Monday, October 18, 2021

Washington court: charters are constitutional


Charter school opponents lost a court battle late last week in Washington state, as a judge in King County Superior Court ruled that a coalition of parents, educators, and civic groups had failed to demonstrate that charter school were unconstitutional, the Seattle Times reports.

Washington has eight charter school in all, and about 1,600 students are enrolled in those schools, according to the Washington State Charter Schools Association. The present lawsuit is part of an ongoing legal battle over charter schools in the state.

In 2015, the state Supreme Court ruled that the funding mechanism for charter school did violate the state’s constitution. After that ruling, state lawmakers passed a new law that provided funds for the charters by way of a lottery, and that seemed to pass muster.

In this case, charter opponents sued over what they claim is the non-accountability of charter schools, which are public schools in that they accept all students. They’re run or managed by private corporations, though.

The plaintiffs claimed this failed to create a “general and uniform system of public schools,” since charter schools were exempt from certain accountability requirements the state imposes on traditional public schools.

But the court ruled that their argument “lacks ripeness,” finding that even the statewide commission that can intervene to approve charter schools is supported by the state constitution in that charter schools are ultimately answerable to voters through other elected officials:

Not only does the Commission not displace the Superintendent’s supervisory power, the Act assigns the Superintendent additional supervisory duties. The Superintendent or a designee is a member of the Commission, and continues to supervise many aspects of basic education delivered in charter schools. For example, the Superintendent develops the EALRs and the statewide assessment system.

And since charter schools are required to test students on those state-approved learning standards, the claim by plaintiffs that they lack accountability to the voters of the state was rejected.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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