Politics & Government

Former attorneys general join legislators in call for high court to reconsider charter schools decision

The Olympian

UPDATE WEDS. OCT. 28: Four former state attorneys general — Slade Gorton, Ken Eikenberry, Chris Gregoire and Rob McKenna — added their voices Wednesday to the call for reconsideration of a September state Supreme Court ruling that declared the voter-approved charter school law unconstitutional.

The four argue that the court ruling could impact other education programs that have developed outside the common school model. They include a University of Washington program for highly capable students, tribal compact schools and other programs. They also contend that the court ruling puts at risk other appropriations from the state general fund such as children and family services, mental health and other programs.

— Debbie Cafazzo

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A group of state lawmakers is joining the call for the state Supreme Court to reconsider its September ruling that invalidated Washington’s charter school system.

The 10 lawmakers, which include five Democrats and five Republicans, filed an amicus brief with the high court Monday asking the court justices to reconsider their decision that declared the privately operated, publicly funded schools unconstitutional.

In the court’s ruling, a majority of justices said that charter schools don’t qualify as common schools and therefore aren’t eligible for public funding. The court based its ruling partly on how charter schools are governed by appointed boards rather than by officials who are publicly elected.

Yet the brief filed by the 10 lawmakers Monday claims the court’s decision “potentially undercuts the Legislature’s authority” to structure the state’s school system and write state budgets, while ignoring that lawmakers took steps to ensure that “common school” funding wouldn’t go to charter schools.

The lawmakers also questioned whether the court’s decision could affect the Legislature’s ability to fund other specialized educational programs, such as Running Start or bilingual programs.

According to the lawmakers’ court filing Monday, “legislators can provide this Court an important legislative perspective on the issues addressed by the court, a perspective the amici legislators believe the Court has overlooked in its opinion.”

The filing by lawmakers Monday supports motions for reconsideration already submitted by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

Lending their names to the brief were state Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island; Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle; Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland; Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah; Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton; Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens; Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah; Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn; Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia; and Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island.

Voters approved charter schools in Washington state by narrowly passing Initiative 1240 in 2012.