Judge Rules: Families Deserve A Say in the Future of Their Schools

For Immediate Release | August 31, 2016
CONTACT: Cynara Lilly at (206) 915-7821 or Maggie Meyers at (724) 263-9826

Parents, Students, Schools Granted Motion to Intervene in Lawsuit Aimed at Harming Public Charter Schools

SEATTLE, Wash. – In a swift decision, King County Superior Court Justice John H. Chun has today granted twelve families their motion to intervene in a lawsuit designed to threaten Washington’s successful charter public schools. The ruling came just two days after the anti-charter lobbying organizations behind the lawsuit had tried to block families from having their say.

“We are grateful to Judge Chun for recognizing that there are no bigger stakeholders in this than families like mine—and we absolutely deserve to have a seat in the courtroom,” said Shirline Wilson, parent of Miles, 12, who attends Rainier Prep in south King County. “By filing a motion to intervene, we wanted to make it clear who this lawsuit is really aimed at harming: all of the students who attend Washington’s charter public schools. And we represent not just the families attending these schools, but the countless more who deserve access to high-quality public education options, and the voters of Washington who passed the 2012 charter public school law and welcomed new, quality public school options for hardworking Washington families.”

Together with the twelve families, the Washington State Charter Schools Association and six schools were also granted collective permission to intervene. Judge Chun’s decision came just two days following a crass attempt by plaintiffs—including multiple unions, the League of Women Voters and El Centro de La Raza—to block parents from intervening in the lawsuit, which seeks to close their children’s public schools.

Families were quick to condemn plaintiffs’ attempt to block their voices, releasing statements earlier today. “It is hypocritical that organizations like El Centro de La Raza, an organization which purports to fight for Hispanic families with a mission that states that they are ‘grounded in the Latino community’ is trying to block members of the Latino community like my family from having a voice in the courtroom,” said Ed Pacheco, father, Yakima. “This lawsuit is designed to harm our families by cutting off our access to high-quality public school options. We will not be intimidated and we will not stand down.”

Intervenors filed a separate motion last week to dismiss all of the organizational plaintiffs named in the lawsuit – the same organizations that believe they have a right to close schools and that families do not have say. Intervenors’ motion to dismiss 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 on 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 intervenors have asked to be dismissed.

On a similar basis, the State also filed its own motion last week to dismiss certain arguments by the plaintiffs, again, because those arguments were raised, or can only be raised, in the legislature, not the court system.

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.

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 Court’s concerns. Legal experts from both sides of the aisle, including non-partisan staff attorneys, combed through ESSB 6194 to ensure that it passed constitutional muster and restored the will of the voters by creating a path for charter public schools’ long-term success.

Washington’s charter public schools are helping to close the education equity gap. More than 67 percent of charter public school students in Washington in 2015-16 were students of color, as compared to 43 percent statewide. Two-thirds of charter public school students in 2015-16 qualified for free or reduced-price school meals, as compared to 45 percent statewide. At four of Washington’s charter public schools, this number exceeds 70 percent.

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.

With just one year under their belt, charter public schools already are making a quantifiable difference in the lives of hundreds of Washington families, particularly in historically under-resourced and under-served communities. According to mid-year assessment results, students at Washington’s charter public schools – many of whom entered the school year a grade level or more behind – were already making impressive gains in reading and math toward meeting or exceeding state and national standards. End-of-year data further demonstrated promising results for charter public school students after just one year.

This month, Washington’s operating charter public schools are back in session for their second school year, having quickly become a vital part of Washington’s public education.