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Same As Common Schools? High Court Ponders Charter Schools

Flickr Photo/Nick Amoscato (CC BY-NC-ND)

The Washington State Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday regarding the constitutionality of the voter-approved charter school law.The primary issue in the case is whether certain tax dollars can go to the privately-run but publicly-funded schools.

State law dictates that certain funding is only for so-called common schools — traditionally, K-12 public schools.

Last year, a King County Superior Court judge ruled that funding charters  with money that’s restricted for common schools was unconstitutional.

Arguing for the plaintiffs, attorney Paul Lawrence told the high court that voters were misled about how charters would be funded.

He points to the language in the initiative.

“We treat these the same as common schools. We fund this the same as common schools. These are common schools. These are common schools. That was the mantra that was given to the voters. And that simply isn’t accurate at the end of the day.”

But state attorney Rebecca Glasgow called the plaintiffs’ definition of common schools narrow.

And she said the tax dollars restricted to common schools already go to institutions that aren’t overseen by traditional K-12 school boards. Like Running Start or schools on Indian reservations.

“Then that jeopardizes not just charter schools, but every type of school whose teachers are not hired and fired by school districts,” Glasgow said.

The plaintiffs in the case include the League of Women Voters and the state’s largest teachers’ union. They’ve asked the high court to strike down the entire law.

The state’s first charter school opened in Seattle this fall.

Year started with KUOW: 2008