As Parents Across America Washington stated 3 years ago, the initiative and subsequent law is unconstitutional for the reasons stated in December, 2012. The State Supreme Court decision of September 4, 2015 supports our interpretation and position.
Parents Across America of Washington, the local chapters of the national organization dedicated to the preservation of public education, agree with the ruling that charter schools are not Common Schools per the Washington State Constitution on multiple counts.
- 1. The charter school law establishes a charter school commission comprised of politically appointed members with no election by, or accountability to, the general public. It allocates authorization and accountability for charter schools to this commission, circumventing state-mandated oversight of our public schools by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and local school boards and yet paid for by tax dollars. The creation of such a commission is in violation of state law which requires public oversight of all public schools. (See: Article III, Section 22, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Duties and Salary. “The superintendent of public instruction shall have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools, and shall perform such specific duties as may be prescribed by law.”)
- 2. Charter schools do not meet the definition of “common schools.” Since 1909, a “common school” has been defined as “one that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free, and subject to, and under the control of, the qualified voters, of a school district.” Sch. Dist. No. 20, Spokane County v. Bryan, 51 Wn. 498, 99 P. 28 (1909). The state constitution also mandates a “general and uniform system of public schools.” Instead, the charter school initiative would create an unequal subset of schools that would be granted exclusive rights and resources not accorded all schools and all children. These schools would be exempt from public oversight, violating state law that requires all public schools to be “common schools” and part of a “uniform system.” Subsequently, if charter schools are not “common,” then they do not qualify for state funding as stipulated in Article IX, Section 2, which states: “the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools.”
- 3. The charter school law also violates state law as recognized by the McCleary decision of January 5, 2012 (McCleary v. State of Washington), which maintains that the state has a constitutionally mandated (Article IX, section 1) “paramount duty” to fully fund all of its public schools. I-1240 would divert funding from common schools to specific schools with unique rights, creating inequity, and further diluting already inadequate resources from our public (“common”) schools, which is in violation of this law.
As the extremely close election demonstrated (50.7 – 49.3%, despite the enormous financial advantage of the “Yes” campaign, which outspent both “No” campaigns by a margin of 17-1), clearly charter schools remain a divisive, controversial and unpopular concept in Washington State. (See:http://vote.wa.gov/results/current/Initiative-Measure-No-1240-Concerns-creation-of-a-public-charter-school-system.html Also: Map of votes for/against I-1240 http://seattletimes.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/politicsnorthwest/files/2012/12/2012Initiative1240Precincts1.pdf)
Parents Across America of Washington finds the charter school law to be an extremely flawed, unconstitutional and undemocratic proposal which circumvents genuine public oversight, and is full of troubling loopholes and opportunities to divert public funding away from our existing schools to private enterprises for proposed outcomes that statistically are no better than existing public schools 83 percent of the time (See: CREDO Report by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes:http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/National_Release.pdf).
Therefore, as parents with children in Washington State public schools who will be affected by this unconstitutional law, and as supporters of public education, we agree with the Supreme Court of the State of Washington’s decision that charter schools are not “common schools” per the state constitution and therefore charter schools cannot receive public funding.
If there is a special session to be called by Governor Inslee, it should be to fund our public schools per the McCleary law. Our state legislators are in contempt of court for not addressing the budgetary requirements set out by in the McCleary law and once again closed the legislative session without producing a solution.
Parents Across America, Washington State (Puget Sound, Tacoma, Spokane and Tri-Cities chapters).
Contact Dora Taylor at seattled.icloud.com for any additional information or questions.