Monday, October 26, 2015

Washington State Supreme Court Ruling on Charter School Law News Roundup

In what can only be called the pot calling the kettle black, ten Washington State legislators have filed an amicus brief (friend of the court) to the Washington State Supreme Court about the Court's ruling on the charter school law.

Folks, apparently we may have a pissing match going on.  While I appreciate that there are some in the Legislature who really like charter schools, this kind of amount to telling someone their job.  Now perhaps some in the Legislature (maybe a majority for all we know), believe that the McCleary ruling (and all that has come after) was treading on the Legislature's delicate toes. 

So maybe this is some of those legislators trying to toss this back into the Corut's face and telling THEM that they don't know how to do their jobs.  And maybe some are trying to be deliberately provocative. 

It should tell us all that when January starts, charters may be the wedge to get McCleary done. 

From the News Tribune:

 Yet the brief filed by the 10 lawmakers Monday claims the court’s decision “potentially undercuts the Legislature’s authority” to structure the state’s school system and write state budgets, while ignoring that lawmakers took steps to ensure that “common school” funding wouldn’t go to charter schools.

Lending their names to the brief were state Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island; Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle; Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland; Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah; Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton; Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens; Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah; Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn; Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia; and Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island.

This list certainly is a usual suspects list and the ONLY Seattle legislator is, of course, Eric Pettigrew.  It's certainly sad that Rep Pettigrew has time for this but not time to get McCleary done and fully-fund schools like Rainier Beach High School.

I have not had the time to read the brief but I am baffled by this idea that there were steps taken so that funding for common schools wouldn't go to charters.  When did this happen?  I must have missed it because the argument, all along, WAS that charters were public (and therefore common schools).

The lawmakers also questioned whether the court’s decision could affect the Legislature’s ability to fund other specialized educational programs, such as Running Start or bilingual programs.

And again, two wrongs don't make a right.  If the Court has found a problem with how the Legislature funds other ed programs, the Legislature can fix that.  But it doesn't make the charter law constitutional.

Here's the  brief that the Washington State Charter Schools Association finally filed last week.  I haven't read the entire thing but here's the summary from their "blog:"
  • The Court’s holding – that every dollar appropriated for basic education is constitutionally restricted for common schools – is wrong, and reflects a fundamental misreading of decades of case law and the structure of basic education funding in Washington today.
  • The Opinion undermines the constitutionality of many other important education programs, such as Running Start, tribal compact schools, skill centers, and any other public school program that isn’t directly supervised by an elected school board.
  • The Court improperly shifted the burden of proof to the State, abandoning the long-standing rule that Plaintiffs bear the burden of demonstrating that the law cannot be implemented in a constitutional manner.
    • Moreover, Plaintiffs have not proven that the law cannot be applied in a constitutional manner under any circumstances. In fact, charter schools can be and are funded with unrestricted appropriations in the State’s general fund.
  • Even if the funding system is invalid, the rest of I-1240 should be left intact. The definition of charter schools as common schools, and any alleged problematic funding provisions, are severable from the law, which was passed by voter initiative in 2012.
Nothing like a lawyer telling an entire panel of judges that ALL of them "fundamentally misread" case law.

But they are right - the Legislature COULD fund charters thru the General Fund. But the howls to come if that happens? You'll hear them from all corners of the state. 

You certainly could sever funding from charters schools but, as the Court seemed to say, what's the point?  How would they fund themselves?  Gates won't even help fund First Place Scholars. 

As well, the legislators, the Attorney General and the WSCSA all seem to forget - the Court ONLY considered the funding issue and not all the OTHER issues brought forth.  The law still has other constitutional issues and I'm certain those could be called into question at a later date.

I suspect the Court will rule soon. Finally, a final ruling.

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Anonymous said...

Do they really love charters or do they love Bill Gates and his money? Puh-leaze.

-ABC as easy as 123

Anonymous said...

Melissa wrote "I have not had the time to read the brief but I am baffled by this idea that there were steps taken so that funding for common schools wouldn't go to charters. When did this happen?"

From the brief: "The operating 2015-17 budget expressly stated:
State general fund appropriations distributed through Part
V of this act for the operation and administration of charter
schools as provided in chapter 28A.710 RCW shall not
include state common school levy revenues collected under
RCW 84.52.065


GarfieldMom said...

Not a lawyer, don't play one on TV.

RCW 84.52.065 describes how levy money for support of common schools is to be collected. RCW 84.52.067 states that levy funds collected for common schools are then put into the general fund. How does one ensure that dollars coming out of the general fund for charter schools don't include any of the dollars that came in for common schools through levies? Actually, there doesn't appear to be anything in the charter school law or the budget that designates a funding source. So if charter schools are restricted from getting any common schools money, whose money would they be getting?

RCW 84.52.065
State levy for support of common schools.

Subject to the limitations in RCW 84.55.010, in each year the state shall levy for collection in the following year for the support of common schools of the state a tax of three dollars and sixty cents per thousand dollars of assessed value upon the assessed valuation of all taxable property within the state adjusted to the state equalized value in accordance with the indicated ratio fixed by the state department of revenue.

As used in this section, "the support of common schools" includes the payment of the principal and interest on bonds issued for capital construction projects for the common schools.

[1991 sp.s. c 31 § 16; 1979 ex.s. c 218 § 1; 1973 1st ex.s. c 195 § 106; 1971 ex.s. c 299 § 25; 1969 ex.s. c 216 § 2; 1967 ex.s. c 133 § 1.]

RCW 84.52.067
State levy for support of common schools — Disposition of funds.

All property taxes levied by the state for the support of common schools shall be paid into the general fund of the state treasury as provided in RCW 84.56.280.

[2009 c 479 § 73; 2001 c 3 § 7 (Initiative Measure No. 728, approved November 7, 2000); 1967 ex.s. c 133 § 2.]

Anonymous said...

I believe that "an amicus brief (friend of the court)" is an attempted thumb.

This occurs when one or more parties attempt to put a big thumb on one of the scales of justice.

Many legal decisions are not so much based on "law" but rather the size and weight of the thumbs.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

I'd be perfectly happy to sever the funding aspect: it either means they need to operate as private-funded charters, or wouldn't it leave the door open for them to actually have elected, public & local school boards running them?

In a post- I-1240-got-approved world, I'm pro- elected/democratic school boards being the bodies running charters and choosing the fate of their public dollars.

After all, how long would GreenDot, Excel, et al stick around if they weren't guaranteed a cash cow revenue source on the public's dime??

We might actually occasionally GET what charters supposedly promise: alternative schools that can intro pilot programs and prove their worth on the merits of being run differently.
Education programs/Alt Schools that better serve kids (which the bulk of the current 1200-student charters cannot claim) would be a win for all. If it's possible.