Amicus filings: Groups come to charter defense

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Date: Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Contact: Cynara Lilly at (206) 915-7821 or Maggie Meyers at (724) 263-9826

 Legislators, Former State Officials, and Others Sign on in Support of Families, Schools, WA Charters in El Centro de la Raza v. Washington State

“The Law is Strong”

 Friends of the Court Urge Judge to Reject Plaintiffs’ Claims: “They Simply Don’t Like Charter Schools”


SEATTLE, Wash. – Current and former legislators, former state education officials, and national organizations and education leaders, including the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities (BAEO), the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), yesterday asked the Superior Court for leave to appear as amici curiae, lodging “friend of the court” briefs at the same time. Each brief addresses and refutes largely discrete parts of Plaintiffs’ grab bag of arguments. The potential amici argue in favor of the State’s and Intervenor-Defendants’ positions on Washington’s new charter public schools law. The briefs will, if allowed by the court, add context and perspective as it considers Plaintiffs’ politically motivated yet poorly supported arguments challenging it.

The “friend of the court” briefs were filed alongside a motion for summary judgment submitted by Washington charter families and schools who have successfully intervened in the case to defend the charter public schools law.

“The evidence provided in our brief for summary judgment confirms what we have long known to be true: El Centro de la Raza v. Washington is a politically motivated case that ignores the will of Washington’s charter families and students,” said Thomas Franta, CEO of Washington Charter Schools Association. “The plaintiffs simply do not like charter schools. They are attempting to poke holes in a law that was created and upheld by voters and legislators from both sides of the aisle, at the expense of Washington families and students. WA Charters will continue to fight for high quality public education options for the students of our state, ensuring charter public schools remain a vital part of our education system.”

Briefs filed by the diverse cohort of Washington’s charter public school law supporters and education experts are aimed at refuting a number of Plaintiffs’ arguments. Potential amici and their arguments are listed below:

  • Former state Supreme Court Justice Philip A. Talmadge, alongside a bipartisan group of state senators and representatives, filed a brief addressing Plaintiffs’ claim that Washington’s charter public school law “diverts” funds from traditional schools. The brief argues that the funding mechanism under the new law is in fact legal and reasonable under the legislature’s budgetary discretion for non-General Fund allocations.
  • NAPCS, BAEO, and the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools’ brief addresses Plaintiffs’ claim that innovative charter public schools do not meet the state constitution’s requirement that “[t]he legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools.” In fact, like the constitutions in Colorado, California, Michigan, Ohio, and New Jersey, Washington’s constitution does not bar innovation as the needs of students and the demands of society evolve.
  • The National Association of Charter School Authorizers brief addresses delegation of the state’s duty to provide K-12 public education, and explains the strength of Washington’s charter public school authorization process under the new law.
  • Former chairpersons of the Washington State Board of Education filed a brief further clarifying delegation of the state’s duty to provide public education, with arguments more specific to Washington state.

In addition to the amicus briefs filed yesterday, government financial accounting and reporting expert Dean William Holder of the University of Southern California submitted a declaration clarifying and counteracting the plaintiffs’ key argument that charter public schools take funding away from traditional schools.

Since Plaintiffs initially filed their case, the State and Washington charter public schools and families have already achieved a series of victories, beginning in August when Judge John H. Chun granted twelve families their motion to intervene in the lawsuit. In November, Judge Chun also agreed to dismiss two of the plaintiffs’ core arguments from consideration and ruled that several organizational plaintiffs, including El Centro de la Raza, failed to demonstrate standing in their attack on charter school families. Judge Chun dismissed arguments that were (1) an attempt to tie charter public schools to the state’s underfunding of basic public education, as a separate matter based on speculation, and (2) an attack on last academic year’s operation of charter public schools through the ALE process as moot. Judge Chun later affirmed his ruling that dismissed these two claims after Plaintiffs asked, in vain, for reconsideration of that ruling.

Washington’s new charter public school law was recently awarded a perfect score by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers based on best-practice criteria that helps to ensure a consistent, high-performing charter sector. That award followed a Department of Education grant of $6.9M to Washington state charter schools, a signal of the Obama administration’s confidence in the state’s growing charter sector.

The families and schools are represented by former Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna and his firm, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

To learn more about the history of the lawsuit and meet the parents and students fighting for their schools, visit: http://www.wacharters.org/legalfacts/

About Washington’s Public Charter Schools
Charter schools are a type of public school, approved and overseen by a state or district authorizer. Like all public schools, they do not charge tuition, they are open to all students, and they are publicly funded. However, charter public schools are held more accountable for showing improved student achievement. In exchange for greater accountability, teachers and principals are given more flexibility to customize their teaching methods and curriculum to improve student learning.

Washington’s charter public schools are helping to close the education equity gap. A majority of charter public school students in Washington are students of color, as compared to 43 percent statewide, and a majority of charter public school students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, as compared to 45 percent statewide.

In some communities, traditional public schools are meeting the needs of local students. But in other communities – particularly communities of color that struggle with poverty – they are not. In Washington, African American, Latino and Native American students are scoring between 15-20 percent lower on state assessments. According to 2015-16 mid-year and end-of-year assessment results, students at Washington’s charter public schools are making impressive gains in reading and math.

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