State Files Its Own Motion to Dismiss Political Arguments in Charter School Case

For Immediate Release | August 24, 2016
CONTACT: Cynara Lilly at (206) 915-7821 or Maggie Meyers at (724) 263-9826

State Files Its Own Motion to Dismiss in Charter Public School Lawsuit: AG Asks the Court to Toss Political Arguments

Intervenors filed yesterday to dismiss lobbying organizations from suit

SEATTLE, Wash. – The State of Washington, led by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, filed a motion today to dismiss two of plaintiffs’ core arguments from consideration in El Centro de la Raza v. Washington, a recently filed lawsuit designed to shut down the state’s thriving charter public schools. Those arguments are (1) an attempt to tie charter public schools to the state’s underfunding of basic public education, which is a separate matter that is under active supervision by the state Supreme Court, and (2) an attack on last academic year’s operation of charter public schools, an argument that a court cannot entertain because, in these circumstances, the plaintiffs’ argument can only be read as assuming too much or too little, too late.  In either case, both arguments are also meritless.

Today’s filing follows yesterday’s announcement that twelve families, representing each of Washington’s charter public schools; the Washington State Charter Schools Association; and several individual existing and planned schools together filed a collective motion to intervene in the politically motivated suit.

Intervenors also filed yesterday a motion to dismiss all of the organizational plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. The motion was filed on the grounds that the advocacy organizations are merely attempting to rehash policy arguments in a courtroom by recasting them as constitutional concerns – policy arguments that were decided at both ballot box and in the 2016 Legislative session. The Washington Education Association, the League of Women Voters and El Centro De La Raza are among the lobbying groups the intervenors are asking the court to dismiss.

The families and schools represent parents, students, and educators throughout Washington focused on ensuring all students have access to an excellent, personalized education and, through quality schools, closing Washington’s persistent equity and opportunity gaps. The families and schools are represented by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

The state’s existing charter public schools opened after voters passed a ballot initiative in 2012, authorizing the creation of more high-quality public-school options for hardworking Washington families. When the Washington Supreme Court identified a glitch in the voter-approved charter public school law, a bipartisan group of lawmakers studied, vetted, and in March 2016, passed a bill specifically designed to address the Supreme Court’s concerns. Legal experts from both sides of the aisle, including non-partisan staff attorneys, combed through SB 6194 to ensure it would pass constitutional muster and restore the will of the voters by creating a path for charter public schools’ long-term success.

Washington’s operating charter public schools began their second school year this month, having quickly become a vital part of Washington’s public education system for the students and families they serve. The schools already are making a quantifiable difference in the lives of hundreds of Washington families, particularly in historically under-resourced and under-served communities.

More than 67 percent of charter public school students in Washington are students of color, as compared to 43 percent of non-charter public school students statewide. In addition, approximately two-thirds of charter public school students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. At four of Washington’s charter public schools, that number exceeds 70 percent.

The brave families planning to intervene and calling to dismiss politically motivated plaintiffs are:

  • Shirline Wilson and her son Miles, a Rainier Prep student, who live in Seattle
  • Delanas “Del” Johnson and his son Jalen, a Summit Sierra student, who live in Seattle
  • Natalie Hester, a parent of a Summit Sierra student, who lives in Seattle
  • Roland Bradley and his grandson Ben, an Excel Public Charter School student, who live Seattle
  • Jennifer Lee and her daughter Angie, a Spokane International Academy student, who live in Mead
  • Heidi and Scott Mitchell and their son JD, a PRIDE Prep student, who live in Spokane
  • Darcelina Solaria and her son Kai, a Spokane International Academy student, who live in Spokane
  • Gen Fiorino and her grandsons Dylan and Tyler, PRIDE Prep students, who live in Spokane
  • Gustavo Cueva and his daughter Tatiana, a Summit Olympus student, who live in Tacoma
  • Crystal Swaffer and her sons Tristen and Asher, SOAR Academy students, who live in Tacoma
  • Gahyun “Sunny” Lee and her son Wonoh and daughter Yulan, Green Dot Destiny students, who live in Tacoma
  • Eduardo Pacheo and his daughter Ava, who live in Yakima and are organizing to open a charter public school in their community

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.

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 in non-charter public schools are scoring between 15-20 percent lower on state assessments. According to mid-year assessment results, students at Washington’s charter public schools are making impressive gains in reading and math.