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Thursday, December 12, 2013
Washington State Charter Law; Kinda, Sorta Overturned
Someone, quick, get me a lawyer!
Naturally, I go out of town and this ruling comes down and I am scrambling to get info and understand it.
Here is the basic understanding of Judge Rietschel's ruling per Diane Ravitch:
“In a ruling issued today (pdf), King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel has tossed out the heart of Washington State’s charter schools law on the grounds that it violates the constitutional provision that state education revenues be “exclusively applied to the support of the common schools.”
“But, Judge Rietschel concludes: “A charter school cannot be defined as a common school because it is not under the control of the voters of the school district. The statute places control under a private non-profit organization, a local charter board and/or the Charter Commission.”
“In other words, charter schools may not be funded with state dollars dedicated to funding our state’s common schools.”
That last part is the key.
She said that under the court case Bryan, "the legislature 'by any designation or defintion' establish a common school that does not meet the minimum constitutional criteria. Bryan has NOT been overruled.
"A charter school cannot be defined as a common school because it is not under the control of the voters of the school district.
This is key. However, she goes on:
Considering the requirements the charter schools must comply with, namely educational goals. et al, the court holds that the charter school act meets the definition of a general and uniform school system. The Plaintiffs have not made a sufficient showing for facial invalidity on this ground."
So charters are not - financially - common schools but they are legally?
What I believe I am seeing as I read the ruling is that the Court can't go on "this may happen" or "may be true" - the Court needs to see it play out in real time and THEN rule on if what happens is unconstitutional.
It is unclear to me what it all means for funding. Are charters NOT eligible for state dollars of any kind or only levy dollars? And, if levy dollars, both operations and capital or only capital?
I suspect an appeal may come.
Update: Both sides are claiming something of a victory per remarks in the Times. I honestly think it is quite up in the air how charters can be funded and the plaintiffs have said they will go to a higher court. I don't think it is a comfortable spot for any charter applicant or would-be applicant to be in.
P.S. I don't say this a lot but I did say - repeatedly - that part or all of this thing would be overturned. And it was.