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Monday, March 04, 2013

Complete Letter to AG about 1240

Here's the complete letter sent to Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office by the League of Women Voters, El Centro de la Raza, and the WEA.  From the first paragraph:

We request that your office investigate and promptly institute legal proceedings to remedy the constitutional violations arising from ...(it continues on with the RCWs in question).

Specifically, the Charter School Act improperly diverts public school funds to private non-profits in violation of the Washington Constitution and is otherwise unconstitutional on multiple grounds, including but not limited to the following:


And then they put forth their arguments.  Here's my summation:

- the "common schools" wording in the Constitution seems at odds with charter schools.  It states the definition as "that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free, and subject to, and under the control of the qualified voters of the school district."  Well, a school controlled by a private board and/or overseen by an appointed commission is not under the control of voters.

- "general and uniform system of public schools"  - obviously charters are not uniform in the manner that regular schools are.  I find this a weak argument. as education often tries to give more options in order to reach as many students as possible.  Passing a law to further that objective has happened before.

- violates the "paramount duty".  "The Charter School Act interferes with the State's progress toward compliance by diverting already insufficient resources away from public school districts."  Also somewhat weak (although true).  I believe this is more the problem that voters did not consider that maybe we should have worked through McCleary before we voted in charters.  (Of course, you can also say that those who created this initiative were cynical in not considering the outcomes to all existing schools.)

- exempting charters from a range of statutes and rules that apply to school districts.  The specific here is "the Act provides no guidelines for the conversion of a public school into a charter school, nor any provisions relating to what options students who did not want to attend the conversion charter would have..." including teachers and programs (especially for special needs students or other "speciality programs."  I think this is valid.  To say to districts that they have to come up with plans - every single time a charter comes in - to move programs and students around seems very hard on both districts and parents/students.  The "good" of a new conversion charter seems outweighed by the "bad" of the chaos that ensues. 

I realize that no initiative covers every single contingency BUT there should not have to be this much rule-writing.  As I mentioned previously, the Board of Education really has to take on a lot of work just for their end of 1240. 

- superintendent of public instruction should "have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools."  Bingo on this one.  That's what the Constitution says - ALL public schools and we were told during the campaign that yes, charters are public schools. 

- use of levy funds for conversion schools"The Act provides that conversion charter schools must receive levy funds from levies approved by the voters before the existence of the conversion charter school."  And, that those schools are not subject to the control of the district which generally controls levy money.  This one seems to be pretty clear.  Voters cannot be asked to give money when they don't know where or how it will be used.  A blanket - if we build it,  you must give us levy dollars - seems wrong. 

- collective bargaining.  Interferes with "rights and duties of employees and the Public Employment Relations Commission..."  I don't know about this one.  Charters exist this way in other states.

What is difficult here is knowing what the AG could do.  Could he choose to file proceedings against 1240 on the basis of just one of these issues?  Would he only file if he agreed with the legal issues for the majority of the issues put forth?  Could he say, "this is a mess" and throw out the whole thing? 

I have a call into the AG's office. 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a mom of an 8-yr-old girl, the first thing I thought when I read AG was American Girl. :-)

Mag Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good for you - that's better than thinking in legal terms all the time.

Anonymous said...

It is a giant mess, and they should throw it out until they can figure it out.

The only thing the voters approved was the state stipend for per pupil money. If they try to take local levy or bond money, or take local district buildings, that is theft. Any use of local money or buildings must be subject to a local popular vote.

-nonamenocredit