Teachers union asks court to repeal Washington state’s charter school law

Jul 9, 2013 by

KENT, Wash. – The Washington Education Association and a collection of public school apologists are turning to the courts in their latest attempt to prevent charter schools from opening in the Evergreen State.

The WEA-led coalition filed a lawsuit last week against the state over a new, voter-approved law which allows up to 40 charter schools to set up shop over the next five years.

The group wants the law to be declared unconstitutional for “improperly diverting public school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control” and “impeding the State’s constitutional obligation to amply provide for and fully fund K-12 public education,” reports The Seattle Times.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson has pledged “to defend the will of the voters” on this issue.

The logic behind the union’s lawsuit contains several gaping holes.

The WEA’s claim that voters have no control over charter schools may be technically true, but it overlooks the fact that the nine members of the Charter School Commission – who will authorize most of the charter schools – are appointed by the governor, the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

Voters will be able to influence and shape commission policy through their elected governor and state representatives.

If a Washington school district chooses to start a charter school, that process is overseen by the elected members of the state Board of Education, reports The Seattle Times.

If a charter school operator fails to live up to state-imposed requirements, the organization will lose its charter and go out of business. Taxpayers can only dream of that level of accountability for their neighborhood public schools.

The WEA’s other argument – that state money spent on charters is money taken away from K-12 funding – conveniently ignores the reality that charter schools are public schools.

As a Spokesman-Review editorial notes, “the rationale that this money can’t be counted as part of the total spent on basic education seems specious.”

According to the editorial writers, the WEA’s lawsuit is an attempt to define “public schools” as only those that exist now, and to ensure that any schools opened in the future operate exactly like the current ones.

“Of course, that defeats the purpose of pursuing charter schools as an alternative,” the editorial states. “And let’s face it, that’s the real point (of the new law).”

In a letter to the editor of The News Tribune, taxpayer Richard Mannix puts it more bluntly: “Teachers’ unions and some school administrators resisting this new concept (of charter schools) are seeking to maintain a status quo system that has failed.

“Is it their jobs they are worried about rather than our most valuable assets – our students?” Mannix asks.

He’s exactly right. The teachers union is afraid that once charters take root in Washington, families will learn how effective they can be. When that happens, the demand for charters will grow, and enrollment at union-controlled public schools will drop.

That will leave the WEA with fewer dues-paying members, less money and less clout in the state Legislature.

There’s no word yet as to when a court ruling can be expected.

Teachers union asks court to repeal Washington state’s charter school law – EAGnews.org powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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