For Immediate Release | Friday, November 4, 2016
Contact: Cynara Lilly at (206) 915-7821 or Maggie Meyers at (724) 263-9826
Hearing to Dismiss Key Arguments, Lobbyist Backers from Politically-Motivated Lawsuit Against Charter Public Schools Brings Parents, Students, Supporters to King County Superior Court
SEATTLE, Wash. – Dozens of Washington families, supporters and students gathered at King County Superior Court today to hear arguments to dismiss key elements of El Centro de la Raza v. Washington, a politically-motivated lawsuit designed to shut down the state’s thriving charter public schools. Dismissal motions were brought by both the State and a group of intervenors consisting of twelve families, 6 schools and the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters). Justice John Chun presided over the hearing.
The State’s motion seeks to throw out politically motivated arguments presented by plaintiffs, including (a) an attempt to tie charter public schools to the state’s underfunding of basic public education, a separate matter that is under active supervision by the state Supreme Court in the ongoing McCleary case, and (b) a hypothetical claim that charter schools may, at some unknown point in the future, seek to operate under an alternative provision of the state’s education funding laws.
The intervenors’ collective motion addresses the participation of lobbying organizations and the improper use of this lawsuit to rehash policy arguments that have already been settled at both the ballot box and legislature. The Washington Education Association, the League of Women Voters and El Centro de la Raza are among the lobbying groups that intervenors argue ought to be dismissed.
Several parent and student intervenors and their legal representation spoke at a press conference held just before today’s hearing. Speakers included:
- Former Attorney General Rob McKenna, whose law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe represents the charter public schools, families and advocates intervening in this suit.
- Shirline Wilson, parent of Miles, 12, who attends Rainier Prep in South King County.
- Eduardo Pacheco, a Yakima parent who is organizing to open a charter public school in his community that his young daughter, Ava, may attend.
- Kara Hayes, parent of Adriana, who attends Green Dot Destiny Middle School in Tacoma.
- Tatiana Cueva, a 10th grade student in her second year at Summit Public Schools: Olympus in Tacoma.
“I want to be clear: El Centro v. Washington is nothing more than a threat and a ploy led by lobbying organizations that have a longstanding vendetta against charter schools,” said Shirline Wilson. “These organizations are ignoring the best interests, and most importantly today, the voices, of Washington voters, families, and students – and are doing so to maintain their own political status.”
“Today, we are standing up again to say: These are our schools, not your politics,” said Tatiana Cueva. “Every student deserves a school that will inspire them, that will serve their needs, and that will serve their families and communities best.”
Former Attorney General Rob McKenna had the following to say about the hearing on the motion to dismiss:
We view this lawsuit as a political tactic intended to recast long-settled policy arguments as constitutional concerns, which they simply are not. Legal experts from both sides of the aisle in Olympia, including non-partisan staff attorneys, combed through E2SSB 6194 word-by-word to make sure the re-enacted charter public schools law passes constitutional muster. These dismissal motions will limit the more cynical elements of our opponents’ case, and we look forward to Judge Chun’s decision.
Background: 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, agreed that E2SSB 6194 was consistent with Washington’s State Constitution, and effectively restored the will of the voters by creating a path for charter public schools’ long-term success.
Washington’s operating charter public schools reopened in August, 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.
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.