Parents, educators, and community groups file lawsuit challenging new charter school law
A coalition of parents, educators, and community groups has filed a Complaint in King County Superior Court challenging the constitutionality of Initiative 1240, Washington’s new Charter School Act.
The Complaint asserts that the Charter School Act violates the Washington Constitution by improperly diverting public school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control and by impeding the State’s constitutional obligation to amply provide for and fully fund K-12 public education.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the League of Women Voters of Washington, a nonpartisan organization that encourages the participation of citizens in government; El Centro de la Raza, a Seattle-based group dedicated to social justice; the Washington Association of School Administrators, an organization of more than 1,600 school administrators; the Washington Education Association, an organization that represents nearly 82,000 public school employees; Wayne Au, Ph.D., an educator and education advocate; Pat Braman, a former Mercer Island High School teacher and current Mercer Island School Board member; and parents with children in public schools in Snohomish and Spokane Counties.
“The Charter School Act poses a real threat to our public school system in Washington,” said Plaintiff Dr. Wayne Au. “Not only does it divert already deficient state funds from public schools to private organizations, it also exempts those private organizations from many of the standards that are in place to ensure that all children receive an adequate education.”
The Complaint asserts that the Charter School Act violates the Washington Constitution in at least seven ways:
1. It improperly delegates the State’s constitutional “paramount duty” to provide for the education of children within its borders to private organizations that are not subject to the requirements and standards in place to ensure that all children receive a constitutionally sufficient education.
2. It also violates the State’s paramount duty to make ample provision for the education of all children within its borders by interfering with the State’s progress toward complying with the Washington Supreme Court directive to the Legislature to fully fund basic educational programs by 2018, as set forth in the 2012 McCleary decision.
3. It unconstitutionally diverts public funds that are restricted to use for public common schools to private charter schools that are not subject to local voter control.
4. It violates the Constitution’s “general and uniform” provision because charter schools are not subject to many laws and regulations applicable to public schools, including many of the provisions defining a basic education.
5. It amends existing state law in a manner not permitted by the Constitution.
6. It violates the constitutional requirement that the superintendent of public instruction “have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools.”
7. It violates the Constitution because it mandates the use of local voter-approved levy funds for a purpose other than the purpose for which the voters approved the levies.
The plaintiffs previously asked the Washington Attorney General’s Office to address the unconstitutional provisions of the Charter School Act and the Attorney General declined the request. The lawsuit now asks the King County Superior Court to rule that the Charter School Act is unconstitutional and to prohibit further implementation of the Act. Paul Lawrence and Jessica Skelton of Pacifica Law Group are the lead attorneys in the case.
Contact: Paul Lawrence, 206-245-1708; Linda Mullen, 206-445-2657; or Dr. Wayne Au, firstname.lastname@example.org