Judge hears challenge to state charter school law

  • By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
  • Friday, November 22, 2013 9:14pm
  • Local NewsNorthwest

SEATTLE — A judge will soon decide whether the state’s new charter school law is an innovative tool for educating Washington’s children or violates the state Constitution’s mandate for an equal education for all.

King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel heard arguments Friday in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of parents, educators and community groups, asking the court to prevent further implementation of the year-old law and declare it unconstitutional.

The state attorney general’s office, representing the people of Washington, argued the charter law enhances education in Washington and does not circumvent anything in the state Constitution or the court decisions that have clarified sections on education.

Rietschel said she would not issue a ruling until she has time to carefully consider the issue.

Applications from people who want to open the state’s first charter schools were due Friday, with the first of these alternative public schools scheduled to open in fall 2014. The Washington State Charter School Commission said it received 19 proposals by the 5 p.m. deadline.

Charter school opponents, represented by Attorney Paul Lawrence, say the law passed by voters last year is unconstitutional because it interferes with the state’s obligation to pay for public schools, set a uniform curriculum and establish other rules. Lawrence also argued the law takes authority granted by the Constitution away from the superintendent of public instruction and from the Legislature.

However Assistant Attorney General Dave Stolier said the charter does exactly what the Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to do: continue to innovate and change to meet the needs of Washington children.

“There’s just not enough here to overturn the voters’ will in this case,” Stolier said. The state is asking the court to grant a motion for summary judgment and stop the lawsuit from going forward.

Both attorneys — and a third lawyer representing the sponsors of the charter school initiative — quoted extensively from recent Supreme Court decisions on education, with a major focus on what’s known as the McCleary decision, in which the court ruled that the way the state pays for education is unconstitutional.

Rietschel asked a lot of questions to tease out their arguments and understood the potential importance of this case, both lawyers agreed after the hearing concluded. Neither would say whether anything the judge said indicated how she was leaning.

Reitschel implied it may take a while to figure it out.

“When I first read both parties’ briefs, it was like going down two different roads that had nothing to do with each other,” Rietschel said, almost immediately after Stolier stood up to make his argument.

The coalition bringing the lawsuit includes the state teachers’ union, a group of Washington school administrators, the League of Women Voters, El Centro de la Raza and several parents, children and school advocates.

More in Local News

A wobbly calf grows into a 1,800-pound Lake Stevens behemoth

A shaggy and sometimes cranky bison is the last of his herd. He lives amid encroaching suburbia.

Elderly couple escape serious injuries in crash with train

The driver drove down tracks instead of a road, hitting a slow-moving train near Stanwood.

Officials ID man shot and killed in apparent Everett robbery

Police believe the victim may have known the shooter, who drove away before the officers arrived.

Man, 60, in critical condition after Bothell crash

Police believe the driver may have been speeding when he hit a rock wall.

Missing Marysville woman found safe out of state

A Marysville senior who was reported missing in March has… Continue reading

FBI operation arrests 3 linked to exploitation of 32 women

The sting focused on Everett and other cities in Snohomish, King, Pierce, Skagit and Spokane counties.

Front Porch

EVENTS Seahawks event postponed A Toys for Tots Blue Friday fundraiser that… Continue reading

Fire crew returns early from wildfires in Northern California

Four Everett firefighters returned from battling California wildfires late Thursday… Continue reading

5-vehicle collision sends school bus into ditch; no injuries

No students were hurt when a school bus crashed into… Continue reading

Most Read