 In a decision that came down yesterday, the High Court found that charter schools do not fall under the definition of common schools as defined in the state constitution.  "Because charter schools under I-1240 are run by an appointed board or nonprofit organization and thus are not subject to local voter control, they cannot qualify as 'common schools' within the meaning of Article IX" [of the state constitution], Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote on behalf of the majority. Indeed, the High Court stated, “Under the Act (I-1240), charter schools are devoid of local control from their inception to their daily operations.”

Because charter schools do not fall under the Washington State constitution’s definition of common schools, funds intended for the common schools cannot be diverted to charter schools.  I-1240 “relies on common school funds as its funding choice,” Madsen wrote.  “Without those funds, the Act cannot function as intended.” 

The High Court found that diverting public school funds to charter schools was a violation of the state constitution.

 Madsen made clear that the issue before the court was not about the “merits or demerits of charter schools,” but only if the voter-approved initiative was in compliance with the state constitution.

 Chief Justice Madsen was joined in the ruling by Justices Charles Johnson, Charles Wiggins, Mary Yu, Debra Stevens and Susan Owens.

 Appellants in the case were a coalition of groups including the League of Women Voters, the Washington Education Association, El Centro de la Raza, and the Washington Association of School Administrators and several individual plaintiffs.

 Readers can read the full decision at: http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/897140.pdf

 The decision follows another one that we reported on in the post below.  In that decision, the court had ruled that the Washington State legislature had failed to adequately fund public education in the state and imposed a $100000 daily sanction on the legislature. See our earlier post

 

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