On July 3, 2012, community groups, educators, and parents filed League
of Women Voters of Washington v. State, claiming that the state's newly
approved Charter School Act ("the Act") violates the Washington Constitution.
In their Complaint filed in State Superior Court, plaintiffs
assert that the new law "violates the education provisions of the Washington
Constitution, impedes the State's ability to fund public education as required
[by the constitution]," and diverts public school funds to private organizations
that are not subject to local voter control.
"The Charter School Act poses a real threat to our public school system in
Washington," said Plaintiff Dr. Wayne Au. "Not only does it divert already
deficient state funds from public schools to private organizations, it also
exempts those private organizations from many of the standards that are in
place to ensure that all children receive an adequate education."
In addition to the League of Women Voters,
plaintiffs include El Centro de la
Raza, a Seattle-based group dedicated to social justice, the Washington
Association of School Administrators, an organization of more than 1,600
school administrators, the Washington Education
Association, an organization that represents nearly 82,000 public school
employees, and individuals on their own behalf and on behalf of their minor children.
The sole defendant is the State of Washington.
The Complaint claims that the Act violates the constitution in seven ways,
1. It improperly delegates the State's constitutional "paramount
duty" to provide for the education of children within its borders to private
organizations that are not subject to the requirements and standards in place
to ensure that all children receive a constitutionally sufficient education.
2. It violates the State's paramount duty to make
ample provision for the education of all children within its borders by interfering
with the State's progress toward complying with the Washington Supreme Court
directive to the Legislature to fully fund basic educational programs by 2018,
as set forth in the 2012 McCleary decision.
3. It unconstitutionally diverts public funds that
are restricted to use for public common schools to private charter schools
that are not subject to local voter control, and it mandates the use of local
voter-approved levy funds for a purpose other than the purpose for which the
voters approved the levies.
4. It violates the Constitution's "general and uniform" provision
because charter schools are not subject to many laws and regulations applicable
to public schools, including many of the provisions defining a basic education.
5. It violates the constitutional requirement that
the superintendent of public instruction "have supervision over all matters
pertaining to public schools."
Plaintiffs are asking the King County Superior Court to declare the Act unconstitutional
and issue an injunction prohibiting its implementation.
Washington State earned low marks from the best available analysis of school
funding systems, the National
Report Card on School Funding Fairness. With an F in "effort," and a mediocre
score in the level of funding, Washington is far from having the features of
a quality funding system.
Washington performs poorly in the area over which states exert the most control,
earning an F on state fiscal effort. The few states that receive F's for fiscal
effort devote a relatively small proportion of their state economic output
to fund public education compared to other states. Washington provides only
3.1% of the state's fiscal resources to public education, while Vermont, the
highest ranked state, provides almost twice that at 5.7%.
Washington also ranks below the national average on overall funding level.
Using figures adjusted to allow state-to-state comparisons, the Report Card
finds that the average funding level in Washington is deficient at almost $1,100
less per pupil than the national average.