July 4, 2013 in City

Suit challenges charter school law

Opponents say measure diverts public funds to private groups
Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
Spokane only one

SEATTLE – Spokane is the only school district seeking permission from the Washington State Board of Education to authorize charter schools.

Thirteen districts had expressed formal interest in the idea. But by Monday’s deadline, only Spokane turned in an application.

Spokane Superintendent Shelley Redinger told KUOW-Radio she expects her city will have some of the state’s first charter schools. The district wants to have a say in which schools open there.

She says her district is ready to get started with the idea in Washington state.

Voters approved charter schools in November. The first of the independent public schools could open in fall 2014.

SEATTLE – A coalition of parents, educators and community groups filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court on Wednesday challenging the constitutionality of Washington’s new charter schools law.

The complaint filed Wednesday argues the new law violates the state Constitution by diverting public school dollars to private organizations that are not subject to voter control. And it contends the charter schools law gets in the way of the state’s constitutional obligation to pay for public schools.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the state teachers’ union, a group that represents Washington school administrators, the League of Women Voters, El Centro de la Raza and several parents, children and school advocates.

They are asking the court to prevent further implementation of the new law passed in November and to declare it unconstitutional.

The group had previously filed a complaint with the Washington attorney general in February asking him to investigate seven constitutional issues with the new law.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson replied that he would follow the voters.

“We all share the desire to provide the highest quality education for our children. As the state’s attorney, it’s my responsibility to defend the will of the voters and I will be directing my legal team to do so in this case,” Ferguson said at that time.

His office had a similar response this time.

“The Attorney General’s job is to defend the will of the voters and that’s what we’ll do in this case,” spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie said.

One of the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Wednesday called the charter school law a threat to Washington’s public school system.

“Not only does it divert already deficient state funds from public schools to private organizations, it also exempts those private organizations from many of the standards that are in place to ensure that all children receive an adequate education,” said Wayne Au, an educator and education advocate, in a statement.

Among the issues raised in the lawsuit is that it violates the “general and uniform” provision of the Constitution because charter schools would not be subject to all the laws and regulations other public schools have to follow.

The complaint also has a problem with the superintendent of public instruction not supervising charter schools because his job is outlined in the state Constitution.

It also says the new law violates the Constitution because of the way local voter-approved school levy dollars can be transferred to charter schools in certain circumstances.

Paul Lawrence and Jessica Skelton of Pacifica Law Group are the lead attorneys in the case.

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