In Major Victory for Public Education, Washington State Supreme Court Rules Charter Schools Constitutional

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a historic ruling for public education in Washington, the state’s Supreme Court today ruled in El Centro de la Raza vs. Washington (“El Centro”) that public charter schools are constitutional, upholding their place in the public education system and ensuring current and future charter school students will have access to a high-quality public education. 

National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees has released the following statement:

“Today’s ruling is a win for all children in Washington, especially the more than 3,400 public school students whose futures were put into question by El Centro. Public school students deserve high quality public school options. We are grateful the court recognized that charter schools are a critical piece of the public education landscape in Washington and that charter schools’ permanent place in that landscape has been affirmed.”

In May, the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in El Centro, which sought to overturn the Washington State Charter School Act (the “Act”), a bipartisan law that allows high-performing public charter schools to operate in the state. This revised charter school statute was enacted in March 2016, following the Washington State Supreme Court’s ruling in September 2015 that the original, 2012 voter- approved charter school law was unconstitutional. In February 2017, the revised charter school statute was upheld on all counts by the trial court. 

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, supported by the National Charter School Legal Action Fund, filed a joint amicus brief before the Washington State Supreme Court, highlighting the broad public support for public charter schools and the families they serve in 43 states and the District of Columbia, including Washington state.

Like all public schools, Washington’s charter schools are tuition-free, open to all students, and are approved and overseen by public bodies. Moreover, these schools are publicly accountable, subject to open meetings laws and public records laws, and held to high academic, legal, and fiscal standards. 

The Washington State Charter School Association has been instrumental in these years-long efforts and have worked tirelessly to ensure a positive outcome for Washington’s students. The court’s ruling today has given families new hope by affirming that their schools will continue to be a valuable part of Washington’s public education system. 

About Public Charter Schools
Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.

About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit www.publiccharters.org.

About the National Charter School Legal Action Fund
The Charter School Legal Action Fund (CSLAF) launched in November 2016 to support select public charter school cases with national impact. Learn more about the CSLAF and its work here