August 16, 2014 in Region

Washington Supreme Court to hear charter school law challenge

Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
 

SEATTLE – The Washington Supreme Court announced Friday it would consider whether a voter-approved charter school law violates the state constitution.

Oral arguments concerning the lawsuit brought by charter school opponents have been scheduled for Oct. 28.

King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel found in December that parts of the new law were unconstitutional. The decision focused on whether certain taxpayer dollars can be used to pay for the operation of charter schools.

Both sides asked the state Supreme Court to skip the appeals court process and directly review the case.

“We have always believed that the Supreme Court would be where we’d end up,” said attorney Paul Lawrence, who represented the coalition that brought the lawsuit.

The arguments will focus on the part of the lawsuit concerning whether charter schools meet the state definition of a “common school” and whether they are eligible for dollars set aside for those schools, Lawrence said.

That was not the main focus of arguments at the trial court level.

The coalition that brought the lawsuit included the state teachers union, a group of Washington school administrators, the League of Women Voters, El Centro de la Raza and several parents, children and school advocates.

The state’s charter school system was approved by voters in 2012. The first charter school – First Place Scholars in Seattle – is scheduled to open in a few weeks.

Reitschel’s decision has not stopped the charter school approval or planning process, since she ruled that only one part of the law violates the state constitution.

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