Friday, February 17, 2017

Washington State Charter Law Upheld

Update: the Times has an article on this ruling.  Here's part of my comment in response to something from the Washington State Charter Schools Association:
"Charter public schools have been given a stamp of approval from Washington voters, the state Legislature, and now the state’s judicial system,” he said in a prepared statement. "
This is a factually untrue statement (prepared or not). Why? Because the courts only rule on constitutional issues and, in fact, both the WA Supreme Court AND the King County Superior Court rulings both said that neither case was about whether charters work or are good or bad.

They ruled that the law was constitutional. That's it and Mr. Franta knows it. To say that there is some "stamp of approval" by the courts undermines our judicial system. Maybe Mr. Franta is taking his cue from the Trump administration.

End of update

Judge John Chun of King County Superior Court today ruled in favor of the defendants in upholding the current charter law.

I will say in reading the ruling, I see many places where the judge further validates other rulings and leaves the door wide open for other lawsuits (which I predict will come to pass.)

It's a big win for charter supporters but I don't think it now leaves anyone in a relaxed place.  Or rather, no one should take this ruling to be the end.
From the ruling (all bold mine):
"Fourth, and finally, Plaintiffs argue in significant part regarding the ways in which the Act’s implementation has led, and may lead, to unconstitutional results. Such arguments, however, are more properly brought as as-applied challenges. And this Order does not foreclose such a claim."

"Plaintiffs’ diversion claim lacks ripeness.  Plaintiffs’ argument rests on speculation that the Opportunity Pathways account  evenue will not be able to cover the cost of the CSA by the 2021-2022 school year, and that restricted funds will thereafter be used. However, it is undisputed that, at this time, lottery revenue from the Opportunity Pathways account is the only funding source for charter schools. It is similarly undisputed that such funding is not a restricted revenue source for common schools. If, in the future, the State attempts to use funds allocated for common schools in violation of article IX, section 2, then the issue will be ripe for consideration."
One other interesting item is that the judge says, over and over,
"To find any deviation from common schools a violation of article IX, section 2 conflates the common school system with the public school system."

"It is undisputed that charter schools are not common schools."
"It is further undisputed that charter schools cannot access funds restricted for common schools."
That's good because it continues to enforce that charter schools are not, and never will be in the state of Washington, common schools.

It will be interesting to see where the dollars will come for 40 charter schools.

We know it can't be the General Fund so it will be fascinating to see how the Legislature comes up with the money for those schools while now seemingly can't seem to find the money for existing schools.

As well, Chun also makes the statement that many might not have known:
"This makes sense because, unless it is authorized by one, a charter school is wholly independent from a school district."
Yes, each Charter Commission-approved charter school is itself a district. So why they want help from larger districts is a mystery to me.  And yet, that's the expectation.

He also makes this important point:
"Fourth, and finally, the statute requires school districts to inform parents and the general public in their district of available charter schools. RCW 28A.710.060. It would be inconsistent to require school districts to inform families of the option to transfer their student to a charter school if that charter school would not honor credits earned at a different public school."
Right, so charters will have to be careful that their credits WILL transfer to a regular common school.

On the issue of the role of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, some more illuminating reading:
"Furthermore, the Superintendent maintains the “power of the purse” with respect to charter schools."

Numerous WACs give the Superintendent the power to withhold, delay, or otherwise recoup payments. "
What did Yogi Berra say on the end of something?

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I applaud you. The judge dismissed every single claim made by the WEA (and other other plaintiffs) and you celebrate the possibility of future lawsuits. I really do appreciate how you can turn lemons into lemonade.

You were sure that the judge was going to rule that the charter school law superseded the SPI's authority and you were dead wrong. You were sure that the "shell game" of dollars was going to be ruled against the charter schools and you were dead wrong.

But, merrily, you find that the judge left the door wide open for future lawsuits.

Good for you. That's keeping your chin up.

Albert

Melissa Westbrook said...

Am I celebrating or just pointing out what the ruling says? It's exactly what would be happening if the ruling had gone the other way.

As well, this is no death blow to me. But again, I smile when I think of Yogi.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Also, you seemed to miss the point that both the Supreme Court and now KC Court has made; neither ruling is on whether charter schools are good or bad.

The ruling - as are rulings - are about the constitution.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

What is the difference between a common school and public school?. How does the effect funding? Just confused!

NO 1240 said...

No one believed that SB 6194 would end at the trial court level. The battle will go on.

NO 1240 said...

Attorneys for charter schools like to compare charter schools to Running Start. Interesting that these individuals failed to inform Judge Chun that Running Start dollars are run through local school districts with school board oversight.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

First, NO 1240, the attorneys for charter schools informed Judge Chun of a number of schools and educational programs that receive funds from the General Fund but do have have direct school board oversight --- you can find that list on pgs. 9-10 of his ruling. Those programs include the highly capable program at the University of Washington. Are you suggesting that program should be shut down because it unconstitutionally receives funds from the General Fund but without oversight from local elected officials?

Second, Running Start dollars are merely run through local school districts. School boards have ZERO oversight of the instructional program of students enrolled in college and universities participating in Running Start. Local school board authority over Running Start is relegated ONLY to determining if students are juniors or seniors and the reward of high school credits earned by students. That's it. I wouldn't call that oversight of the program nor the dollars.

Albert

Anonymous said...

Melissa, what do you find in my first comments to suggest that I'm arguing whether charters are good or bad? My comments are completely relegated to constitutional issues.

And for that matter, so were Tom Franta's remarks. Voters approved charter schools via initiative, the legislature passed the charter law, and now the court found the law constitutional. Read in that light, they are a stamp of approval.

You're making what is called a straw man argument. You're arguing a point no one (but you) is making.

Albert

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think we would disagree on what "stamp of approval" means.

Anonymous said...

And Melissa, you are making an inaccurate assertion that the General Fund and the Common School Fund are the same. They are not. The ruling ONLY pertains to the restricted common school funds. The ruling stated it is undisputed that charter schools may not access funds restricted for common schools.

Nearly the entire state budget is funded out of the General Fund. Not all of the funds in the General Fund are restricted for common schools, although the common schools funds have, since 1965, been incorporated into the General Fund.

So, your statements here and elsewhere that the ruling states that charter schools may not access funds from the General Fund does not exist in the ruling and is, thus, an inaccurate statement.

Albert

Melissa Westbrook said...

No Albert, I know very well the two funds are not the same. You are not reading my writing well.

Anonymous said...

Did you not write the following on Twitter?

"Judge left open door for more lawsuits & made clear charters could never access General Funds."

The judge did not make clear that charters could never access General Funds. He made clear that charter schools could never access restricted common schools funds.

Albert

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

I think someone should read the comment policy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Albert, you do know you get 140 characters Twitter?

Here's the real issue that you seem to miss (and I have stated before): that sooner or later charter schools will need more funds than are currently available from where they are currently funded. So whether it's taking more than their share from that pot of money or going into the General Fund and taking from some other area (like health and human services), the money will have to come from somewhere.

And our Republican friends don't want to find new sources of revenue so it IS likely that charter schools will take money from some other funded area.

That's the real issue.

NO 1240 said...

"First, NO 1240, the attorneys for charter schools informed Judge Chun of a number of schools and educational programs that receive funds from the General Fund but do have have direct school board oversight"

First, Albert, SB 6194 creates a parallel system of K-12 education. Running Start, military schools etc. do not create a parallel system of education. As well, Tribal schools are part of a Sovereign Nation.

Second, funneling dollars for Running Start through a local and elected school board is quite different than handing millions of dollars to an unelected Charter Commission.

Who cares about Franta's remarks? A few months ago, Washington Charters claimed victory to a court opinion, when, in fact, there was no victory what- so - ever. As a matter of fact, I've not heard Washington Charters update the message.

Superior court was used to launch future lawsuits.

There are a few irons in the fire and this fight is not over.

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry, NO 1240, that you're so confused about how things actually work.

First, the issue is not about whether there is a parallel system of education --- which charter schools are not, regardless --- but whether restricted common school funds are used for charter schools or any other educational program not overseen by a local school board. Funding for Running Start, the highly capable program at UW, the School for the Blind, et al comes from the General Fund and none of these are overseen by a local school board.

Second, millions of dollars are funned to local unelected boards of trustees on colleges for Running Start. As I stated above, local school boards have ZERO authority of the expenditure of those dollars. And to clear up another falsehood out there, there are no interlocal agreements or contracts between school districts and colleges for Running Start. How the funds flows, etc. is in RCW, WAC, and policy out of OSPI.

Third, funding for charter schools is allocated by OSPI, not the Charter Commission. That was made very clear in the ruling.

I didn't bring up Tom Franta. Melissa did.

And glad to know that there are a "few irons in the fire" to close options for kids and families. Glad too you get so much satisfaction from that.

Albert

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm just going to call you out, Albert, on that last remark because that's pure ed reform snarkiness.

Being against charter schools does not mean you are against choice/options for kids. Nor does it mean anyone gets any kind of pleasure/satisfaction over the outcomes from these actions.

People here care deeply about public education and are entitled to have their opinions and their advocacy not equated to being against kids and families.

NO 1240 said...

No one said the Charter Commission allocates funds to charter schools. The Charter Commission is a group of un-elected officials that oversee millions and millions of public dollars. Perhaps Albert missed the part when the legislature tried to deny an amendment that would mandate those involved with charter schools disclose conflicts of interest. As I understand it, one particular charter school lost a couple of board members for that very reason.
"First, the issue is not about whether there is a parallel system of education " That is what you think.

"Second, millions of dollars are funned to local unelected boards of trustees on colleges for Running Start. As I stated ab
ove, local school boards have ZERO authority of the expenditure of those dollars"

Local school boards have a level of oversight over these dollars. The state has a system of checks and balances.

"And glad to know that there are a "few irons in the fire" to close options for kids and families. Glad too you get so much satisfaction from that."

There is no evidence that charter schools out perform public schools on a large scale. Charter schools weaken public schools. One does not have to look beyond other states to understand the influence of privatization on public schools. One does not need to look past Mass. to understand millions of dollars thrown into campaigns to lift caps when citizens understand that charter schools weaken public schools. Lastly, one does not need to look beyond the federal government to understand public education is at risk.

I'll keep fighting.

Anonymous said...

That's fair, Melissa, and only ask that you hold others to the same. You apparently have no problem when others who care deeply about public education have their opinions and their advocacy equated to being solely motivated by profit (and other neoliberal interests).

I won't hold my breath, though.

Albert

Anonymous said...

NO 1240, I'll go ahead and quote Melissa in response to your latest missive:

"Also, you seemed to miss the point that both the Supreme Court and now KC Court has made; neither ruling is on whether charter schools are good or bad.

The ruling - as are rulings - are about the constitution."

Albert

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, there is profit to be made in charters. That is true. As to whether it's the main motivator for most people, of course not.

Albert, I invite you to go to some other place. You seem to not like this blog and yet here you are.

Anonymous said...

So, the most read education blog in Washington --- your words --- asks people who come to refute misinformation, i.e., alternative facts, to "go some other place."

Sounds like a good policy. You prefer an echo chamber. Solid.

Albert

Truth said...

Albert,

You make a great point. The heading of this blog does say, "Debate the issues facing Seattle Public Schools, share your opinions, read the latest news." Hard to do when people who bring up other view points are shut down and told to go elsewhere.

Truth said...

Let me amend that: "invited" to go elsewhere.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Here's the thing; I know that some people coming here are paid to do so. They are here to obfuscate and try to run me and other readers in circles and I'm not having it.

It's one thing to have an opinion and another to try to spread ed reform rhetoric on my time and my blog.

This blog is one of the few places where comments are NOT pre-moderated. We allow you to pretty much say what you want (even in criticizing us.) Does the Washington Policy Center? LEV? Nope.

But after doing this for more than a decade, I'm drawing my own line in the sand.

One, if you've made a point and you just keep making the same point over and over, this may not be the blog for you.

Two, if you try to make it sound like others don't care about children,even as they are at a public education blog, this may not be the blog for you.

Three, if you are here to make this personal and about me, this may not be the blog for you.

So yes, if you don't like those points, again, I invite you to go elsewhere.