Judge rejects arguments linking charter public schools to education underfunding, denies standing for advocacy groups

In an important early decision in the lawsuit challenging the state’s Charter School Act (CSA), King County Superior Court Judge John H. Chun ruled for charter public school supporters. The Washington State Charter School Association summarizes:

In his decision, Judge Chun ruled that multiple organizational plaintiffs, including El Centro de La Raza, League of Women Voters, Aerospace Machinists Union, Washington Federation of State Employees, Teamsters and several others, did not qualify for standing…

Judge Chun also threw out two of plaintiffs’ baseless arguments in the case, dismissing (1) an attempt to tie charter public schools to the state’s underfunding of basic public education, as a separate matter based on speculation, and (2) an attack on last academic year’s operation of charter public schools through the ALE process as moot.

 We wrote of the lawsuit here, noting,

The charter school lawsuit has been panned by editorial boards across the state. [Attorney Rob] McKenna’s question is the right one: Why, indeed, are opponents trying to keep students out of the schools they want to attend?

A critical part of the decision is Judge Chun’s dismissal of the funding argument. 

Plaintiffs’ Ample Funding claim is predicated in large part on the Supreme Court’s findings in McCleary that the State is failing to satisfy its constitutional duty of ample provision. Yet, in making this argument, Plaintiffs highlight in significant part failures that predate the enactment of the CSA this year. In addition, the broad allegation that the CSA is worsening the McCleary harm and will inhibit the State from meeting its 2018 deadline is speculative and theoretical at this point. (Citations omitted.)

Further, Plaintiffs speculate that lottery revenue will prove insufficient to fund charter schools, that the legislature will shift funds between the opportunity pathways account and the general fund, and that funds will be diverted away from other public schools. The CSA does not indicate any such diversion. (Emphasis added.)

Underscoring the role charter public schools play in providing a beneficial educational alternative for parents and students is this excellent commentary in The News Tribune by Crystal Swaffer, a parent with two children attending the SOAR Academy, a charter public school in Tacoma.

Charters are attracting more parents in Washington who hear success stories and want terrific outcomes for their own children. It’s why my family became a SOAR family. And it’s why hundreds of other families in Washington have chosen charter schools, too.

Such success is why parents like me are so saddened to see lobbying groups misuse our justice system to start another political fight. Fueling controversy around charters with legal battles helps no one — and my family and children bear the cost. 

I will continue to fight for charters, even in the face of intimidation tactics like this lawsuit, because I believe in these schools and cannot fathom my family’s future without them. Our sons are thriving at SOAR, and we love being a SOAR family. 

What more is there to fight about?

Good question.