School Choice & Charters

Washington State Supreme Court Will Not Reconsider Charter School Ruling

By Arianna Prothero — November 20, 2015 2 min read
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The Washington state Supreme Court has said it will not reconsider its September ruling that charter schools are unconstitutional.

Several groups, including the Washington State Charter School Association and the state’s attorney general, had asked the court to reexamine its decision.

Nine charter schools opened while the state’s charter school law was in legal limbo.

But this news out of Washington’s high court doesn’t appear to mark the end of the fight for the state’s charter schools.

“We now look to the legislature to fix the glitch that allowed the court to rule against charter schools and the students they serve,” said Nina Rees, the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in a statement. “The legislature must take immediate corrective action so that schools stay open and children remain in school.”

The announcement follows a rally held by a group launched just this week, called Act Now for Washington Students, with the goal of halting the closure of any charter schools that have already opened.

“While we are working on contingency plans that will keep Washington’s charters schools open and kids in class, the urgency for legislators to act to keep school doors open is even greater,” the group said in a statement. “We are calling on them to act now for Washington students by finding a permanent solution that keeps the school house doors open.”

In its original decision, the state supreme court ruled that charter schools did not qualify as ‘common’ schools—basically public schools—in part because they were not run by voter-elected school boards. Without that designation, charter schools weren’t eligible for the funding they expected to get, and the court reasoned that voters would never have approved the creation of charter schools in a 2012 ballot initiative if there was no money to pay for them. (You can read the full decision here.)

“As educators, we want what’s best for all students,” said Kim Mead the president of the Washington Education Association, which was party to the case, in a statement. “That means amply funding K-12 public schools for all of Washington’s students and an education system that is governed by locally elected school district directors. Diverting money from our local public schools and giving it to private entities is unconstitutional.”

The Washington high court ruling marked the first time in the country that a state supreme court has struck down a charter school law, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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Photo: Students and other advocates of charter schools rally at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., on Nov. 19. —Rachel La Corte/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.