July 3, 2013 at 1:45 PM
A coalition headlined by Washington’s teachers union has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a recently-approved state initiative establishing charter schools, the group announced Wednesday.
The 31-page lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court earlier in the day, seeks to stop the establishment of charter schools.
A state commission established under the initiative is currently laying the groundwork for the schools, which are free and public but independent of school districts and allowed to use different techniques.
The lawsuit argues that the initiative violates the state constitution in seven ways, including that it improperly delegates education duties to private organizations, interferes with progress toward complying with a state Supreme Court order for the state to spend more on education, diverts funds to schools not under local voter control and takes power away from the state superintendent of public instruction.
“The Charter School Act poses a real threat to our public school system in Washington,” said one of the plaintiffs, education advocate Wayne Au, in a news release. “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 lawsuit had been expected. The coalition filed a legal challenge to the state attorney general over the initiative in February.
Initiative 1240 received 50.7 percent support from state voters last November.
January 8, 2013 at 4:55 PM
Randy Dorn, Washington State’s top schools official, is asking state legislative leaders to amend the state’s new charter school law so that his office supervises the new schools.
Dorn has repeatedly said he thinks the law, which voters passed in November, violates Washington’s constitution because it calls for the creation of a new, appointed charter school commission that would authorize and supervise charter schools.
Dorn, the state’s elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, says the constitution makes him responsible for supervising all public schools, including charters. Dorn has said repeatedly that he may challenge the new law in court as well as ask legislators to change the way charters will be governed.
In his letter to lawmakers, Dorn said he said he is not arguing for or against charters, just who oversees them.
The new law, which allows up to 40 charters to open in Washington state, gives school boards the chance to authorize charters, too, but also sets up the new commission. In his letter, Dorn said charter schools that are approved and overseen by the commission would not be directly accountable to the public.
“The Commission is the state level administrator, while the Charter School Boards provide local administration,” he wrote. “These unelected bodies will have the power to spend the peoples’ money without being accountable to the people.”
Because the initiative was passed just this fall, two-thirds of legislators in the House and the Senate would need to approve any changes.
January 2, 2013 at 8:01 PM
The state’s largest teachers union is exploring how it might help challenge the charter-school law that narrowly passed last November. The union’s board of directors has committed to help fund a lawsuit, although it is not yet clear who would file it, when it would be filed, or exactly what form the challenge would take.
Rich Wood, the union’s spokesman, said the union is talking to potential allies, which include many of the groups that campaigned against Initiative 1240 this fall, and is also looking at possible legal strategies.
Along with the union, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has talked about challenging the initiative on constitutional grounds, and a new parent group, called Protect Our Public Schools, has also formed to support any legal action.
As approved by the voters, Initiative 1240 will allow up to 40 charter schools to open in Washington in the next five years. Charter schools, which exist in most other states, are privately run but publicly funded schools that do not have to follow most of the rules and regulations that govern other public schools.
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