Washington Supreme Court Upholds Charter School Law

Washington parents who have opted to work with charter schools rather than public schools will be able to continue doing so for the foreseeable future thanks to the fact that Washington’s Supreme Court has upheld the state’s charter school law.

The law, which was approved of by voters in 2012, had been challenged by teacher’s unions and activists who are furious that the state provides funding for these schools without putting the schools under direct control of public school officials.

The fight against Washington’s online charter schools has been going on for decades. While most states allow such schools to operate, online charter schools in Washington have been subjected to legal action due to the fact that the state was funding them with money that would have otherwise been used to fund traditional public schools. When this set-up was declared unconstitutional by state courts in 2015, the Washington State legislature passed legislation allowing the charter schools to be paid with money earned from the state lottery.

However, the Washington Education Association and public school teacher unions vehemently opposed the move because they said that this source of revenue would have covered some public school expenses had it not been used for charter schools.

Critics have also argued that it is against the law for Washington to fund the charter schools because these schools are not overseen in the same manner as regular public schools. However, these critics ignored important facts that led the state’s Supreme Court to side with the charter schools.

First of all, the charter school system in the state is not all that different from the public school system. The state-funded schools are free, and any student who wishes to enroll can do so. The charter schools are required to employ certified teachers and meet the same instruction requirements as public schools in the state.

What is more, the charter schools are serving more than three thousand students who may not receive a quality education without their assistance. These students often live in rural areas and/or have had problems in the local public school that make it hard for them to receive an education there. Furthermore, as the state’s Supreme Court noted in its ruling, charter schools do not have to be overseen in the same manner as public schools because charter schools are not funded by local tax dollars and so should not be held accountable to locally elected officials.

Unfortunately, the argument over charter schools in the state is likely to rage on for some time. There is a very real chance that the charter school system will need more funding for a growing number of students; this means that the state’s legislature will either need to limit who can join charter schools, or find an alternative source of funding in addition to lottery revenues.

Public school advocates may have been stung by their recent defeat in court, but they are likely looking for other ways to make the charter school system fail. Even so, the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing Washington’s charter school system to continue operating as it has been is still a great win for school choice advocates.

Not all students are able to attend a regular public school, and even many of the students who do attend fail to thrive in such an environment. Given these facts, it would seem that those who profess to be concerned about educational rights in the state would be eager to look for solutions so that each child can learn in the environment that best suits his or her needs. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

Public school advocates refuse to believe that there can be other great educational models apart from the public school system. The recent court fight has made it clear that funding and control are at the heart of the disagreement. Simply put, local teacher’s unions and the Washington Education Association are more concerned about money and being able to dictate terms and conditions to parents and students than they are about meeting students’ needs in the most efficient, effective way possible.

~ Liberty Planet