Tribal Schools, Education Experts and Business Leaders Recognized as Key Voices in El Centro Lawsuit by State Supreme Court

For Immediate Release | October 19, 2017

Big Win for Charter Public Schools as Supreme Court Recognizes Tribal Schools, Education Experts and Business Leaders as Key Voices in Lawsuit

Despite opposition from lobbying groups, the state Supreme Court accepted every amicus brief filed in support of charter public school families in El Centro de la Raza v. Washington

SEATTLE, Wash. – On October 13th, the Washington Supreme Court delivered a key victory for charter public schools in El Centro de la Raza v. Washington (El Centro) by accepting all seven amicus briefs submitted in support of charter public schools and families earlier this month. With its decision, the Supreme Court ruled against lobbying group appellants who hoped to limit the voices of tribal school leaders, education experts, state legislators and Washington business leaders arguing that the lawsuit has little merit and could carry broad, unintended consequences that harm alternative learning programs, such as Running Start and tribal compact schools.

Additional background on El Centro, including copies of the amicus briefs, can be found here.

“The fundamental issue in El Centro v. Washington is whether the state has the ability to provide education options that serve the needs of every community in Washington’s diverse cultural landscape,” said Steve Smith, Executive Director of the Black Education Strategy Roundtable, which joined one of the seven amicus briefs the court accepted. “The reality is, our state’s achievement gap is widening and we need all public education options available to turn it around. That’s why we joined Wa He Lut Indian School to submit an amicus brief in support of Washington families. Washington state’s education system must include programs like Running Start, tribal compact schools, and charter public schools, not only because they are constitutional, but because they provide our children with important education options.”

Each brief from the diverse group of organizations that submitted can be found below:

  • Wa He Lut Indian School and the Black Education Strategy Roundtable: Brief Here
  • Education Researchers: Brief Here
  • The Washington Roundtable: Brief Here
  • Former State Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge and Bipartisan State Legislators: Brief Here
  • The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools and the League of Education Voters: Brief Here
  • The National Association of Charter School Authorizers: Brief Here
  • Former Washington State Board of Education Officials: Brief Here

The State Attorney General is defending the charter school law on behalf of the legislature. The Washington Charter Schools Association is serving as an intervenor-defendant on behalf of the state alongside twelve families and schools. Intervenor-defendants 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:

About Washington’s Charter Public 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.

In 2016-17, more than 1,600 students attended eight charter public schools in Washingotn. In 2017-18, ten charter public schools will be operating and serving more than 2,500 students across the state. In 2018, the sector will grow even more, with the opening of Willow Public School in Walla Walla and Impact Public Schools’ elementary charter public school in Tukwila.

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. Reflecting the diversity of the students they serve, 39 percent of our schools’ founding teachers identified as people of color, whereas the the statewide average for nonwhite teachers is 13 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. According to 2015-16 academic results, students at Washington’s charter public schools are making impressive gains in reading and math.