Mixed Ruling From Judge On Charter School Law

By Ann Dornfeld

A judge’s ruling today will allow the introduction of charter schools in Washington, but strikes down part of the law as unconstitutional. Both sides celebrated the ruling.

King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel upheld much of the charter school law. And the state Attorney General said the state will continue to implement it. Rietschel ruled that charters are not so-called “common schools” under the law because they aren’t controlled by voters.

As a result, she ruled, charters don’t qualify for as much state funding as traditional public schools, like construction dollars. Lisa Macfarlane is Washington State Director of Democrats for Education Reform, which backed the charter school law. Macfarlane said she’s thrilled with the ruling.

Lisa Macfarlane: “It’s a great day for kids and educators and parents who are keenly interested in more public school options for kids that these first charter schools will be providing.”

The ruling was also heralded by charter school opponents. Rich Wood is spokesman of Washington Education Association, one of the plaintiffs.

Rich Wood: “Folks who have been following this case and who believe that the charter school law is unconstitutional are very pleased by the court’s decision.”

Other plaintiffs in the case include the League of Women Voters, educators and parents. Both sides said they expect the ruling will be appealed. Washington became the 42nd state to legalize charter schools when voters approved them last year. Twenty-two prospective schools have filed to receive the state’s first charters. Decisions are expected by the end of February.

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