Late yesterday, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that charter schools were unconstitutional. The lawsuit was brought by the League of Women Voters, the Washington Education Association, and the State District Superintendents. Charters are new to Washington, only a few opened last year. More are scheduled to open this year. There is a twenty day period for response to the ruling.
The basis for the ruling is explained below.
In Washington, public schools are called ‘common schools’ under its constitution. Common schools, in a previous lawsuit, Bryan, were defined as:
“a common school, within the meaning of our constitution, is one that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free and subject to and under the control of qualified voters of the school district. The complete control of the schools is a most important feature, for it carries with it the right of the voters, through their chosen agents, to select qualified teachers, with powers to discharge them if they are incompetent.”
The court determined that charter schools were not common schools because they were not governed by the elected school boards. Moreover, the court ruled that using general funds for charters was illegal, given that charters are not common schools.
Will this case impact the Citizens for Strong Schools lawsuit in Florida? Our constitution, like Washington’s, does require a uniform system of schools. The case comes to trial in Tallahassee in March 2016. See the Education Justice list of applicable legislation regarding Florida public schools. It is not the same as in Washington.