Washington’s public charter schools are flourishing, with 2,400 enrolled and promising early indications of student success. But a shadow remains over the these schools. And the state Supreme Court should put a stop to it.
Thursday, the fledgling public charter schools system faced the justices for a second time to defend against another aggressive maneuver orchestrated mostly by the state teachers union. These tactics squander public resources, flout the will of the voters who passed the charter initiative in 2012 and get in the way of the system’s development.
The justices ought to make this the last time this robust community of public schools — designed especially to serve children from low-income families enrolled in low-performing schools — must fight for its very existence in court.
We recommend reading the editorial, which effectively makes its case in support of this mainstream educational alternative.
Education Week reported before the hearing,
Passed by voter referendum in 2012, the law has been caught in the crosshairs of national charter school advocates and the state’s teachers’ union ever since.
The Washington Education Association, along with the Washington League of Women Voters and several other groups, challenged the voter-approved charter law and the state supreme court ruled in their favor in 2015.
It was the first time in the country that a state supreme court ruled wholesale against a charter school law.
And, as Education Week points out, the Legislature fixed the problem the court identified (Although there were and are good reasons to believe there was no problem.)
A bill that changed the funding source for charter schools and subjected them to more regulations and elected oversight barely squeezed out of the legislature the following spring. Several state lawmakers were concerned that the revised law would have trouble passing constitutional muster should it be challenged again. And as a sign of the shaky political ground the law still stood on, Gov. Jay Inslee refused to sign the new legislation, allowing the bill to go into law without his signature.
Within a week, the WEA announced plans to file a new lawsuit on the grounds that the new law still did not require enough oversight from publicly elected officials and still diverted money from district schools, even though it’s drawing from a separate pool of money. But a lower court judge ruled that the law was constitutional in early 2017
Meanwhile, charter public schools are doing their jobs. The Spokesman-Review’s account of yesterday’s hearing provides a good example.
After the one-hour argument before the court, some 1,500 students, parents and supporters of charter schools gathered on the north steps of the domed Legislative Building across from the Temple of Justice.
“This is a real-life civics lesson,” Patrick D’Amelio, the charter school association chief executive officer, told the cheering crowd. “In the face of all this, we just keep moving forward.”
Heidi Mitchell, the mother of a student at Pride Prep charter school in Spokane, said her son J.D., who has mild dyslexia, enrolled in the charter school after struggling in public school.
“The change was phenomenal,” Mitchell said. “These are our schools and this is our voice. We’ll keep fighting for that option.”
It’s an option worth the fight.
No quick decision is expected. It took the court about a year to rule in the previous case. When it does, as the ST editorial states,
The Supreme Court must end this legal battle and allow the charter system to show it is making a difference for Washington children.