Parents across Washington State are coming to realize they may no longer have a viable, stable education alternative for their children as various teachers’ unions stage illegal strikes or threaten illegal strikes. Adding insult to injury, on the Friday before the Labor Day weekend, the state Supreme Court ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional, in a 6-3 ruling that charter schools do not “qualify as common, public schools and cannot receive public funding.”
Dissenting justices pointed out that while charter schools do not fall under the constitutional definition of “common schools,” the law does not require funding to come from the restricted “common school” pot. A simple solution would be for charter schools to be funded via the state’s “unrestricted general fund (that) already goes toward traditional and non-traditional public schools.”
The lefty court’s ruling aligns with a coalition of far-left groups—including the Washington Education Association—that launched a lawsuit against charter schools in 2013. This was in retaliation for Washington voters passing a charter school initiative in 2012.
Last year, one charter school opened in Seattle, serving homeless children – the teachers’ union wants it closed. This year, eight more have opened or are scheduled to open in Spokane, Tacoma, Kent, Highline and Seattle – and the union bosses want them shut down as well. The fate of these schools remains unknown, though supporters are promising to find the money to keep them open for their students, if the Supreme Court does not reconsider its bizarre decision and does indeed pull the funding from them.
The court’s ruling is the first in the nation – 40 other states have charter schools –to strike down such schools in their entirety. That reality made the court’s ruling still more shocking to onlookers and left officials scrambling to figure out what to do next.
Charter school advocates have 20 days to ask the court to reconsider its decision before the ruling becomes final. The short turnaround does not give much time for supporters to act. However, the newly-energized advocates have vowed to keep fighting.
Republican lawmakers have called on Jay Inslee to call a special session in order to seek a legislative fix to serve the students that the justices do not want served with state funds. Unfortunately, our green governor—lacking any sense of urgency on the issue—has yet to indicate whether or not he will do so.
Given the $1 million dollars that the teachers’ union put in to electing Inslee in 2012 it’s unlikely he develop a spine at this point and does anything to displease his wealthy benefactors.
The Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle’s International District has announced that it will remain open no matter what happens next. The school plans to stay open as a home school. In order to meet costs (estimated at $12,500 per student), the school will have to fundraise. MyNorthwest.com,
“‘We will walk parents through the process of completing the home school form and turning it in. And we will continue business as usual,’ Wickens said, noting that students are still in class with teachers at Summit Sierra.
“‘After Sept. 24, we will not be a charter school, temporarily, we will be running a home school program,’ she said.
“Wickens is hoping that state legislators can step in and solve the constitutional conflict.
“‘We absolutely need a special session, immediately,’ she said, noting that the school will have a rally on the issue on Thursday, Sept. 10.”
The Summit Sierra charter school isn’t alone in its decision to remain open. On Tuesday, the Washington State Charter Schools Association confirmed that all nine of our state’s charter schools will remain open for the entire school year. The news came to the understandable relief of thousands of parents and students. KOMO News reports,
“The decision cast doubt on what would happen to the 1,200 students in charter schools, but Tom Franta, chief executive of the charter schools association, said Tuesday that all nine have committed to remaining open for the year, even if that means relying on private donations. The cost to operate the schools, which are in Spokane, Tacoma, Kent, Highline and Seattle, is estimated at $14 million a year…
“The news that the schools would remain open for the year brought ‘a huge, emotional shout of ‘thank goodness’’ from parents who attended a meeting at SOAR Academy in Tacoma on Tuesday, said Thelma Jackson, chairwoman of the school’s board.”
Details of a long-term solution have yet to be determined. Republican state Rep. Drew Stokesbary has suggested the Legislature “could make tweaks to the law as needed, such as by segregating the money that could be used for charter schools in a separate account.” Notably, Stokesbary also pointed to potential unforeseen—yet problematic—implications of the court’s ruling on other types of educational programs – “including tribal schools that receive state money and Running Start, a program by which high school students can gain college credit.”
The state commission responsible for overseeing Washington’s charter schools isn’t holding its breath for any change concerning the court’s decision on charter schools. Today, the commission began closing down in response to the ruling.
Charter school advocates will hold a rally calling for a special session in Seattle at the Summit Sierra charter school on Thursday, September 10th.
As previously stated, the future of charter schools in Washington State remains unclear. However, it is clear that the state Supreme Court is determined to base its decision off of a certain [read leftist] ideology. Its charter school decision is based on a deliberate “misunderstanding and mischaracterization of how the legislature funds traditional public schools.” And, its decision promises to negatively impact the futures of thousands of low-income and minority children.