Former Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge urges court to reconsider charter school decision

The News Tribune carries a thoughtful commentary by former state Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge, who joined the court after serving in the Legislature (D-Seattle). Talmadge writes,

The Washington Supreme Court must reconsider its recent ruling that declared public charter schools unconstitutional… the decision could not only effectively destroy public charter schools, taking away public school options for 1,300 enrolled students and thousands in the future, but also many other innovative programs like Running Start, which allows high school students to take community college classes.

I disagree with the court’s majority opinion. It relies on an antiquated 1909 definition of public education and ignores recent, binding legal precedent that allows for flexibility in our public education system.

Read the whole thing for his reasoning, delves into legislative and judicial history, as well as education finance.

Also take a look at this statement by Greg Richmond, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Richmond explicitly challenges the argument that charter schools “lack public oversight and accountability.” He writes,

Washington’s charter schools are overseen by and accountable to the public. Seven of the state’s nine current charter schools are overseen and held accountable by the Washington State Charter School Commission, a state agency. Who are these Commissioners? They are appointees of the Governor and the legislative leaders. Governor Inslee himself appointed one-third of the Commissioners, including the Chairman.

If the Governor and legislature are not a suitable form of “public oversight and accountability,” then there is no public oversight and accountability anywhere for anything in Washington.

The other two charter schools are overseen by the Spokane School Board.

Finally, the Washington Research Council highlights a recent study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. The WRC quotes from the research,

Students in urban charter schools showed much more dramatic benefits:

“Across 41 regions, urban charter schools on average achieve significantly greater student success in both math and reading, which amounts to 40 additional days of learning growth in math and 28 days of additional growth in reading. Compared to the national profile of charter school performance, urban charters produce more positive results. CREDO’s National Charter School Study results in 2013 found that charter schools provided seven additional days of learning per year in reading and no significant difference in math.”

An appeal of the court decision is expected soon.