Six justices from the state Supreme Court ruled—on the Friday before Labor Day weekend—that charter schools are unconstitutional. The justices found that they are not “common schools” because they are not governed by local elected boards and therefore cannot receive public funding. When the justices issued their ruling, they placed at risk funding for dozens of similar education programs.
The Washington Policy Center recently pointed to Raisbeck Aviation High as a prime example of a school now threatened by the court. The high school in Tukwila specializes in preparing students for careers in aviation and aerospace. The school is “recognized as one of the best public high schools in the country.” It is has 400 students and—problematically—is “governed by an independent unelected board.”
The state Attorney General’s office is now asking the court to review its ruling, particularly pointing out the fact that the shocking decision “calls into question the constitutionality of a wide range of other state educational programs.” Here is a list of the other schools and programs now threatened by the court:
- Delta High, 400 students, governed by Columbia Basin Community College, WSU, the districts of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland, and private industry.
- TAF Academy, 280 students, governed by the Federal Way district and Technology Access Foundation, a private organization.
- Washington Youth Academy, 140 students, governed by the unelected National Guard, for high-risk students.
- Running Start, 20,000 students, governed by appointed boards of community colleges, technical colleges, four-year universities.
- College in the High School, 19,000 students, governed by appointed boards of community colleges, technical colleges, four-year universities.
- Running Start for the Trades, 2,000 students, governed by appointed boards of community colleges, technical colleges, four-year universities.
- Gateway to College, 579 students, governed by appointed boards of community and technical colleges.
- Tech Prep program, 24,000 students, governed by the unelected federal Office of Vocational and Adult Education.
- Career Link, 600 students, governed by the appointed board of South Seattle Community College.
- Advanced Placement courses, 71,000 students, designed and controlled by the College Board, a private company.
- Jobs for Graduates, governed by a private non-profit organization.
- Skill Centers, 7,000 students, governed by an unelected council of superintendents.
- Career and Technical Education (CTE), for middle and high school students, governed by private advisory boards.
- Online Education, 23,000 students, many courses are governed by private companies.
- Tribal Schools, 1,000 students, governed by unelected Tribal administrators.
The state Supreme Court’s bizarre decision has received quite a lot of criticism. But, perhaps no criticism was as humorous—or expressive—than that of the Tacoma News Tribune. Here are a few highlights from a recent op-ed:
- “The state Supreme Court’s recent mugging of Washington’s charter school law is so dead, flat wrong that it cries out for reversal…”
- “The court released the decision late Friday afternoon just before the Labor Day weekend – timing normally associated with embarrassing announcements from politicians about to duck out of sight.”
- “The court ought to be embarrassed by its majority opinion, signed by an embarrassing six justices.”
- “After blowing the dust off its ancient law books, the court found a 1909 definition that required control by local voters… The court’s next step is what tips the opinion into logical Wonderland.”
- “Taking the majority’s reasoning at face value, lawmakers couldn’t appropriate money for higher education, Running Start, financial aid – anything, really, except conventional K-12 schools… We won’t suggest that they ginned up the principle solely to eradicate charter schools, but they certainly bought the Narrows Bridge from the state teachers union.”
The op-ed provides great commentary with one minor caveat. We’d suggest—based on past campaign contributions—that the state teachers union gave “the Narrows Bridge” to the six justices, and they accepted it.
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