The Washington Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday about the constitutionality of the state’s new charter school law.
A lawyer for the coalition that is suing to stop the charter school law argued that charter schools are “fundamentally different” than traditional “common schools” and should not be funded with certain taxpayer money.
“There is a requirement, in our view, in the state constitution that says when you appropriate money for common schools, it’s got to be used for common schools,” said Paul Lawrence, who represents a coalition that includes the Washington Education Association, El Centro De La Raza and the League of Women Voters of Washington.
The tax revenue collected from various sources to fund common schools is constitutionally protected, Lawrence argued, and can’t be used for charter schools.
State attorney Rebecca Glasgow told the justices the state’s public school system must adapt to the changing needs of students.
“When the voters approved Initiative 1240, they added charter schools to a long list of existing non-traditional, public education programs — many of which are run by school districts, but some of which are not,” Glasgow said.
“This court should hold that charter schools are common schools,” she said. “But even if they weren’t, they can be operated with unrestricted general fund education money.”
Approved by voters in 2012, the charter school law allows up to 40 charter schools to open over the next five years. So far, ten charter schools have been authorized.
The first charter school opened this fall in Seattle, eight schools are enrolling students for next year and one school is slated to open its doors in 2016, according to the Washington State Charter Schools Association. The association’s CEO Thomas Franta issued a statement saying he was “confident” the court will uphold the law, which he described as one of the strongest in the country.
The Supreme Court will issue a decision at a later date. TVW taped the arguments — watch it below.