Future of “Unconstitutional” Seattle Charter Schools

Charter schools are unconstitutional in the State of Washington, according to a September 4 ruling by that state’s Supreme Court. The ruling left charter schools consulting attorneys and hundreds of Seattle families in “chaos,” according to the Seattle Times. Tune in Thursday to hear the latest on this ruling, its aftermath and significance in Washington State and beyond. Melissa Westbrook, Seattle activist/blogger, has been following this development closely and joined We Act Radio’s Education Town Hall to share history, update, and analysis.

The ruling, while very specific to Washington’s constitution, brings up issues common across the country.

Track 4 below —


WA Supreme Court: Charters not “Common Schools”

The law in question — “Initiative I-1240” or the “Charter School Act” — was passed by state referendum in 2012. Shortly thereafter, a coalition including the League of Women Voters of Washington, the Washington Education Association, and a number of other organizations and individuals sued to stop the Act. The September 4 decision
declares that “the diversion of basic education funds allocated to the support of the common schools and common school construction funds is unconstitutional and void.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling begins with three basic facts about the Act:

  • “Under the Act , charter schools are devoid of local control from their inception to their daily operation.”
  • “As for daily operation, charter schools are not governed by elected local school boards.”
  • “As for funding, the Act requires the superintendent to apportion funds to charter schools on the same basis as public school districts.”

The analysis also explains that educational merits are the Court’s concern:

Our inquiry is not concerned with the merits or demerits of charter schools. Whether charter schools would enhance our state’s public school system or appropriately address perceived shortcomings of that system are issues for the legislature and the voters.

rulingComplete ruling here: WA State Supreme Court Ruling

John Higgins of the Seattle Times notes that this decision is “believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country” (See “State Supreme Court: Charter Schools Are Unconstitutional).”

Melissa Westbrook, long-time education activist and observer of Seattle and Washington public school issues, blogs for the Seattle Schools Community Forum. She was active in the campaign against I-1240.

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