Judge Strikes Down Part of Charter School Law

A King County Judge today ruled that a charter school cannot be defined as “common school” because it not governed by voters in a school district.

At issue, as Seattle Weekly’s Nina Shapiro reported last month, was a suit filed by a coalition of groups and individuals including the state teachers union and the League of Women Voters. They argued that charter schools violate the state constitution because they are “operated by private non-profit corporations, are not subject to voter control, and are exempt from a wide array of state laws and rules applicable to schools districts.”

Although Judge Jean Rietschel found that part of the charter school law, which voters barely approved in November, is in violation of the state constitution, charter supporters said the ruling will do nothing to slow implementation of the first schools that are to open in fall 2014.

Both sides agree, however, that in the end, the constitutionality of charter schools will likely be determined by the state Supreme Court.

As the Associated Press is reporting, charter school detractors insist the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the state’s obligation to pay for public schools, set a uniform curriculum and establish other rules.

Attorney Paul Lawrence, who is representing opponents, also argued the law strips authority granted by the constitution away from the superintendent of public instruction and the Legislature. Rietschel disagreed with those challenges.

In a statement, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the “court has held the vast majority of the charter schools initiative constitutional, and the state will continue to implement this law.”

TThe initiative campaign managed survive in part because of contributions tht poured in from Seattle’s tech economy. Bill Gates donated $3 million, outside his charitable foundation, and Paul Allen gave $1.5 million.

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