Friday, September 04, 2015

Washington State Charter Law Struck Down

Today the Washington Supreme Court struck down the charter school law.


The portions of the I-1240 designating charter schools as common schools violate article IX, section 2 of the Washington Constitution and are invalid.  For the same reason, the portions of I-1240 providing access to restricted common school funding are also invlaid.  These provisions are not severable and render entire Act unconstitutional.

Told you so.


mirmac1 said...

Because of this ruling, I'm declaring a national holiday this weekend! Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Melissa for your hard work.


Anonymous said...

I wonder what will happen to the students currently enrolled in charter schools?


Anonymous said...

So how many charter school students will be headed to the SPS and how soon?

Inquiring Mind

Anonymous said...

In the edupreneur world both knickers and knockers are in knots tonight. Loooooooong weekend ahead for the Reformies. I know it's smarmy and middle schoolish to gloat about this so I'm permitting myself just one evening to do so. Parteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.


Anonymous said...

I love our Supreme Court right now. They seem to love our children.

Patrick said...

Woohoo! yay, supremes!

Watch for the constitutional amendment campaign coming up.

Anonymous said...

Best news of the week! The Charter School Commission should have waited until this decision was rendered before approving any charter applications. I wonder what's next.

Longtime lurker

Po3 said...

What does this mean for the Charter schools in place and opening this fall?

Anonymous said...

I bet they will have to shut down. Who knows. At least there is time for those kids to join the common schools.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Freedom Church on 35th/Roxbury in West Seattle already had the cash from the sale of their building to the charter school organization. May have to ask the West Seattle Blog.

West Seattleite

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

I guess the charters will have to pay back any money already taken. I wonder if Bill G. will bail them out or if their parent edu. corps. will have to refund us.

Anonymous said...

So interesting to see all of you celebrating the fact that poor kids of color just got screwed. Enjoy your glasses of wine.


Citizen Kane

Anonymous said...

Poor kids of color??. Oh Citizen Kane, please Stop, in the name of love... I happen to know a number of Caucasian kids currently enrolled at Summit Charters.

-AH parent

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's a shame the charters got started while the Supreme Court was still working on its ruling. Yes, those kids will have a bumpy start this year. I am celebrating our commitment to common schools, educating all students, all races, all SES.

Anonymous said...

Oh, AH parent, since you know a number of white kids personally in charter schools, I'm gonna change my entire outlook on this situation. Thanks for turning me around.

Look up myopia in the dictionary. It could be enlightening.

Citizen Kane

seattle citizen said...

Yay! An end to the distraction, the unaccountable, privatized "schools" sucking fin ding from actual public schools!
Though I do feel for the students caught up in this boondoggle, students whose parents enrolled them in charters even as the court was reviewing their legality....but I know they will be welcome in their neighborhood public schools.

Anonymous said...

I am all for the Supreme Court reading the constitution and acting on it.

Did the state charter school commission read the constitution ? This decision was not unexpected.

Did the charter school commission make any provision for students if this likely decision occurred or are those kids and families simply neglected?

I will be waiting for Steve Sundquist to provide advice.

Inquiring Mind

Watching said...

Lisa MacFarlane, Shannon Campion and Chris Korsmo were instrumental in pushing charter schools and there was a BIG push to open charter schools- immediately!! It was NEVER a good idea to open charter schools before the court decision.

The Charter Commission freely admits to not having enough resources.

We were awaiting the Supreme Court Decision and the district foolishly asked the board for permission to become a charter school authorizer. The board was smart to disallow the district from becoming charter school authorizers. Enormous amounts of time and dollars would have gone into this useless endeavor.

I 1240 ended-up being an enormous waste of time, energy, attention and funding.

Anonymous said...

Citizen Kane...thank you for your comments. I do wonder how many people commenting have actually talked to people at the different schools or families who willingly chose to go different way. Well I guess they might have to go back to SPS where...wait...teachers and parents are unhappy.

Go change the charter law and let's hope it'll finally push public schools to be better. As for accountable...let me count the ways that public schools get away with this blog for examples.

" I wouldn't put my child in a boat if land was safe"


Anonymous said...

It is a good day for representative democracy. The reason the League of Women Voters of WA always opposed Charter Schools and joined the lawsuit is that we believe voters have the right to elect representatives to oversee the spending of their taxes. And that is how the Supreme Court defined common schools back in the early 1900s and reaffirmed in the ruling today. Drink a toast to the WA State Constitution!

Catherine Ahl

seattle citizen said...

CD - These are our public schools. Publicly funded. For better or worse. Many, many families and edicators support our publuc schools...for better or worse. As the court notes, it is not constitutional to just say, "public schools bad, give me some tax dollars, I'm going to go have my own school and too bad for the publics."
If you want a boat, buy it with your own money. We need tax dollars for public schools.
Stick around; advocate for excellence. Join your fellow citizens because you can't have our money to row away with.

Anonymous said...

Washington Policy Center quickly enters the action:

WPC calls on Legislature to protect the charter school education of 1,300 children from the unjust decision of the state Supreme Court

SEATTLE — This afternoon the state Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, announced its decision to hold unconstitutional Washington’s charter school law, passed by voters in 2012. Based on a narrow, technical reading of the charter school law, and a misunderstanding of education appropriations, the state Supreme Court has temporarily closed charter schools in Washington state. This decision cuts off public funding to the nine charter schools that have either already started school or will open next week.

The state court has now effectively thrown 1,300 children out of the schools they and their families voluntarily chose. Most of these students are low-income, minority and immigrant children, and with this decision have had their hopes for a better education crushed by six justices.

The court’s error can be corrected by the state Legislature, which should reconvene immediately to fix this technical issue in the voters' charter school law. The education of 1,300 students depends upon our elected leaders taking decisive action to correct this fundamentally unjust opinion from the court.


Washington Policy Center
Improving lives through market solutions


Exhausted Mind

Anonymous said...

A blast from the past (Washington Policy Center)

Summary of the Lawsuit Against Charter Schools

Liv Finne, Director, Center for Education, October, 2013

Key Findings

1.. The constitutional question posed by the lawsuit is whether charter public schools qualify as “common schools” and are therefore eligible to receive public funding.
2.. The definition of a “common school” under existing Washington law includes a variety of alternative, innovative, and parental choice schools; schools similar to charter schools.
3.. As described by the new voter-approved Charter School Act, Washington’s charter schools share the same essential characteristics and attributes of other common schools in Washington, and are therefore eligible to receive public funding to educate children.
4.. Voters passed the Charter School Act in order to offer parents and children in Washington a charter public school choice.

Exhausted Mind

Melissa Westbrook said...

Understand, I do believe that the people who put forth this initiative - well-funded people - KNEW this law had issues. They had to know that this "best charter law in the country" had issues precisely because Washington State has a very unique constitution with respect to public education.

They knew and they gambled. And now they - and the children they gambled with - lost. They made that bet. This was not some error on their part.

Is it narrow? Well, it is in that it applies to one part of the Constitution in specific. That's generally how it's done.

I am sorry for the children enrolled in charters but again, that's on the people who wrote a law that I believe they knew would not withstand scrutiny. I said this from the start.

That this happens on the eve of what may be a teachers strike is not good but we don't get to decide when the Court puts out an opinion.

Liv Finne is not a constitutional expert; the judges on the Supreme Court are. They can take it to the U.S Supreme Court but I'll go on record as saying if they do, the High Court will reject the case.

The history of charters is not that they do better overall than regular public schools nor are they more accountable nor do they provide more innovation. Those are facts. Do they provide choice? Yes. But that's cannot be the only reason to use public dollars.

Watching said...

Some are calling for the legislature and voters must act to remedy this "egregious mistake.". Gates has plenty of dollars, and LEV, without charter expansion will have plenty of time. This battle will go on....

Decisions need to be made about existing charter schools. I'm wondering if SPS will be asked to absorb First Place.

Watching said...

Clarification: Some are calling for the legislature and voters to remedy " this egregious mistake."

Melissa Westbrook said...

SPS will absorb all the students in First Place so that's not up for discussion. SPS will absorb all these students as public schools always do when charters close.

The Legislature will do what with what money? No, Gates will fund those charters until they get their next big idea.

Anonymous said...

The tide is turning and I feel optimistic for the first time in too long. Free universal public education is the foundation of democracy.
-smiling teacher

Amber Thompson said...

I am so dissapointed right now... People taking away my right to choose is not okay. My son does not get the help he needs in a traditional public school. He does at his charter school.

Anonymous said...

Amber. Thank you for speaking out regarding your personal experience.

Yes I agree that all schools should be more accountable for money given to them..but I agree that traditional public schools aren't the end all be all. It's sad that the law wasn't written throughly.


Anonymous said...

Amber, nobody is taking away your right to choose. Pick what you want. Taxpayers just don't have to fund it.

Half Full

Anonymous said...

Legislators should go back, and fund public schools. It will be a little easier without charter charlatans siphoning out the other end. I am all for choice, and consider leaving my job and home schooling all the time. I just don't expect the common schools to bank roll it.

it's complicated said...

I am surprised by the vitriolic nature of the comments about the charter school decision. I know one of the charter school principals - an amazing past public school teacher and principal, and a person completely dedicated to the education of kids in need. I'm glad to see that people feel for the kids who are enrolled in these charter schools, but what about the teachers who might now be out of a job? What about the people who worked for years to make these schools a reality?

Whatever you may believe about charter schools, they are not in fact run by the devil and his minions. These folks are incredibly hard-working, intelligent, and focused on the kids. Just like "regular" public school employees, they are underpaid and overworked. They are trying to do something new and different, and they must be very, very worried right now. I understand the argument against charter schools (and in theory, tend to agree that they are problematic), but I really feel for the people who have given so much time and energy in preparing their schools/classrooms and now have to deal with a very uncertain future.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Complicated, I think we can all of the milk of human kindness to acknowledge the uncertainty and pain and worry facing charter parents and their schools.

But the people who wrote and pushed this law had to know it would not meet our state's very specific constitution. THEY pushed this, THEY supported and allowed all these hard-working people to go forward. In fact, at one point, Green Dot had wisely said they would wait for the judgment of the Court.

It is never a good idea to go full-speed ahead if the entire premise of what you are doing is going to court. People gambled and they gambled with children's academic lives.

Blame them for their hubris.

But it's always a good day when the constitution is upheld and protected. Our nation and state depend on it.

cmj said...

CD said "I wouldn't put my child in a boat if land was safe."

1. Please don't compare asylum seekers drowning on the high seas to poor public schools. Both of them are bad, but they're not equivalent.

2. You're tell us that charter schools are terrible schools and only slightly less awful than public schools. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. People fleeing war-torn and impoverished countries are willing to put their families in tiny, overcrowded boats that tip easily only because traveling by land is even more dangerous. Neither are good options.

Charter schools can be good alternatives to local public schools, but most of them aren't any better (and are often worse) than the schools they draw from. We need a more stringent approval process and very strict rules against for-profit charter schools.

Legally, the problem with charter schools is that they're not accountable to voters. It might be possible to fix this by creating local school boards (elected by voters) for each charter school.

Anonymous said...

Thinking kids in charters won't be affected right now. The appeals process to fed court could take a long time, right? Long enough for the next session of state legislators to find a workaround? If charters were a branch under OSPI instead of that commission, that would bring them partly into compliance, wouldn't it? And if they had to release their financials to the local district school board, that would help too, wouldn't it? Typing out loud because I find the issue interesting. Don't support charters but don't want to impose on other families' best judgment for what works for them. Mostly don't want to see the kids thrown out of these charters immediately and surely there must be a workaround?

North mom

Katleen Smith said...

Special thanks to Catherine Ahl and the League of Women Voters, Wayne Au and others that fought against privatization of public education.

There were many disturbing aspects of I 1240. Out -of- state charter school operators and silencing the voices were amongst my concerns.

As Melissa states, charter supporters claimed they had the best charter school law in the country and they gambled with children's lives; including the children that were prematurely placed in existing charter schools.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested to hear what the charter supporters' next move will be - have you heard anything, Melissa?

My understanding is that the charter law wouldn't just have to be tweaked a little - both oversight and funding are unconstitutional as it stands. Is that correct? If so, is that even something the legislature could easily address, short of changing the state constitution?


Patrick said...

North Mom, are you sure there's an issue for the Federal courts? The problems with the charter law I saw were all state constitutional issues.

seattle citizen said...

Amber, if you are in Seattle, there are numerous Option schools. If none of those work for your child, advocate for change and support at your neighborhood school. Otherwise, I'm afraid you'd need to go private or homeschool, as taxpayers must fund the publuc, common schools, and not siphon dollars away to other schools that are not under the purview of our elected boards.

seattle citizen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lynn said...

I feel for the children who will be uprooted - not so much for the adults who chose to take the risk of working for these schools while the court was considering this issue. How could they not see this might happen?

Anonymous said...

I feel bad for the students, sure, but I've been against charter schools from the start. It's not at all equitable to give public funds to organizations who get to play by different rules. I agree with many comments above, if you want change, advocate for it at the public level. Nothing new comes out of charter schools, the few successes do things we've known for decades will work but have been unable to change systematically. If the legislature could see clear to adequately fund (I'd love to see funding such that levies and local funding are unnecessary), actually reduce class sizes, and give districts/schools and TEACHERS the flexibility they need to serve their diverse populations you'd see change for the better.

In the meantime, I'm celebrating that one more drain on public funding is going away.


Anonymous said...

If the charter school operators/principals/CEOs really cared about the kids, they would have waited until the case was settled before opening. They did not, therefore they do not. They were greedy, looking to get a foothold in the charter market before more charters opened. WA Charters and some of the other ed deform orgs (yes, LEV and Stand on Children - that's you) also bear some of the blame for the push to open charters before this was settled. They truly never thought they would lose.

I feel bad for the families as well, but honestly, knowing this case was out there and hadn't been settled...I certainly would not have taken that risk. I was reading an article recently in the Salt Lake paper about 2 charters that closed due to financial issues and other regulation troubles, and a parent who was interviewed said she was going to back to the public system because charter schools were just too risky and unpredictable. That's the market-based ideology at work - risk, chance, commodities..


Watching said...


The next move revolves around a referendum or a legislative fix.