I attended the first hearing on the constitutionality of I-1240, the Washington State Charter School law.
To be clear, this hearing was pretty meaningless. No matter who wins or loses, this case will appealed all the way to the State Supreme Court. None of the decisions in any of the lower courts will matter. Only the one decision from the State Supreme Court will decide this.
The hearing was pretty quick, about an hour. The petitioners, the folks wanting the law declared unconstitutional spoke first. They focused on two points more than any others. First, the constitution's requirement that the Superintendent of Public Instruction have authority over all schools - they say that the law grants authority over charter schools to the Charter School Commission instead - and a line from the Seattle Schools decision (the first time that school districts sued the state for underfunding education) in which the Court delineated the legislature's three indelegable responsibilities to public education. and that among them was the duty to deliver a program of instruction. They contended that charter schools constituted an unconstitutional delegation of that duty.
Frankly I could not believe that they put so much weight on these two rather weak points.
The attorney general's office, defending the law, asked for a summary dismissal of the complaint because the petitioners had failed so completely to make any kind of case. They then countered the two arguments by saying that the OSPI sets the EALRs, the Standards, and chooses the student proficiency exams and that's all the control they have over any school. Furthermore, since 1240 requires the closure of any charter school if its students perform poorly on these tests, 1240 gives the Superintendent of Public Instruction MORE control over these schools than any other. They countered the other argument by saying that the legislature delegates the delivery of basic education to school districts and that the charter school commission fulfills the role of a school district under the law.
On the whole, I'd say that the petitioners didn't choose their arguments well, and that the attorney general crushed them.
The judge refused to offer a ruling immediately. She will review their briefs and "take it under advisement". She'll get back to them with a decision. I hope she does it promptly. Her decision doesn't much matter and the sooner we get to the Supreme Court the better.