In November 2012, Washington state voters became the first in the country to approve a public charter school law by a ballot initiative. Initiative 1240 authorized the creation of 40 charter schools over five years beginning with the 2014 school year. Just months after I-1240 passed, however, charter school opponents filed a lawsuit in state court to block the law from being implemented, arguing it violated the state constitution in several ways.
This is not the first time charter school opponents have taken their policy disputes to court when they haven’t been successful convincing legislators or voters to block charter schools. In fact, over the past 15 years, arguments similar to those made by Washington charter school opponents have been tried in other states, and they have failed every time. From California to Ohio to New Jersey, the same constitutional claims raised in the Washington case have been raised and rejected by state courts of appeal and state supreme courts.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently released a paper explaining when and where these constitutional claims have been made, what the respective outcomes were, and how the lessons learned from these cases can–and should–be applied to the Washington constitutional challenge.
Washington courts should follow the sound reasoning applied by other state courts that have considered and denied similar constitutional arguments. Each of the arguments raised in the Washington suit have been presented, in one form or another, to other state courts with comparable constitutional provisions, and they have been uniformly rejected. The Washington courts should do the same.
This blog is excerpted from the National Alliance for Public Charter School’s publication, We’ve Been Here Before: Charter School Opponents Use Same Legal Arguments and Lose Every Time, by Chad A. Readler and Kenneth M. Grose.
Renita Thukral is the vice president of legal affairs at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.