Washington State Supreme Court to Rule on Charter Schools

Published November 6, 2014

Washington state’s Supreme Court will determine whether charter schools will be allowed in the state. Hearings are expected to begin in October.

The charter school law, approved by Washington state voters in 2012, allows about 40 charter schools to open during the next five years. This fall, First Place, already serving families of extreme poverty as a private school offering counseling, housing, and advocacy access to other resources, will begin serving students as a charter school. Many First Place students come from families who are highly mobile and homeless and struggle with drug abuse and domestic violence. 

As a charter school, First Place will be able to serve more students.

Seven other charter schools have been authorized and are expected to open in the fall of 2015. All eight schools are geared toward underserved students who struggle in traditional schools, said Lisa Macfarlane spokesperson for the Washington Charter Schools Association.

Priority for At-Risk Students

The state’s charter law gives priority to schools serving at-risk students, she said.

Pride Prep, a charter school slated to open in fall 2015 in Spokane, will locate in a low-income area of town.

“Our goal is to really try to encourage all of our underserved students to put their name in the lottery,” said Brenda McDonald, founder and CEO of Pride Prep. “We are a completely open enrollment school by law, but our goal is to serve our most underserved kids in Spokane.”

In 2013, a coalition including the Washington Education Association, the League of Women Voters, El Centro de la Raza, the Washington Association of School Administrators, and a few individuals sued the state in an attempt to overturn the charter-school law.

A hearing before the state Supreme Court held no surprises, Macfarlane said.

“We welcome that review because we’re confident the law will pass constitutional muster,” she said.

The trial court’s decision in December upheld the substance of the law, knocking out one provision pertaining to construction funding, though none of the prospective charter school administrators had planned to use the construction funding.

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

Image by Martha Patterson.