Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Last week, a group of plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Washington's new charter school law. In short, the complaint argues that the diversion of public school funding to private third parties, who are not subject to state standards , accountability, and democratic oversight, is inconsistent with the state's constitutional duty to provide an adequate and "general and uniform" education. The complaint further alleges that depriving the superintendent of public instruction of supervision of charter schools violates his constitutional authority.
Plaintiffs have brought similar challenges against charter schools in other states in the past. While their claim has some theoretical merit, courts have generally sided with the state in these cases, finding that charter schools are public schools as well and how the legislature structures or delegates educational authority is within the legislature's discretion. My quick scan of Washington Constitution this morning did not reveal an specific constitutional authorities or responsibilities of the state superintendant. But if plaintiffs' assertion of such a constitutional duty is correct, they may have found a hook that distinguishes them from other states. I will keep you posted as the case developes. For more on the current story, see here.