Parents Call Washington Charter Schools Illegal

     SEATTLE (CN) — In a renewed battle over charter schools, a coalition of parents, teachers, administrators and labor groups sued Washington state, claiming its Charter School Act is still unconstitutional, despite a legislative fix.
     Plaintiffs in the Aug. 3 complaint in King County Court include the state’s largest teachers’ union, Washington Education Association and the League of Women Voters.
     The state’s original Charter School Act was passed by voter referendum in 2012.
     Many of the same plaintiffs sued the state in 2103, and the Washington Supreme Court ruled in September 2015 that publicly funded private charter schools are unconstitutional.
     The supreme court found that charter schools are not “common schools” as identified in the Washington Constitution because they do not have elected boards that are accountable to taxpayers, and so are not entitled to public funding.
     The Legislature changed the funding process in March, making charters supported by lottery proceeds.
     In the new lawsuit, the coalition says the Charter School Act still authorizes improper transfer of public money.
     “Under the Act, charter schools continue to be run by and responsible to nonprofit companies and nonelected boards and, thus, are not accountable to taxpayers who provide funding for charter schools. Likewise, the Act continues the unconstitutional diversion of public funds to charter schools,” the complaint states.
     The coalition wants the Charter School Act declared unconstitutional and publicly funded Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) schools also prohibited, as they are the same as charter schools, according to the complaint.
     The Washington State Charter Schools Association condemned the lawsuit in a statement.
     “Our state’s new charter public school law is the product of the Legislature’s bipartisan effort to save our state’s charter public schools — schools designed to address equity and opportunity gaps for students of color and from low-income backgrounds whose families are seeking better public education options. We are confident that the bipartisan law passed by the Legislature meets the constitutional threshold laid out by the courts. We are disappointed that any organization would be interested in blindly closing public school doors on students who are finally thriving.”
     The plaintiffs are represented by Paul Lawrence with the Pacifica Law Group.
     They are El Centro De La Raza, the League of Women Voters of Washington, the Washington Association of School Administrators, the Washington Education Association, the International Union of Operating Engineers 609, Aerospace Machinists Union IAM & AW DL 751, Washington State Labor Council AFL-CIO, United Food and Commercial Workers Union 21, Washington Federation of State Employees, American Federation of Teachers Washington, Teamsters Joint Council No. 28, and parents Wayne Au, Pat Braman and Donna Boyer.

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