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It’s back to court for charter schools in Washington State

 

lawsuit-

The Washington State Supreme Court deemed charter schools unconstitutional in 2015 and yet the charter schools remained open on the promise of private money supporting them. The $14M never materialized and instead the State Superintendent funneled money surreptitiously into charter schools by way of a small school district in a corner of the state, the Mary Walker School District.

In the meantime, legislators who ignored the consequence of not adequately funding public schools forged ahead with great hubris in what they thought would be a way around using public funds to keep the charter schools open by using state lottery money. This was called the Charter School Act.

There are many holes in the new law and recent developments are pertinent to the new lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are:

League of Women Voters, Washington State

El Centro de la Raza

Washington Education Association

Washington Association of School Administrators

International Union of Operating Engineers 609

Aerospace Machinists Union DL 751

Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO

United Food and Commercial Workers Union

Washington Federation of State Employees

American Federation of Teachers, Washington

Teamsters Joint Council No. 28

Pat Braman, on her own behalf

Donna Boyer, on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor children

Sarah Lucas, on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor children

The defendant is:

State of Washington

 

These are the basics:

After the Charter School Act was approved by the state legislators, it went to Governor Inslee’s desk to be signed. The Governor did not sign the bill but allowed it to pass into law. This is rare and the last time it happened was in 1981.

The Charter School Act went into effect on April 3, 2016.

On May 27, 2016, the Plaintiff’s made a demand that the State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who is considering a run for Governor, investigate the constitutionality of the Charter School Act.

The Attorney General responded that he was working on behalf of the state and would uphold the law, hence this lawsuit.

What is questionable is how the Attorney General can uphold a law on funding charter schools when charter schools were deemed unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court. And, why did Attorney General Ferguson argue against imposing fines on the state legislators for not fully funding public schools in Washington State?

According to the lawsuit, the Charter School Act “requires that state common school funds be diverted from the existing common schools system to charter schools. The Act also creates additional administrative functions and costs for the state board of education, the state superintendent of public instruction (“Superintendent”), and school districts”.

The law re-establishes the Washington State Charter School Commission, an agency which never closed as seen in emails regarding the fraudulent acts of keeping charter schools open before the Charter School Act became law.

One of many audacious aspects of the Charter School Act is even though one of the members of the 11-member commission is to be from the office of the State Superintendent, “the Commission is an “independent agency” and the Superintendent does not have supervisory authority over the Commission or the charter school system.”

Even though the Commission is to be housed in the offices of the State Superintendent “for administrative purposes only” and there is to be one person on the Charter School Commission representing the State Superintendent, the Superintendent is to have no authority over the commission even though the Commission is to be housed within the offices of the State Superintendent. These are offices paid for by tax dollars.

What hubris.

To find out which Democrats voted for this bill, see Money for charters but nothing for public schools? It’s time for a recall in Washington State starting with Ruth Kagi.

Also, according to the Charter School Act, charter schools are exempted “from most of the laws and regulations applicable to public school districts…. With the exception of those “specific state statutes and rules” identified in the Charter School Act”, and any “state statutes and rules made applicable to the charter school in the school’s charter contract, . . . charter schools are not subject to and are exempt from all other state statutes and rules applicable to school districts and school district boards of directors”.

The Charter School Act also states that “Charter schools must “provide a program of basic education that meets the goals of RCW 28A.150.210, but charter schools are exempt from offering many components of the education program outlined in the basic education act. For example, charter schools are exempt from the “minimal instructional requirements” for “basic education” set forth in RCW 28A.150.220.”

According to the lawsuit, “The Act did not establish a new revenue source or eliminate any existing expenditures. Instead, as confirmed by the legislative history, the legislature intends merely to move existing moneys and/or existing programs between the general fund and the Washington Education Pathways Fund as needed to continue the diversion of public funds to charter schools”.

The lawsuit then mentions the Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) in Washington State. As I wrote in a previous post titled Emails reveal the “Gates Machine” in action after the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision that charter schools are unconstitutional:

Within days of the Supreme Court determining that charter schools are unconstitutional in Washington State, the Gates Foundation got busy working with the Washington State Charter School Association (WA charters).  WA charters contacted Superintendent Kevin Jacka with the Mary Walker School District (MWSD) as well as the State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to get the ball rolling on keeping charter schools open.

This is how it went. The Gates Foundation, contacted the Washington Charter Association and had them contact the Mary Walker School District to discuss with the Superintendent, Kevin Jacka, the idea of taking on the charter schools that had opened in the state and placing them under the umbrella of the Alternative Learning Experience program (ALE).

The lawsuit states:

“Charter schools do not qualify as ALEs under the requirements of chapter 28A.232 RCW. ALEs are “not primarily based on full-time, daily contact between teachers and students and [do] not primarily occur on-site in a classroom.” …Rather, ALEs “occur outside the classroom using an individual student learning plan.” For example, RCW 28A.232.010(1)(a) requires that an ALE is provided “in whole or in part independently from a regular classroom setting or schedule, but may include some components of direct instruction.” RCW 28A.232.010(1)(a) also requires that an ALE is provided “in accordance with a written student learning plan.”

Unlike charter schools, ALEs also are not funded on the same basis as public schools. Although school districts may receive state basic education funding for students enrolled in ALEs… the Superintendent separately calculates and distributes money to school districts for each full-time equivalent student enrolled in an ALE,.. As the legislature found in RCW 28A.232.005(2), “there are different costs associated with providing courses not primarily based on full-time, daily contact.”

In other words, the ALE’s set up by the Mary Walker School District are for students who require independent study for various personal reasons. The charter schools are different in that they require students to participate in a classroom setting and therefore require more funding (and oversight).

To give you a sense of scale, the Mary Walker School District is a tiny district outside of Spokane, Washington in Springdale with an enrollment of 508 students. This school district is to manage charter schools throughout the state.

The lawsuit continues, “In filings with the Superintendent, Mary Walker School District demanded more than $3.1 million in public funds for ALEs for the 2015-16 school year, which is approximately $2.8 million more than the total ALE funds received by Mary Walker School District in the 2014-15 school year”.

This is funding of charter schools coming through the Mary Walker School District from general public education funds.

The lawsuit states “Charter schools do not meet the requirements for common schools because charter schools are neither subject to, nor under the control of, the qualified voters of the school district”.

In the following sentences of the lawsuit, “Additionally, voters do not have the right to elect agents with supervisory authority over charter schools authorized by the Commission. Instead, the Commission, which is comprised of appointed members, supervises the charter schools it authorizes”.

The lawsuit also touches upon the McCleary decision stating that it is the State’s responsibility and the legislators’ paramount duty to adequately fund public schools. This responsibility has not been met by the legislators and they are in contempt of court at this time.

Per the lawsuit, “This diversion of public funding to charter schools through their sponsorship as ALEs also violates article IX, section 1 of the Constitution and is contrary to the Supreme Court’s decision in McCleary because it diverts funds from public schools to charter schools”.

The lawsuit goes into detail in substantiating these statements and I recommend reading through it if you have time but for those who have an aversion to reading this type of material, you now have a brief description of the lawsuit.

Updates to follow.

Dora Taylor

Related articles:

Charter Schools Gone Wild: Study Finds Widespread Fraud, Mismanagement and Waste

Report: Millions of dollars in fraud, waste found in charter school sector

Exposed by CMD: KIPP’s Efforts to Keep the Public in the Dark while Seeking Millions in Taxpayer Subsidies

Charter Cap ‘n Gown II: The College Years

The Charter School Bill 1240 and the 1%: An Analysis

Sponsors of Policy: A Network Analysis of Wealthy Elites, their Affiliated Philanthropies, and Charter School Reform in Washington State

Emails reveal the “Gates Machine” in action after the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision that charter schools are unconstitutional

6 comments on “It’s back to court for charter schools in Washington State

  1. Greg
    August 16, 2016

    What is the timeline for the lawsuit? Any thoughts on how soon we are likely to hear the outcome? I’m hoping to see these boondoggles shut down as soon as possible…

    • seattleducation2010
      August 16, 2016

      The wheels of justice can turn slowly. It’s difficult to predict. The first court decision took longer than we expected.

      Dora

  2. WA Teacher
    August 8, 2016

    Do we really know the $14M never arrived? I remember reading emails where the charters said they had full private funding. And if they did receive it, then where is it?

    • seattleducation2010
      August 8, 2016

      The Washington Charter Association stated they would keep the charter schools open but according to the emails, Bill Gates immediately got to work to funnel public money to the charter schools through the Mary Walker School District.

      Apparently there was no intent to keep the schools open using private money.

      Dora

  3. Leonard
    August 8, 2016

    “What is questionable is how the Attorney General can uphold a law on funding charter schools when charter schools were deemed unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court. And, why did Attorney General Ferguson argue against imposing fines on the state legislators for not fully funding public schools in Washington State?”

    I believe the answer revolves around the AG considering a run for governor.

    Placing the SPI on the Charter Commission is a watered down attempt to meet Constitutional requirement of SPI overseeing all schools.

  4. Anonymous
    August 7, 2016

    “Even though the Commission is to be housed in the offices of the State Superintendent “for administrative purposes only” and there is to be one person on the Charter School Commission representing the State Superintendent, the Superintendent is to have no authority over the commission even though the Commission is to be housed within the offices of the State Superintendent.”

    This is indeed constitutionally problematic (see Article 3, Section 22) – as this part of the constitution says the state superintendent is to “oversee all public schools.” The current charter law has no role for the superintendent except to send someone in his/her place to serve on the Charter Commission (which does NOT oversee all charter schools.)

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