Redo needed on charter schools ruling, all five state Attorneys General agree

This week, all four living former state Attorneys General joined together to deliver a simple message to our state Supreme Court: justices need a “redo” on their ruling against charter schools. Together this bipartisan group – myself, Chris Gregoire, Ken Eikenberry, and Slade Gorton – represent 44 years of service leading the state Attorney General’s Office.

Our friend-of-the-court brief lays out some of the potential problems and unfortunate outcomes that will occur if the court extends its logic in the charter schools case to other state educational programs.

Current Attorney General Bob Ferguson agrees that the ruling is problematic. He filed a motion for reconsideration because the ruling “goes beyond what is necessary to resolve this case, creates tension with other decisions of this court, and calls into question programs far beyond charter schools,” Ferguson wrote.

Unanimous: Charters ruling puts other programs at risk
With our brief and Ferguson’s motion, it’s unanimous: all five state Attorneys General agree that the court should make another try at getting this ruling right. Most troublingly, the logic of the charter schools ruling puts funding for many other education programs at risk, among other cited issues.

That’s because the court’s opinion that charter schools are not “common schools” and are impermissibly funded from common school funds cannot logically be limited only to charter schools. If the legal basis for disallowing charters funding is extended to other programs – and, legally, it’s unclear why it wouldn’t be – funding could be swept away from programs the state has supported for years.

Our brief highlighted two examples, state-tribal compact schools and a program for early admission to the University of Washington for highly capable students. In his motion, A.G. Ferguson also mentioned Running Start programs, the Washington Youth Academy, and the Dept. of Correction’s Youth Offender Program as being put at risk by the ruling’s logic.

Not only bipartisan group to ask for reconsideration
A bipartisan group* of legislators also filed a joint brief this week asking the court to reconsider the charters ruling. The 10 current legislators agreed the court is putting non-charter school programs at risk. They also stuck up for the legislative branch, saying it’s the legislature’s job, not the court’s, to “organize Washington’s public school system.”

Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-Renton) used the occasion to stick up for families affected by the charter schools ruling. “Charter schools are helping some of our hardest to serve children and families,” he said. “Providing stability to families and a clear path to success for these students should be one of our highest priorities.” I couldn’t agree more.
-Rob McKenna

*The bipartisan group of legislators includes Democrats Rep. Judy Clibborn, Rep. Eric Pettigrew, Rep. Larry Springer, Sen. Steve Hobbs and Sen. Mark Mullet, along with Republicans Rep. Chad Magendanz, Rep. Norma Smith, Sen. John Braun, Sen. Joe Fain, and Sen. Steve Litzow. Their brief was filed by former state Supreme Court justice and Democratic state senator Phil Talmadge.

The following two tabs change content below.
Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.