Washington State Supreme Court Ruling: The Public Must Be In Public Education

The Supreme Court of the State of Washington ruled on last Friday that the funding of privately- managed charter schools with funds diverted from public schools is unconstitutional.


The ruling of the Supreme Court of Washington centers on the definition of “common schools”. All schools which are eligible for public funds must fit the definition of “common schools” . Here is the part of the court ruling which addresses that requirement:

The words ‘common school’ must measure up to every requirement of the constitution … and whenever by any subterfuge it is sought to qualify or enlarge their meaning beyond the intent and spirit of the constitution, the attempt must fail.”

Bryan (a former court case) established the rule that “a common school, within the meaning of our constitution, is 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 the school district. The complete control of the schools is a most important feature, for it carries with it the right of the voters, through their chosen agents, to select qualified teachers, with powers to discharge them if they are incompetent.” …

Here, because charter schools under 1-1240 are run by an appointed board or nonprofit organization and thus are not subject to local voter control, they cannot qualify as “common schools”….

Our constitution requires the legislature to dedicate state funds to support “common schools.” … As noted… “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.” … Using any of those funds for purposes other than to support common schools is unconstitutional. …

Our constitution directs the legislature to establish and fund common schools and restricts the legislature’s power to divert funds committed to common schools for other purposes even if related to education. … The Charter School Act’s diversion of basic education funds allocated to the support of the common schools and common school construction funds is unconstitutional and void.”

This ruling is an important step towards using taxpayer money to shift our national priorities towards creating excellent and equitable education for all our children and away from funding profit-making private enterprises that have no evidence of improving education for the children who attend them. A step in the right direction for sure!

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