Thursday, November 19, 2015

Washington State Supreme Court Uphold Its Charter Law Ruling

The Court released its ruling today and upheld its decision to strike down the charter school law.   The ruling was 6-3, 5-4. The decision in the original ruling becomes final on December 14th.

The majority did strike out one footnote (page 11, footnote 10) about the use of School District No. 20 v. Bryan.  A bit interesting as this does revolve around Article IX on funding but they were likely addressing the issue of funding for other education programs. 
The dissenters said: (partial)
"various amici have raised legitimate questions regarding the use of unrestricted funds and the power of the legislature to act. These questions touch upon the impact of our decision on other public, non-common school programs. Granting reconsideration would provide an opportunity for appellants to respond to the motions for this court to clarify our decision and to expressly limit our ruling to the case before us so that the legislature can chose to act, or not, without fear of another constitutional challenge and additional litigation."
Again, two wrongs don't make a right.  If there are education programs being wrongly funded, the legislature can figure that out.  It still won't make this law constitutional if other programs' funding gets changed.

This presents an tough problem for the charters.
  • When is their funding cut off? November or December?  
  • What about the Charter Commission - it cannot exist without state funding so even if charters get their own funding to go on, who oversees the ones that are not overseen by a school district?
The Legislature starts up on January 11, 2016 and it's a short session and full docket of work.  But somehow, I know this issue will get worked in.

I attended the 43rd Dems meeting on Tuesday where our reps - Speaker Chopp, Senator Pedersen and Rep. Walkinshaw - were in attendance.

Pedersen had a brief overview of the last session and it was bleak.  He said he thought the Court had been mostly "patient and gentle" with the legislature since the McCleary ruling by the Court for the legislature to fully-fund education.  He said with the passage of the Tim Eyman anti-tax initiative, things can only get worse.  (And p.s., Eyman filed ANOTHER initiative this week to limit how long a tax increase lasts.)

Walkinshaw pointed out how close the Eyman vote had been and how low the voter turnout was in King County.

I asked if they would vote to support a charter school bill.  Pedersen said he didn't think there would be one but that there were a couple of scenarios.

1) - amendment to constitution - no one thinks that will happen

2) creating two kinds of charter schools - ones approved by the Charter Commission that would exist but get no state funding dollars (but might get other state/fed dollars along with private funding) AND 
 the charters approved by school districts a la´ Spokane that do have oversight by an elected board.

I didn't get an answer from Chopp but Walkinshaw and Pedersen would not straight up vote for any new charter law.  Pedersen said he would vote yes for a fix but only if the Reps were forcing it to get McCleary dollars.

The State and Intervenors have asked for a stay of mandate until June 2016. 

Meanwhile, charter supporters have done the following:
  • had a rally in Olympia today (oh, the irony)
  • created videos with Washington State parents explaining how great their charters are
  • created yet another Gates astro-turf group to prop up charters.  Their line-up includes the usual suspects of LEV, Stand for Children, etc.
But there has yet to be a public comment from any charter supporter group on this ruling.

Update: statement from Washington State AG Bob Ferguson.

A pretty funny (kind of middle school girl note funny) statement from the Washington Policy Center.

It was particularly mean of them to announce the decision on the same day charter schools families traveled to Olympia to voice their message and their concerns.

19 comments:

Watching said...

With regard to removing footnote...here is what Senator Joe Fain(R) has this to say:

"That happens to make a legislative fix much easier to accomplish as well."

Melissa Westbrook said...

That may be true that it's easier. BUT who gets the axe? Because the GOP will not listen to anyone on new revenue so some program or department will have to take it on the chin for charters. Good luck with that.

Patrick said...

They could always cut higher ed, again.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Funny you should say that, Patrick. That's what Pedersen was predicting.

Charlie Mas said...

Of course, they could also simply drop the whole misguided idea.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I'm glad you're still posting from afar.

--JvA

SPS Mom said...

I hope it would be tough to cut higher Ed as the legislature has reduced undergrad tuition by 5% this year and 10% next year, so, in essence, higher Ed is already getting a substantial cut. As far as I know, there aren't plans to replace that with other revenue.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One person suggested this:

"Even better that Ferguson got the piece removed that could have jeopardized Running Start. I guess he had a different motive than the charter proponents for asking for the review."

That's an interesting thought and AG Ferguson did start his letter saying that he was just upholding what he was legally obligated to do. It could be that he was fulfilling his legal obligation and trying to protect other education programs.

He did that.

Anonymous said...

Cue the handwringing editorial from the Seattle Times in 3...2...1.

Melissa, as a former leader against the charter initiative are you considering mounting an anti-lobby effort in the upcoming legislative session, because we all know the LEVites and Standites and DFERites will be in Olympia whispering in Republican ears. And some turncoat Dems too. And what else can blog readers do to keep a slimey backdoor deal from happening?

NoCharters

Melissa Westbrook said...

NoCharters, I may be able to only speak from here but yes, I will be raising my voice.

I have already talked to my leg reps who include Speaker Chopp.

I just don't see how the Leg could have time to write new rules to cover whatever quasi public-private charters would exist AND find the money AND get McCleary done.

I'll write something up that might be helpful to tell your legislator (if they can't see the writing on the wall that says this is done for now.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Melissa.
For other readers interested, I have also posted on Publicola, which seems to be a place where political types hang out. Publicola has been very friendly to charters in the past. Other anti-charter voices over there could be helpful. I think calling out our democrat legislators by name is important because most of us do not have the money, time and influence that the paid foundations from the Gates coalition have. No matter what those people say, this is not a measure supported by their Seattle constituents and I for one want their Olympia actions to reflect that. No back room deals.

NoCharters

Anonymous said...

The Legislature won't write the rules, MW. ALEC will. And LEV will push them with all their might. WSDWG

Melissa Westbrook said...

NoCharters,Publicola is a very flamethrowing blog and frankly, I rarely go there.

WSDWG, oh yes, I think the might of Gates and ALEC may come into play (via Stand, LEV, etc.) but frankly, they wrote a bad law and now they are going to come into the Legislature at a bad time for an ask that is very complicated.

It's not this quick fix of a "glitch" that charters supporters say it is.

There's the money - where and how much?
The original law - gone so how does the Charter Commission exist?
If no Charter Commission, who oversees the existing charters not in Spokane? SBOE?
What about new charters? There would be none because the law no longer exists.

So this rag-tag group of schools - all of them less than a year in existence - and the Legislature is going to turn itself inside out for them?

Nope, I think they need a new law. They are safer in pushing it thru the Legislature than at the polls (that's my perception) but if they write another junk law, it will go back to court.

Anonymous said...

I think a new law is inevitable. The momentum and money and persistence of putting it to voters three times shows that.

The important Question IMO is
What form will that new law take?

If we're wise, we'll reframe that debate in this early stage and with the SupremeCourt momentum behind it. The line in the sand to me is the same one the Supremes identified: public funding controlled by anyone other than the elected public i.e. any public school must be fully transparent and open to public participation.

Truly-Public Charters could be an interesting innovation, and I can see a few ways it could play out in a way that might actually benefit kids:
are there any real examples of this in the US -i.e. truly non-private charters?

For that new evolved charter law, I'd suggest:
-- Kill the trigger clause! (or the fallback: at bare minimum, take a page from Eyman and demand a 2/3 or better vote from both parents AND staff).
-- create separate charter districts with publicly elected school boards running them.
-- Require policy that includes community/parent participation opportunities at every level
-- Limit the per-student funding dollars to the state average or lower. Separate levies monies so public schools and charters make separate cases.
-- Require them to abide by all current education laws (Including 1351 class size & providing gifted education...)
--Give them SOME RCW exceptions; allow them to apply for 5 year waivers to days, hours, GLE/subjects requirements, standardized tests schedules.
--Add a statewide oversight committee. Not the auth board... just the opposite, in fact.
--Still limit the total number of new charters statewide. 5 or 10 per year, max.
--Enrollment should be set and registered by Feb (as most private schools do) of the spring prior to that Fall so that PS's have a good amount of time to adjust faculty ratios/staffing & attendance areas.

If charters are the bitter pill to be swallowed, then let's find the silver lining / make it happen on our terms: I could see public charters able to be labs for innovating education with families brave enough to be part of it: e.g. be able to create true Montessori K-8 schools that just can't happen under RCW now; A FAME-style high school for the performing arts (or other trade-based high schools similar to what Finland boasts); etc. I could see both of those school models having support from parents in Seattle.

...Of course, I'd rather the OSPI & SBoE just lighten up and proactively encourage innovation within the current system...
J

Melissa Westbrook said...

J, first of all, why don't we just allow real public schools the flexibility that seems to be the driver for charter schools?

Gates Foundation and CRPE have been pushing this district/charter partnership model. I wish I trusted it because for districts that have no alternative schools or innovation going (unlike Seattle), that may be worth it.

I don't think they will create a new law in which case, the minute any charter tries the petition clause, we'd be back in court. Lawyers I have spoken to believe that is a "gifting of public funds" clause that would not stand a court case.

Anonymous said...

Melissa said "why don't we just allow real public schools the flexibility that seems to be the driver for charter schools?"

That's a good question. Do you have any idea why SPS isn't interested in changing?

Summit charter is working with 19 public schools (including traditional public schools) on the features they think make for a better school: http://summitbasecamp.org/explore-basecamp/

LisaG

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, SPS is not the biggest problem. They have had alternative schools for decades. And they started Creative Approach for some flexibility for schools. (Plus dual language/world schools, IB, Montessori, etc.)

SPS has many issues but lack of innovation - at least in some measure - is not one of them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lisa, that "Summit basecamp" is just one more "let's allow technology to teach the kids." You know, that "personalized learning" that Gates is now mightily pushing (and needs its own thread because the topic has grown so big.)

"Every school will get unlimited access to the Personalized Learning Plan (PLP), the technology platform that helps power the personalized learning classroom—used by teachers and students to create and follow learning plans, and track progress toward goals.

It includes a wealth of resources, including 197 deeper learning projects and over 700 “Playlists” (libraries of learning content, such as videos, articles, etc.) and assessments, as well as tools that let teachers adjust the Basecamp curricula or upload their own."

Hey, a "playlist" of videos!

I'd bet every single SPS parent would trade a video playlist for smaller class sizes (like charters get to tailor themselves to) or more arts any day.

Anonymous said...

Melissa said "I'd bet every single SPS parent would trade a video playlist for smaller class sizes" Of course you're right; I completely agree.

But some parents might want a "project-based curriculum". I would; I have a child who has no trouble getting 100s on tests, but has a lot of trouble using what he has learned. In a project-based class, the emphasis is on using the knowledge instead of having the teacher input the information. Are there middle schools or high schools in SPS that are project-based?

Also some teachers might want tools that allow tracking what students have learned and completed, so that they can spend more time actually teaching. Or parents might want to be able to see what their kids are supposed to be learning, and whether they are up to date.