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Washington state Supreme Court upholds charter school law

Oct. 26, 2018
State's charter school law was revised in 2016 after the justices ruled the earlier version was flawed.

The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that using lottery money to pay for charter schools does not violate the state constitution.

The Seattle Times reports that the justices decided to uphold most of a 2016 law that authorized allocating lottery money for charter schools. But the court struck a provision that restricted charter schools from unionizing across schools, the way most teachers unions operate in traditional school districts.

Charter-school advocates celebrated the ruling, but the state teachers union expressed its disappointment. 

Charter schools have engendered intense opposition and litigation in Washington since they were first approved to open in 2012. Twelve such schools have opened and enroll about 3,500 students.

A legal challenge in 2015 dealt a blow to the charter-school movement when the state Supreme Court ruled that allocating money from the state’s general fund to the schools was unconstitutional.

A year later, the legislature passed a law that provides state aid for charters through lottery revenues.

In her lead opinion, Justice Mary Yu rejected arguments from charter-school opponents that the schools were unconstitutional because local voters do not control them. 

In a dissent, Justice Charles Wiggins found the state’s charter-school law is unconstitutional because it gives the state schools chief only one seat on an 11-member commission that oversees charter schools. 

Charter-school advocates called the ruling a win.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the students of Washington state, a win for public education and a big step forward in the fight to close the opportunity gap that persists in our state,” Washington State Association of Charter Schools CEO Patrick D’Amelio says.

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