The web of lawsuits around Washington State's charter schools has gotten tighter and more tangled.
Led by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, the State of Washington filed a motion today to dismiss two of the plaintiffs’ core arguments in El Centro de la Raza v. Washington, another lawsuit filed against charters under the leadership of the Washington Education.
"Those arguments are (1) an attempt to tie charter public schools to the state’s underfunding of basic public education, which is a separate matter that is under active supervision by the state Supreme Court, and (2) an attack on last academic year’s operation of charter public schools, an argument that a court cannot entertain because, in these circumstances, the plaintiffs’ argument can only be read as assuming too much or too little, too late," said the Washington State Charter Schools Association in a statement, "In either case, both arguments are also meritless."
Today’s filing follows yesterday’s announcement that 12 families representing the charter sector filed a collective motion of their own calling for the dismissal all of the organizational plaintiffs named in the lawsuit.
"The motion was filed on the grounds that the advocacy organizations are merely attempting to rehash policy arguments in a courtroom by recasting them as constitutional concerns – policy arguments that were decided at both ballot box and in the 2016 Legislative session," said the WA Charters statement. "The Washington Education Association, the League of Women Voters and El Centro De La Raza are among the lobbying groups the intervenors are asking the court to dismiss."
The state’s existing charter public schools opened after voters passed a ballot initiative in 2012. When the Washington Supreme Court identified a glitch in the voter-approved charter school law that conflicted with the state constitution, a bipartisan group of lawmakers studied, vetted, and in March 2016 passed a bill specifically designed to address the Supreme Court’s concerns. Legal experts from both sides of the aisle, including non-partisan staff attorneys, combed through SB 6194 to ensure it would pass constitutional muster and restore the will of the voters by creating a path for charter public schools’ long-term success.
Washington’s operating charter public schools began their second school year this month, having quickly become a vital part of Washington’s public education system for the students and families they serve. The schools already are making a quantifiable difference in the lives of hundreds of Washington families, particularly in historically under-resourced and under-served communities.
More than 67 percent of charter public school students in Washington are students of color, as compared to 43 percent of non-charter public school students statewide. In addition, approximately two-thirds of charter public school students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. At four of Washington’s charter public schools, that number exceeds 70 percent.
Charter schools are a type of public school, approved and overseen by a state or district authorizer. Like all public schools, they do not charge tuition, they are open to all students, and they are publicly funded. However, charter public schools are held more accountable for showing improved student achievement. In exchange for greater accountability, teachers and principals are given more flexibility to customize their teaching methods and curriculum to improve student learning.