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Legal Challenge to Charters (1240) Is Filed in Washington State

4 Jul

7/03/13                Contact: Paul Lawrence, 206-245-1708; Linda Mullen, 206-445-2657; or Dr. Wayne Au,

 Parents, educators, and community groups file lawsuit challenging new charter school law

A coalition of parents, educators, and community groups has filed a Complaint in King County Superior Court challenging the constitutionality of Initiative 1240, Washington’s new Charter School Act.

The Complaint asserts that the Charter School Act violates the Washington Constitution by improperly diverting public school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control and by impeding the State’s constitutional obligation to amply provide for and fully fund K-12 public education.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the League of Women Voters of Washington, a nonpartisan organization that encourages the participation of citizens in government; El Centro de la Raza, a Seattle-based group dedicated to social justice; the Washington Association of School Administrators, an organization of more than 1,600 school administrators; the Washington Education Association, an organization that represents nearly 82,000 public school employees; Wayne Au, Ph.D., an educator and education advocate; Pat Braman, a former Mercer Island High School teacher and current Mercer Island School Board member; and parents with children in public schools in Snohomish and Spokane Counties.

“The Charter School Act poses a real threat to our public school system in Washington,” said Plaintiff Dr. Wayne Au. “Not only does it divert already deficient state funds from public schools to private organizations, it also exempts those private organizations from many of the standards that are in place to ensure that all children receive an adequate education.”

The Complaint asserts that the Charter School Act violates the Washington Constitution in at least seven ways:

  1. It improperly delegates the State’s constitutional “paramount duty” to provide for the education of children within its borders to private organizations that are not subject to the requirements and standards in place to ensure that all children receive a constitutionally sufficient education.
  2. It also violates the State’s paramount duty to make ample provision for the education of all children within its borders by interfering with the State’s progress toward complying with the Washington Supreme Court directive to the Legislature to fully fund basic educational programs by 2018, as set forth in the 2012 McCleary decision.
  3. It unconstitutionally diverts public funds that are restricted to use for public common schools to private charter schools that are not subject to local voter control.
  4. It violates the Constitution’s “general and uniform” provision because charter schools are not subject to many laws and regulations applicable to public schools, including many of the provisions defining a basic education.
  5. It amends existing state law in a manner not permitted by the Constitution.
  6. It violates the constitutional requirement that the superintendent of public instruction “have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools.”
  7. It violates the Constitution because it mandates the use of local voter-approved levy funds for a purpose other than the purpose for which the voters approved the levies.

The plaintiffs previously asked the Washington Attorney General’s Office to address the unconstitutional provisions of the Charter School Act and the Attorney General declined the request. The lawsuit now asks the King County Superior Court to rule that the Charter School Act is unconstitutional and to prohibit further implementation of the Act. Paul Lawrence and Jessica Skelton of Pacifica Law Group are the lead attorneys in the case.



Legal Challenge to WA State Charter Act — One Step Closer

4 Mar

On Feb. 27, the League of Women Voters, the Washington Education Association (WEA), and El Centro de la Raza  formally asked State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to pursue a legal challenge of 1240 “(the “Charter School Act”) for the reasons outlined in their letter.

This brings the state one step closer to a legal challenge of this unconstitutional law.

Parents Across America to WA State Supt. of Public Instruction Randy Dorn: 1240 is Unconstitutional

4 Mar


Dec. 5, 2012

To Superintendent Dorn:

Parents Across America of Washington State, the local chapters of the national organization dedicated to the preservation of public education, has concluded that Initiative 1240 is in violation of the Washington State Constitution on multiple counts.

We therefore urge the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to pursue a legal challenge to I-1240, based on the following grounds:

  • 1.   I-1240 would establish a charter school commission comprised of politically appointed members with no election by, or accountability to, the general public. It would allocate authorization and accountability for charter schools to this commission, circumventing state-mandated oversight of our public schools by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and local school boards. (Yet this commission would cost taxpayers an estimated $3 million.)The creation of such a commission would be in violation of state law which requires public oversight of all public schools. (See: Article III, Section 22, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Duties and Salary.“The superintendent of public instruction shall have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools, and shall perform such specific duties as may be prescribed by law.”)
  • 2.       Charter schools would not meet the definition of “common schools.” Since 1909, a “common school” has been defined as “one that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free, and subject to, and under the control of, the qualified voters, of a school district.” Sch. Dist. No. 20, Spokane County v. Bryan, 51 Wn. 498, 99 P. 28 (1909). The state constitution also mandates a “general and uniform system of public schools.” Instead, Initiative 1240 would create an unequal subset of schools that would be granted exclusive rights and resources not accorded all schools and all children. These schools would be exempt from public oversight, violating state law that requires all public schools to be “common schools” and part of a “uniform system.” Subsequently, if charter schools are not “common,” then they do not qualify for state funding as stipulated in Article IX, Section 2, which states: “the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools.”
  • 3.       Initiative 1240 also violates state law as recognized by the McCleary decision of January 5, 2012 (McCleary v. State of Washington), which maintains that the state has a constitutionally mandated (Article IX, section 1) “paramount duty” to fully fund all of its public schools. I-1240 would divert funding from common schools to specific schools with unique rights, creating inequity, and further diluting already inadequate resources from our public (“common”) schools, which is in violation of this law.

 As the extremely close election demonstrated (50.7 – 49.3%, despite the enormous financial advantage of the “Yes” campaign, which outspent both “No” campaigns by a margin of 17-1), clearly charter schools remain a divisive, controversial and unpopular concept in Washington State.  (See:  Also: Map of votes for/against I-1240

Parents Across America of Washington finds I-1240 to be an extremely flawed, unconstitutional and undemocratic proposal which circumvents genuine public oversight, and is full of troubling loopholes and opportunities to divert public funding away from our existing schools to private enterprises for proposed outcomes that statistically are no better than existing public schools 83 percent of the time (See: CREDO Report by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes:

Therefore, as parents with children in Washington State public schools who will be affected by this initiative, and as supporters of public education, we urge OSPI to legally challenge 1240.


Susan Peters, Dora Taylor, Joanna Cullen, David Spring, Steve Nesich, Linda Gower, Anastasia Samuelsen, Susan Ryan, Pat Griffith, Chris Van Vechten, Demian Godon, Parents across America, Washington State (Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, and Tri-City chapters)

(This letter was sent back in December. Apologies for the delayed post. -sp.)