Public education advocates are welcoming the Washington State Supreme Court's ruling late Friday that the state's charter school law is unconstitutional.
The Seattle Times reports that
The ruling — believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country — overturns the law [I-1240] voters narrowly approved in 2012 allowing publicly funded, but privately operated, schools.
Teacher and author Mercedes Schneider offers more on the Act:
As is true of charter schools nationwide, the charters in Washington State (up to the current ruling) were eligible for public funding diverted from traditional public schools. Charter schools were approved via a November 2012 ballot initiative (I-1240, the Charter Schools Act) in which charters were declared to be “common schools” despite their not being subject to local control and local accountability. And also like America’s charters in general, Washington’s charters are not under the authority of elected school boards.
Thus, Washington voters had approved to give public money to private entities—a one-way street that provided no means for such funds to overseen by the public.
That approval, as Education policy analyst Diane Ravtich explains, came thanks to a big-money effort.
The new ruling (pdf) states that charters, "devoid of local control from their inception to their daily operation," cannot be classified as "common schools," nor have "access to restricted common school funding."
Ravitch writes that the 6-3 decision "is a big win for parents and public schools," and that it "gives hope to parents all across America, who see charter schools draining funding from their public schools, favoring the privileges of the few over the rights of the many."
The Washington Education Association (WEA), which, along with the League of Women Voters and El Centro de la Raza were part of the coalition that challenged the law, applauded the decision.
"The Supreme Court has affirmed what we’ve said all along—charter schools steal money from our existing classrooms, and voters have no say in how these charter schools spend taxpayer funding," said Kim Mead, president of the WEA, in a statement.
"Instead of diverting taxpayer dollars to unaccountable charter schools, it’s time for the Legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools so that all of Washington’s children get the quality education the Constitution guarantees them," Mead continued.
The Associated Press reports that the state had one charter school last year, and eight more have opened in the past few weeks.