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On Friday, September 4, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled charter schools were unconstitutional. The ruling relied on the 1909 case School District 20 v. Bryan. The court stated,
“Bryan established the rule that “a common school, within the meaning of our constitution, is one that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free, and subject to and under the control of the qualified voters of the school district. The complete control of the schools is a most important feature, for it carries with it the right of the voters, through their chosen agents, to select qualified teachers, with powers to discharge them if they are incompetent.” …
Here, because charter schools under 1-1240 are run by an appointed board or nonprofit organization and thus are not subject to local voter control, they cannot qualify as “common schools”….”
Heather Kays of School Reform News commented,
“The Washington State Supreme Court really dug deep to make this decision. We are talking about referencing a definition from a 1909 case, School District 20 vs. Bryan. We aren’t talking about a fundamental freedom spelled out in our nation’s constitution or Washington State’s constitution. The court largely based its ruling on its interpretation of the term ‘common schools.’
Essentially, the ruling makes the claim charters are not public schools, which is flat out inaccurate. Charter schools are public schools, which operate independently and have more autonomy than traditional public schools. Charter schools are public schools. It’s in the definition.
Charter schools also typically close within three years if they are failing students. Which is somewhat terrifying to those with a stake in protecting traditional public schools. To the teachers unions and their allies, who have a stranglehold over all things education in the State of Washington, this law smells too much like school choice.”
This 2012 charter law came into being because of a ballot initiative. The majority of states in the United States now have charter school laws on the books. The court’s decision to wait for school to start to make this decision , when it will directly, immediately affect hundreds of students, is irresponsible. The court made a disappointing decision in this case and parents, teachers, and taxpayers should all stand up and demand more.”
The court says the voters at the state level do not have control over local issues, such as school choice, yet the voters approved the referendum. The voters also voted for and elected their state legislators and governor.
The court failed to recognize all the traditional public schools in the state are controlled with federal and state mandates on instruction, hiring, and other requirements, rendering approximately 80 percent of the school districts’ budgets under federal and state control rather than local control.
The Washington Supreme Court itself is involved in setting education policy. The court held the legislature in contempt for violating the McCleary decision on funding education on Thursday, August 13. The legislature appropriated more funds for education this session, but the court ordered additional funding for the following:
The state needs to appropriate far more funds than it has for education. Low-income school districts need to meet class size goals by 2018, something that has not yet been laid out. And the state needs to pay for facilities for all-day kindergarten programs, something that was not included in the budget.
Two of the groups who sued to stop the charter schools were the Washington Education Association and the Washington Association of School Administrators; both have a very strong interest in maintaining their monopoly status over the public schools and their budgets.
This ruling is an egregious decision that makes protecting the teachers union more important than the education needs of the children of Washington.