State schools chief Randy Dorn has sent a letter to legislative leaders asking them to revise the voter-approved charter school law to give his office jurisdiction over the new schools.
Dorn says the law, which was approved by voters in November, is unconstitutional because it establishes a separate system of public schools run by an independent, unelected agency.
The state constitution says the superintendent of public instruction is in charge of all matters pertaining to public schools. The charter law allows the new schools to be authorized either by local school boards or by an appointed statewide charter school commission.
Dorn, who leads the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, says the problem can be easily fixed by a simple amendment.
He also expressed these concerns before the election and has threatened to file a lawsuit to fix the problem.
The state’s largest teachers union, the Washington Education Association, has also signaled that it plans a legal challenge of the charter school law.
WEA President Mary Lindquist said in the recent issue of the union’s magazine, WE2.0, that WEA’s board decided to fund the challenge and is “seeking partners and developing an approach and timeline for this effort.”
Charter proponents have said they believe the law will stand up to legal scrutiny.
Liv Finne, who writes about education for the Washington Policy Center, wrote that the charter initiative “is clearly constitutional. The lawsuit may delay Washington’s charter schools, but it will not stop them.”
Meanwhile, the state Board of Education meets in Tumwater today to discuss its role in the charter school process. The law gives the state board several tasks, including the establishment of rules for charter school authorizers and a timeline for approving them.Staff writer Debbie Cafazzo contributed to this report.