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Charter schools in Washington state declared unconstitutional

Charter schools in Washington state declared unconstitutional

Charter advocates vow to work to overturn court decision.

The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled in a 6-to-3 decision that charter schools are unconstitutional.

The Seattle Times reports that the decision overturns a law that voters narrowly approved in 2012 to allow the publicly funded, privately operated schools.

Eight new charter schools have opened in Washington State for 2015-16, in addition to one that opened in Seattle last year.

In the ruling, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that charter schools aren’t “common schools” because they’re governed by appointed rather than elected boards. Therefore, “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools.”

The charter school law was challenged by several groups, including the Washington Education Association (WEA), the Washington Association of School Administrators, the League of Women Voters and El Centro de la Raza.

The WEA praised the ruling.

“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,” says Kim Mead, president of the WEA.

State and national charter school advocates decried the ruling.

The Washington State Charter Schools Association says it "is shocked and deeply disappointed."

"Along with legal experts, we are carefully reviewing the decision to determine how this ruling will be applied," the association says. "...We will do everything in our power to ensure that there is no disruption for the students currently enrolled in Washington’s public charter schools."

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools called the ruling "wrongheaded and ill-advised."

"If new laws or constitutional amendments are necessary, we are ready to lend whatever help we can," the alliance vowed.

The Center for Education Reform also said it would work to keep charters a viable alternative in Washington.

“Since the news broke of the extremely politically controlled court’s decision, we’ve been in contact with local and national leaders and join them in condemning the court’s decision against this voter-approved public charter school law,” says Kara Kerwin, president of the center. "The fact that the state’s eight public charter schools were filled to capacity indicates the desire from parents to have alternative options like public charter schools. Action must be taken immediately to ensure these options continue to be available for students and families.”


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