Washington Supreme Court Declares Charter Schools Unconstitutional
Credit: Seattle Times
September 5, 2015

This is a huge ruling from the Washington Supreme Court late on a Friday afternoon.

According to the Seattle Times, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled charter schools to be unconstitutional.

After nearly a year of deliberation, the state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 late Friday afternoon that charter schools are unconstitutional, creating chaos for hundreds of families whose children have already started classes.

The ruling — believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country — overturns the law voters narrowly approved in 2012 allowing publicly funded, but privately operated, schools.


In the ruling, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that charter schools aren’t “common schools” because they’re governed by appointed rather than elected boards.

Therefore, “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools,” Madsen wrote.

Justice Mary E. Fairhurst agreed with the majority that charter schools aren’t common schools, but argued in a partial dissenting opinion that the state “can constitutionally support charter schools through the general fund.”

She was joined by Justices Steven C. González and Sheryl Gordon McCloud.

Where are they? Three in the Seattle area, three in Tacoma, two in Spokane. (Existing charter school First Place Scholars, the state's first, is also in Seattle.)

Are they full? Yes. All eight new charter schools report they have filled their available seats, usually with lotteries.

How many charter schools would have been allowed in the state? Under the 2012 law, up to 40 new charter schools could have opened in Washington over a five-year period.
The ruling is a victory for the coalition that filed the suit in July 2013, asking a judge to declare the law unconstitutional for “improperly diverting public-school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control.”

It seems as though a door may be open for restructuring charters in such a way that they can still operate under the aegis of the public school district with general funds, but the Charter Management Operators and other money-skimmers will definitely have a difficult time with whatever is coming.

I fully expect this won't end with this ruling, because there's simply too much money to be had with charter schools.

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