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Washington State legislators from both sides of the aisle urge state Supreme Court to reconsider public charter school ruling

Oct 27, 2015 | Updates

Ruling infringes on legislative role, harms low-income students and threatens to close nine local schools | Clibborn, Magendanz, Pettigrew, Smith, Springer, Braun, Fain, Hobbs, Litzow, and Mullet step up for WA students

Seattle— Today, Philip Talmadge, former Washington State Supreme Court Justice and state legislator, submitted an amicus, or “friend of the Court” brief urging the state Supreme Court to reconsider its September 4th public charter school ruling. Talmadge submitted the brief on behalf of a bipartisan group of ten Washington State legislators – from both the House and the Senate – who are stepping up to support the more than 1,200 students attending the state’s nine public charter schools facing potential closure in light of the ruling.

Washington State Charter Schools Association CEO Thomas Franta released the following statement:

We are encouraged to see Washington legislators calling on the Court to keep more than 1,200 students in their public charter schools. Elected leaders – including Representatives Judy Clibborn, Chad Magendanz, Eric Pettigrew, Norma Smith, and Larry Springer, and Senators John Braun, Joe Fain, Steve Hobbs, Steve Litzow and Mark Mullet – have come together from both houses and both sides of the aisle out of a dedication to public education and a commitment to ensure great public schools are available to all Washington students, not just some. As this issue moves through the judicial process, we are proud to have such a strong coalition ready to do what it takes to maintain a vital public school lifeline for hundreds of families from underserved communities.

Arguments raised in the brief provide an important legislative perspective on issues that warrant a reconsideration, including:

  • How the Court’s decision intrudes upon the budgetary responsibility of the Legislature and the Legislature’s express determination that no constitutionally-restricted common school funds are used to support public charter schools. In fact, the Legislature made clear in its 2015-17 operating budget that any state support for public charter schools will only come from unrestricted general fund dollars.
  • That the Court’s decision overlooks the Legislature’s authority to define, organize and fund Washington’s public schools, while too narrowly defining a “common school” in a way that restricts Running Start, College in the High School, Tech Prep, and additional programs run by organizations other than elected local school districts.
  • A particular concern about the disparate impact of the Court’s decision on children from low-income backgrounds and children of color – given that public charter schools disproportionately serve more of these children as compared to school districts generally – and that it is within the Legislature’s authority and duty to support policies targeted towards closing opportunity gaps.