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.  
Further:
"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.

8 comments:

Watching said...

Last year the legislature left Olympia without a transportation package, and funded education by eliminating COLA and moving school construction dollars to operations.

Here is what Ross Hunter has to say:

"Charters could exist without state property-tax dollars, he said, but the Legislature would have to fund them through other means.

House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said he hadn’t yet read the ruling, but he doesn’t think it will have much impact.

Even if charter schools can’t be financed with state property taxes, he said, “We use all kinds of money to pay for public schools.”

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022452464_charterrulingxml.html

Melissa Westbrook said...

Watching, I read all that but what they are saying does make a lot of sense. What money do they propose to use to fund charters if not state tax money? And would you want to open a charter school with this lack of clarity especially around funding?

Watching said...

Not sure, but Gates has provided League of Education Voters with $4.2M for charter expansion in Wa. State.

Gates has also sent dollars to California for charter expansion in Washington.

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database/Grants/2013/10/OPP1095105

Charlie Mas said...

While it appears a bit meaningful that the judge determined that charter schools are not common schools - at least for some purposes - this ruling doesn't matter.

This case will be decided by the Supreme Court and nowhere else. Whether either side scored a win, a loss, or a tie at this level is almost meaningless.

Eric B said...

The property tax limitation doesn't really matter much unless the total dollars for charter schools exceeds the income from sales taxes. that's pretty much what Hunter is saying--we'll pretend that this piece of money is only funded by sales taxes, or lottery, or whatever.

Dora said...

Here's my take on it What the court ruling on charter schools means for the state of Washington, so far

Watching said...

Keep an eye on the legislature. I'm understanding that the legislature can create a new funding stream for privately managed charter schools. and are not considered "common schools".

Melissa Westbrook said...

Frankly, anyone could have seen this coming.

The promoters of 1240 kept saying it was the best written law (it's not, ask the Charter Commission and AG).

But they got a lot of this (plus that lovely conversion charter part) from a template. Those writers did NOT know that Washington State is unique in the country in how our state constitution considers public education.

That was their flaw (and it may be fatal).

Find another money stream for charters? I'll believe that simply because there are those who believe they MUST get charters underway so that they can argue damage if they try to close them later. But for all the "no new revenue streams for education" so where will the money come from?