Court Ruling Could Impact How Charter Schools Get Funded

Dec 12, 2013

A King County judge has ruled parts of the state’s charter school law are unconstitutional. But the nuances of the ruling have both supporters and opponents of charter schools declaring victory.  

If it’s confusing why both sides fighting something in court would be happy, it has to do with how you read what King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel decided.

On the one hand, she upheld the core of the law, which is why Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center welcomed the ruling.

“Basically, it's all systems are [a] go. That key finding clears the way for the charter school commission and the Spokane district to open charter schools in Washington state.”

As many as eight charter schools could open next year.

But the judge ruled charter schools cannot be defined as “common schools,” which means they would NOT be eligible for certain kinds of state funds.

A coalition, including the state teachers union, has been challenging the initiative, raising concerns about both funding and the accountability of charter schools.

Rich Wood with the Washington Education Association, a plaintiff in the suit, pointed out that charter schools  are not under the control of voters in the local school districts.

“And that’s really an important point—that if charter schools are going to be funded with tax payer money, there needs to be some accountability to the tax payers,” he said.

The way Wood and the teachers union see it is that the judge’s decision underscores what they’ve been arguing all along: there are major constitutional problems with the charter schools act.

Charter school supporters say that that funding issue raised by the judge’s decision can be worked through an amendment by the Legislature.