Charter schools in Washington state are constitutional and worthwhile.
Thursday’s Washington Supreme Court ruling should end the debate over charter schools in the state.
These alternative public schools have proved to be an excellent option for some children, helping many do better academically than they were in a traditional public school.
In a complex, yet decisive, ruling, the court’s majority found the charter law constitutional, with one notable exception concerning collective bargaining. The decision may make it easier for charter-school employees to unionize.
With this matter clearly settled, lawmakers hostile to charter schools should not spend one minute of their precious time proposing new obstacles for charter schools.
Instead, the Legislature should leave the Charter School Commission to continue its work carefully and methodically authorizing and monitoring these public schools. School districts should also take another look at becoming charter-school authorizers, as the law allows. Spokane has handled this role well, sponsoring two, and the students in that school district have benefited from more choices.
In the majority opinion, Justice Mary Yu acknowledges the deep-seated conflicting opinions on charter schools. Those divisions are not likely to disappear simply because the Supreme Court says charter schools are constitutional.
Documented success in the form of data and personal stories may change opinions over time. A great public charter school does not take money or prestige away from a wonderful traditional public school, but it may give students in not-so-great schools another chance at success.
Voters in 2012 approved charter schools as a pilot project in Washington state. Repeated legal challenges have stopped the state from realizing the full benefits of this project and slowed the information gathering needed to determine whether charter schools are an asset to the state’s children. That data will become clear in the next few years and is likely to show Washington charter schools help close achievement gaps and give students from low-income families a better chance at a high school diploma and a college education. If it doesn’t, the debate over charter schools in Washington state will and should begin again.
For now, the parents who want to enroll their children in an alternative public school of any kind should be able to do so without criticism or protest. Charter schools in Washington state are constitutional and proving worthwhile.