Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New Lawsuit Challenges the Constitutionality of Charter Schools

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.



Cases, Charters and Vouchers, State law developments | Permalink


What's going to be interesting is the "General and uniform" clause from Article IX, Section 2:

"The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools. The public school system shall include common schools, and such high schools, normal schools, and technical schools as may hereafter be established. But 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."

Will Charter Schools be considered Common Schools? They're pretty much designed to NOT be general and uniform--the whole point is to be different, with the hope of catching those kids who don't excel in the typical public schools--and the governance system that was set up for Charters in Washington State is removed from the Superintendent of Public Instruction, who putatively would be the head of all Common Schools in the state.

It's going to be an interesting one to watch.

Posted by: Ryan | Jul 9, 2013 3:37:51 PM

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