An online-learning coalition has filed a lawsuit claiming that state budget cuts violate the state constitution.

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OLYMPIA — An online-learning coalition has filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that budget cuts have hit alternative-education programs harder than traditional schools, violating the state constitution.

Members of the Washington Families for Online Learning filed the lawsuit in King County Superior Court this week.

It alleges that lawmakers last year cut Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) programs, which includes K-12 online education offered by dozens of school districts, an average 15 percent more than traditional schools.

They said a state Supreme Court decision issued last month reinforced their decision to sue. The court ruled that the state is failing to meet its constitutional duty to provide a basic education to all the state’s children.

“We were singled out because all public schools and districts took the same cut, but they targeted students in ALE programs, like online schools [by cutting more],” said Gigi Talcott, coordinator for Washington Families for Online Learning.

The Office of Superintendent for Public Instruction declined to comment.

Legislators have cut about $1.8 billion from K-12 for the 2011-13 biennium. Traditional public schools were also hit with cuts, including a 1.9 percent reduction in teacher salaries, a 3 percent reduction in school administrative staff and the suspension of Initiative 728, which reduced K-4 classes in 2000.

Previously traditional public schools and online schools received about $5,000 per student per academic year in funding; now, online schools receive an average of $4,250 per student — 15 percent less.

The cut is expected to save the state about $6 million.

The state now has about 9,000 full-time equivalent students enrolled in online schools. More than 50 school districts statewide offer online school programs, including Federal Way, Tacoma, Olympia and Spokane.

Stephanie Kim: 360-236-8266 or