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Ruling Allows Charter Schools To Move Forward In Washington

Flickr Photo/everyday Zoid
King County Judge Jean Rietschel found charter schools ineligible for some state funds.

A King County Superior Court ruling Thursday will allow the introduction of charter schools in Washington, but struck down part of the law as unconstitutional.    

In her ruling, Judge Jean Rietschel upheld much of the charter school law, and the state attorney general said the state will continue to implement it.

Rietschel ruled that charters are not so-called “common schools” under the law because they aren’t controlled by voters. As a result, she ruled, charters don’t qualify for as much state funding as traditional public schools, like construction dollars.

Lisa Macfarlane is Washington state director of Democrats for Education Reform, which backed the charter school law. She said she's thrilled with the ruling. “It’s a great day for kids and educators and parents who are keenly interested in more public school options for kids that these first charter schools will be providing,” she said.

Charter school opponents also heralded the ruling.

“Folks who have been following this case and who believe that the charter school law is unconstitutional are very pleased by the court’s decision,” said Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association, one of the plaintiffs.

Other plaintiffs in the case include the League of Women Voters, educators and parents. Both sides said they expect the ruling will be appealed. 

Washington became the 42nd state to legalize charter schools when voters approved them last year.  So far, 22 schools have filed applications to be charters. Decisions are expected by the end of February.

Year started with KUOW: 2008