Judges Given Political Contributions by Plaintiffs in Washington Charter Case

Published December 9, 2014

Washington State’s first charter school opened this fall, welcoming students who come from difficult backgrounds—including families touched by violence, drug abuse, and homelessness.  

A limited number of charter schools are slated to open in the state over the next few years. However, the state’s teachers’ union, the Washington Education Association, and a handful of others have sued the state in an effort to overturn the law, close the schools, and prevent new ones from opening. Hearings in the state Supreme Court began at the end of October.

That same WEA and its Political Action Committee have donated thousands of dollars to state supreme court judges seeking reelection, according to Liv Finne, director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Institute.

“Opposition to the charter school movement in Washington pits teachers’ unions wedded to a broken, nineteenth century system of public education designed for an agrarian calendar against the integrity of an independent judiciary,” said Heartland Institute Policy Advisor David Applegate. “Who should win this should be obvious:  when judges are seen as political actors to be elected based on policy preferences rather than as independent arbiters of legal disputes, and teachers value the established order over the education of their students, we undermine two essential underpinnings of a self-governing republic.” 

Mary C. Tillotson ([email protected]) is an education reporter for Watchdog.org, where an earlier version of this article appeared. Reprinted with permission.