Unanimous: five Attorneys General think court got charters case wrong

I strongly disagree with the state Supreme Court’s ruling that our voter-approved charter schools law is unconstitutional. The court needs to reconsider its decision, which was not well reasoned, threatens programs beyond charter schools, and relies on a pretty outmoded concept of our school system that dates to 1909. Our “common schools” look quite different today than they did back then!

But you already know my take on the ruling, so let’s check in on what my fellow attorneys general think about it. As it turns out, all five living Attorneys General of Washington, two Democrats and three Republicans, disagree with the decision and agree the court needs to reconsider. Here’s what the other four had to say.

Bob Ferguson – Current Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced he will file a Motion for Reconsideration over the ruling. A news release from his office said, “The decision not only invalidates Initiative 1240 [the charter schools initiative], but also unnecessarily calls into question the constitutionality of a wide range of other state educational programs,” including Running Start and Washington State Skills Centers. The state teachers union isn’t happy about his motion; it’s petitioning Ferguson to back down.

Christine Gregoire – The former governor and three-term attorney general told KING 5 on Friday, “I think the minority opinion in that case is spot-on. But I’ve got to tell you, even more surprising to me than the outcome of the case is the timing of it. The case had sat before the court for some time, and then it issues its opinion on the eve of when these students are going to go to school, these parents are expecting their students to go to school…The court just has to be aware of the implications of a decision like this and what it means to the children and the families when they have their children all scheduled to go to school and then are put on a moment’s notice that ‘your kid has no place to go.’ Not right, not fair.”

Ken Eikenberry – The three-term attorney general, who served from 1981-1993, told me, “I am strongly in favor of A.G. Ferguson’s motion that the Washington State Supreme Court should re-consider its ruling on charter schools. Charter schools are a valid part of our constitutional public school system, and the question of whether they are a ‘common school’ is beside the point.”

Slade Gorton – Another three-term attorney general, who went on to serve three terms in the U.S. Senate, Gorton told the Seattle Times the charter schools ruling was “an absolute disgrace” and said qualified candidates should run for state Supreme Court next year on a platform that includes criticizing the ruling.

So there you have it – this bipartisan group is unanimous in saying the state Supreme Court should reconsider its ruling and think over the harm and confusion it will cause if the court follows its current ruling to its logical conclusions. Let’s hope the justices take this second chance to heart.
-Rob McKenna

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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.