Last month, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that charter schools – which voters approved in 2012 – are unconstitutional, due to the fact they are not governed by elected boards and are therefore unaccountable to taxpayers. As Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson asks the court to reconsider their opinion, we present two differing views on the issue. The below opinion is from Angel Morton, a kindergarten teacher and president of the Tacoma Education Association. To read a pro-charter school opinion from parent Shirline Wilson, click here.
When the Washington Supreme Court recently threw out our state’s controversial charter school law, the timing was a surprise, but the decision itself was predictable – and correct.
In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled the law was unconstitutional because it diverted funding from existing K-12 public schools to new charter schools operated by private organizations that are not held accountable to the public. The court was clear: Under our state’s Constitution, schools that are funded with taxpayer dollars must be accountable to the voters who fund them.
There’s another important principle at stake: Washington state has both a moral and a legal obligation to provide all students a quality public school education, regardless of their ZIP Code. It’s impossible to discuss the charter school ruling without viewing it in the context of the Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision, which ruled the state is violating the constitution by not amply funding basic education. The Supreme Court is fining the legislature $100,000 a day and holding it in contempt for their failure to fully fund our public schools. In that light, it’s indefensible to divert a single penny away from existing public schools into new, unproven charter schools that serve a tiny fraction of our state’s students.