Washington Charter Schools Back on Trial
Two years ago, in League of Women Voters v. State, the Washington Supreme Court declared the state's charter school law unconstitutional. The court reasoned that the state constitution requires the state to create and fund “a general and uniform system of public schools," and “the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools.” Because charters schools are not "common schools" and yet receive common school funds, the court found the statute unconstitutional.
The Washington legislature has since passed new charter school legislation and plaintiffs sued again. Last week, a Washington trial court rejected their claims.
Plaintiffs raise very similar claims as in the first litigation: a) that the statute violates the constitutions general and uniform requirement (along with its funding scheme); b) that the charter law improperly delegates the authority to charter schools and deprives the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s of power.
The King County Superior Court concluded that charter schools can fall within the "the general and uniform system of public schools" and, thus, the act was permissible. The court's support for this conclusion was largely premised on the notion that charters are public schools and credits from them are transferable to traditional public schools.
This, however, should be largely beside the point. It may answer the question of whether charters are public schools, but it does not answer whether they common schools or part of a general and uniform system. To be fair, Education Law Prof Blog: