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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.



Charter Schools in Washington State — by Hook or by Crook?

21 Dec


In the end, the multimillion-dollar charter campaign I-1240 managed to scratch out the slimmest of wins in Washington State — by less than 42,000 votes state-wide (41,682) out of a population of nearly 7 million.

It officially, if quietly, became law on Dec. 6, 2012.

But that “victory” may be short-lived. Various legal challenges are likely to be made for the very good reason that basic elements of I-1240 violate the state constitution.

Apparently state law does not require an initiative to be constitutional to be on the ballot, which leaves the challenges to happen after the vote and, obviously, only if the initiative passes.

Supporters may like to say that a win is a win. But is it? What kind of mandate does the charter side have when their grossly funded campaign only managed to scrape together 41,700 more votes than the much less financed No side?

What kind of mandate or support or goodwill does this privatization of public education have when community groups, school boards, democratic organizations, parents and the professionals in the frontlines of our schools — our teachers — universally voted against it?

Moreover, how can a state implement a law that is illegal?

It can’t.

To get a real sense of how deep or genuine is the support for charter schools in Washington State, it’s instructive to review who opposed and who supported this flawed initiative. Here is a sampling:

WHO OPPOSED 1240: WA State PTA, the NAACP, El Centro de la Raza, the League of Women Voters,  Parents Across America, Seattle, Spokane and Tri-Cities chapters, Washington State PTA, the Washington Educations Association, American Federation of Teachers, Washington, Parents and Friends for Tacoma Public Schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, Tacoma School Board, Riverview School Board, Renton School Board, Eatonville School Board, Evergreen School Board, Franklin Pierce School Board, Goldendale School Board, Onion Creek School Board, Seattle Public School Board, Seattle Public School superintendent Jose Banda, 1st District Democrats, 5th District Democrats, 10th District Democrats, 11th District Democrats, 21st District Democrats, 22nd District Democrats, 23rd District Democrats, 27th District Democrats, 32nd District Democrats, 33rd District Democrats, 34th District Democrats, 36th District Democrats, 37th District Democrats, 39th District Democrats, 40th District Democrats, 41st District Democrats, 43rd District Democrats, 45th District Democrats, 46th District Democrats, 48th District Democrats, King County Democrats, Pierce County Democrats, Lewis County Democrats, Skagit County Democrats, Mason Country Democrats, Whatcom Country Democrats.

STATEWIDE, TOTAL VOTES AGAINST: 1,484,125 voters in the state of Washington (49.3 percent of the vote)

Also, the city of Seattle, where the state’s largest school district — and the Gates Foundation headquarters — is located voted against I-1240.

WHO SUPPORTED & BANKROLLED IT: Bill Gates, Alice Walton, Eli Broad, Reed Hastings (Netflix, Inc.), Connie Ballmer (Microsoft, Inc.), Paul Allen (Vulcan Inc., Microsoft, Inc.), Nick Hanauer, League of Education Voters*, Stand for Children, Inc.* (See: The Charter-Pushers: Who is bankrolling the $8 million effort (and counting) to bring charters to Washington State?)

*(funded by the Gates Foundation)

STATEWIDE, TOTAL VOTES FOR: 1,525,807 (50.7 percent of the vote)

— Sue p.

Corporate Ed Reform in Washington State – All Roads Lead to Gates

16 Nov

Wordle: Corporate Funders of "Ed Reform"

Who was the biggest funder of the I-1240 charter school initiative in Washington?

Bill Gates at $3+ million. His foundation is one of the biggest charter school pushers and funders in the nation.

But Gates’ overwhelming financial influence also extends to an array of spin-off, co-opted and interrelated Astroturf organizations, all of which lobbied and pushed for charter schools in Washington, including:

Stand for Children, Inc. – (National, political lobbying enterprise) Funded by the Gates Foundation, see here, here and here.

League of Education Voters / LEV Foundation / A+ Washington / Excellent Schools Now Coalition – Funded by the Gates Foundation, see here, here, here ,and here. (Note: Gates sent another infusion of funds — $1, 499,543 — to LEV and its pro-charter lobbyist subsidiaries (A+ Washington / Excellent Schools Now) in October, right before the election, potentially another contribution to the pro-charter I-1240 bankroll. Is there a reason the amount falls just under the $1.5 million mark?)

LEV Foundation
Date: October 2012
Purpose: to continue public engagement and action project to advance the policies and priorities of A+ Washington through the Excellent Schools Now (ESN) Coalition
Amount: $1,499,543
Term: 2 years and 1 month
Region Served: Global, North America
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Seattle, Washington

Partnership for LearningFunded by the Gates Foundation

Alliance for Education – Funded by the Gates Foundation (here and here and here) (Note that Gates channeled funds through the Alliance for Education to the League of Education Voters (LEV). Why was that? Elsewhere he funds LEV directly. Also note that the so-called “Our Schools Coalition” is another fabricated offshoot of the Alliance for Education which is also funded by Gates.)

Alliance for Education
Date: November 2008
Purpose: to support the college-ready curriculum, assessments, data and advocacy elements of Seattle Public Schools’ strategic plan
Amount: $6,929,430
Term: 3 years
Region Served: Global, North America
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Seattle, Washington
Grantee Web site:
Consequently, despite their misleading names, none of these entities are genuine grassroots, community organizations that represent parents and families of Washington. They are all purveyors (arguably puppets) of the Gates brand of corporate education reform, whose products have proven to be extremely shoddy and downright damaging. Charter schools is one of these “products.”
— sue p.

10 Concerns about Charter Schools

12 Nov

What We Don’t Want for Washington

“(…) unfortunately, we have far too many mediocre charters and we have far too many charter schools that are absolutely low performing.” — Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, address to the National Charter Schools Conference, July 1, 2010

An $11 million political campaign by a small group of wealthy individuals, many from out of state, placed charter schools on the ballot in Washington this year and promoted it with television ads.

After rejecting charters three times already in the past 16 years, I-1240 appears to have passed in Washington this November by a razor-thin margin of 50-49%.

I-1240 is an extremely flawed and alarming (and unconstitutional) proposal, full of troubling loopholes and opportunities for private enterprises to profit from public funds and no genuine public oversight. It also allows for a simple majority of 51 percent of parents or teachers to stage a takeover of an existing school and convert it into a charter — with no recourse for the remaining 49 percents of parents or teachers who may oppose this “conversion.”

Clearly charter schools remain a divisive, controversial and unpopular concept in Washington State.

The election may be over, but our concerns have not gone away.

  1. The odds are not good. Most charters do not perform better than genuinely public schools. As many as 83 percent of charters perform no better – or perform worse – than regular public schools (per Stanford University’s 2009 CREDO study, the most comprehensive peer reviewed study of charter schools to date.) Will Washington charters schools be better than existing public schools? If not, why have them?
  2. Charters divert resources from regular public schools. In some cases they even take over buildings. Washington State already ranks near the bottom of per-pupil funding. Our state Supreme Court declared earlier this year that we have failed in our “paramount duty” to fund our schools (McCleary v. State, Jan. 5, 2012). We need to invest in our existing public schools, not divert precious resources to charters which have less than a 20 percent chance of being better than current schools and to serve only a few students. Will these charter schools drain resources from existing public schools? Will public money be diverted to private enterprises?
  3. No public oversight, limited accountability, no oversight granted to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, making I-1240 unconstitutional. Charter schools do not answer to a school board or a superintendent or voters. There is little oversight or accountability. Although a failing charter is supposed to lose its charter and close, very few do.  Who will be accountable for charter schools in Washington?
  4. Segregation. Charters are re-segregating our nation’s schools. The NAACP oppose this development (see:  Choice Without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards) . The KKK supports them (Segregated Charter Schools Evoke Separate but Equal Era in U.S. ). Will charter schools in Washington segregate our children?
  5. Skimming & trimming. Charters cherrypick and omit certain students. They have been criticized for not serving Special Ed children – children with disabilities, or English Language Learners  are generally not served by charters. (Public schools must accept all kids.) These children are underrepresented or in some cases, forced out of charter schools. Will charter schools in Washington admit and serve children with special needs and English language learners?
  6. High attrition rates. As many as 60 percent of students have been known to leave KIPP Inc, charter schools. Will charter schools in Washington maintain their enrollment or will they also have high attrition rates?
  7. They are not necessary. Our city and state has the resources to do it ourselves. We don’t need to outsource our schools to private operators with little to no accountability. We are able to innovate without importing charter management companies from California to run our schools. Seattle already has alternative schools, schools that are able to use stronger math curricula than the district’s required text. The Seattle School District has the Creative Approach option that allows creative autonomy already. In what way will charter schools prove themselves necessary to our state?
  8. High teacher turnover and reliance on inexperienced, underqualified trainees from Teach for America, Inc. who have only had 5 weeks of training and no in-class student teaching experience. TFA are only obliged to commit to their teaching job for 2 years. Most leave by the third year. Will charter schools in Washington primarily hire Teach for America or nonunion teachers and will there be high turnover rates?
  9. Extra bureaucracy & cost. I-1240 requires the establishment of a new Charter Commission comprised of unelected appointees with no accountability to the public. This commission would cost an estimated $3 million. How much will this commission actually cost? Who will be on it? Are there any conflicts of interest? To whom is this commission accountable?
  10. The initiative as written is very troubling and risky in its lack of public oversight and accountability, the costs involved, and the “trigger” aspect, which would allow as few as 51 percent of parents or teachers to convert a school — even a healthy, successful one — into some kind of charter of their choosing. –With no recourse for the remaining 49 percent. How will this trigger mechanism be used? Who is going to pull this trigger?  How can it be fair to all members of an existing school? Will some families be forced to leave their school? Will there be transparency or will it be done without general community knowledge?



Charter School Scandals (and other informative sites)

12 Nov

For more information about the troubling issues surrounding privately run but publicly funded schools known as charters, see:

Charter School Scandals

Seattle Education Blog

Seattle Schools Community Forum