The Lawsuit

Washington’s charter public schools are an established part of Washington’s public education landscape. 2400 children are currently enrolled in 10 schools, with over a thousand more slated to attend new schools and new grade levels opening in the fall of 2018. Across the state, from Spokane, to Walla Walla, Tacoma, Kent, Seattle and beyond, charter public schools are providing real opportunities for success for students who have frequently been left behind.

Filed by a coalition of lobbying groups in 2016, El Centro de la Raza v. Washington (“El Centro”) seeks to invalidate the Washington Charter School Act, a bipartisan legislative effort that allows these high-performing schools to operate as publicly accountable organizations held to strict academic standards.

The lawsuit – called “another unwanted distraction” by The Seattle Times Editorial Board – attempts to circumvent the legislative process and the will of the voters by taking a political vendetta against charter public schools to the courts. Attacks like this on Washington’s charter public schools are designed to do damage to schools that are providing high-quality education to kids across the state. This lawsuit is little more than an effort by lobbying organizations to bring these attacks to court.

El Centro has already resulted in a decisive win for students with a February 2017 Superior Court ruling that affirmed the constitutionality of charter schools in Washington. Despite the clear ruling, plaintiff lobbying organizations chose to continue waging their political war in the courtroom by appealing the decision to the State Supreme Court. The case will be heard on May 17, 2018.

Washington’s operating charter public schools already are making a quantifiable difference in the lives of thousands of Washington families, particularly in systemically underserved and under-resourced communities. In sum, Washington’s charter public schools provide options for students who are struggling in traditional public schools, and by doing so, are helping  close Washington’s  persistent opportunity and achievement gaps and make the state’s public school system stronger as a whole.

Key Legal Documents

Wa He Lut Indian School and Black Education Strategy Roundtable’s Brief of Amici Curiae | October 2, 2017

Tribal-compact school leaders and the Black Education Strategy Roundtable filed a brief addressing appellants’ claim that charter public schools do not meet the state constitution’s requirement that “[t]he legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools.” In fact, Washington state currently has several existing education programs, including tribal-compact schools, which operate constitutionally as general and uniform school systems using similar state oversight and authorization features as charter public schools.

Education Researchers’ Brief of Amicus Curiae | October 2, 2017

A current and former Director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education filed a Brandeis brief that presents evidence that charter public schools can play a positive role in Washington’s education system. In particular, the brief argues, evidence from across the country shows that charter public schools are particularly helpful for poor students, students of color, and students with special needs.

The Washington Roundtable’s Brief of Amicus Curiae | October 2, 2017

The Washington Roundtable, a nonprofit organization comprised of senior executives of major private sector employers in Washington state, filed a brief describing how charter public schools, as one of multiple educational options for Washington students and their families, help the State better meet its educational obligations under the Constitution, alongside, not head-to-head against, public common schools. The brief then describes how charter public schools’ contribution to public education in Washington benefits socioeconomic mobility, community strength and cohesion, business success, and provides other social benefits.

State Legislators’ Brief of Amici Curiae | October 2, 2017

Former state supreme court justice Philip A. Talmadge, alongside a group of bipartisan state senators and representatives, filed a brief addressing appellants’ claim that Washington’s charter public school law “diverts” funds from traditional schools. The brief argues that the funding mechanism under the new law is in fact legal and reasonable under the legislature’s budgetary discretion for non-General Fund allocations.

National Education Organizations’ Brief of Amici Curiae | October 2, 2017

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools and the League of Education Voters’ brief addresses appellant’s claim that innovative charter public schools do not meet the state constitution’s requirement. The brief argues that, like the constitutions in Colorado, California, Michigan, Ohio, and New Jersey, Washington’s constitution does not bar innovation as the needs of students and the demands of society evolve.

National Association of Charter School Authorizers Brief of Amicus Curiae | October 2, 2017

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers brief addresses the delegation of state’s duty to provide k-12 education, and clarifies the strength of Washington’s charter public school authorizers under the new law, describing the particularly unique and important gatekeeping and oversight roles that these public entities play within the charter public school framework.

Former State Board of Education Officials Brief of Amici Curiae | October 2, 2017

Former Washington State Board of Education officials filed a brief providing deep historical context for a little interpreted provision of the State constitution – the State Superintendent’s general supervisory role in the State education system. The brief then shows how none of the State’s public education law history, from founding to today, supports appellants’ narrow view of the State superintendent’s role in the State’s public school system.

Appellants File Reply Brief | September 22, 2017

Anti-charter lobbying groups file a reply brief in response to State of Washington and Intervenors.

Intervenors File Response Brief| August 18, 2017

Charter public school families and students respond to Appellants opening brief.

State of Washington Files Response Brief | August 18, 2017

State of Washington responds to Appellants opening brief.

Appellants File Opening Brief | July 10, 2017

Anti-charter lobbying groups appeal Judge Chun’s decision upholding the constitutionality of Washington’s Charter School Act.

Order Granting Summary Judgment for Charter Schools and Families | February 17, 2017

Judge Chun issues an order denying summary judgment for Plaintiffs, and upholding the constitutionality of Washington’s Charter School Act. Charter public schools, families, and the State of Washington successfully defend the law against a variety of challenges from anti-charter lobbying groups who brought the lawsuit.

State of Washington Reply in Support of Cross Motion for Summary Judgment | January 20, 2017

State of Washington files its final brief in the trial court phase of El Centro in support of its cross motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiffs Reply in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment and Opposition to Intervenor-Defendants Cross Motion | January 13, 2017

Plaintiffs file their final brief in the trial court phase of El Centro in support of their motion for summary judgment along with arguments in opposition to family, schools, and the State of Washington’s cross-motions for summary judgment.

Charter Families’ and Schools’ Cross-Motion for Summary Judgement | December 20, 2016

Intervenors, including twelve families representing each of Washington’s eight existing charter public schools, file a motion for summary judgment outlining their statement of facts in the case and counterarguments to Plaintiff’s claims against Washington’s new charter public school law.

State of Washington Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment | December 20, 2016

Defendant State of Washington files a motion for summary judgment outlining their statement of facts in the case and counterarguments to Plaintiff’s claims against Washington’s new charter public school law.

State Legislators Memorandum of Amici Curiae | December 20, 2016

Former state Supreme Court Justice Philip A. Talmadge, alongside a bipartisan group of state senators and representatives, filed a brief addressing plaintiffs’ claim that Washington’s charter public school law “diverts” funds from traditional schools. The brief argues that the funding mechanism under the new law is in fact legal and reasonable under the legislature’s budgetary discretion for non-General Fund allocations.

National Education Organizations’ Brief of Amicus Curiae | December 20, 2016

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities, and the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools’ brief addresses plaintiffs’ claim that innovative charter public schools do not meet the state constitution’s requirement that “[t]he legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools.” In fact, like the constitutions in Colorado, California, Michigan, Ohio, and New Jersey, Washington’s constitution does not bar innovation as the needs of students and the demands of society evolve.

National Association of Charter School Authorizers Brief of Amicus Curiae | December 20, 2016

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers brief addresses delegation of the state’s duty to provide K-12 public education, and explains the strength of Washington’s charter public school authorization process under the new law.

Former State Board of Education Officials Brief of Amicus Curiae | December 20, 2016

Former Washington State Board of Education (SBE) Officials Jack Archer, who served as the Director of Basic Education Oversight; Kristina Mayer, Ed.D, who served as SBE Chair in 2014; and Jeffrey Vincent , who served as SBE Chair from 2010-13, filed a brief further clarifying delegation of the state’s duty to provide public education, with arguments more specific to Washington state.

Funding Expert Dean William Holder’s Declaration in Support of Intervenor’s Motion for Summary Judgment | December 20, 2016

Government financial accounting and reporting expert Dean William Holder of the University of Southern California submitted a declaration clarifying and counteracting the plaintiffs’ key argument that charter public schools take funding away from traditional schools.

Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment | December 1, 2016

Plaintiffs file their motion for summary judgment, stating their arguments against Washington’s new charter public school law.

Judge Chun’s Motion to Dismiss Decision Siding with Charter Families and Schools | November 18, 2016

King County Superior Court Judge John H. Chun delivers a major blow to the plaintiffs, recognizing both the state’s motion to dismiss two of plaintiffs’ core arguments from consideration and affirming intervenor claims that several lobbying organizations failed to demonstrate standing in their attack on charter school families.

State of Washington Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss | October 31, 2016

Defendant State of Washington’s response to Plaintiff’s reply regarding motion to dismiss arguments from Plaintiff’s case.

Families and Schools’ Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss | October 31, 2016

Intervenors response to Plaintiff’s reply regarding motion to dismiss lobbying organizations.

Plaintiff Response to Motions to Dismiss | October 24, 2016

Plaintiff reply to State and Intervenors’ motions to dismiss.

Judge Chun Grants Washington Parents’ and Schools Motion to Intervene | August 31, 2016

King County Superior Court Judge John H. Chun gives Washington parents and students a voice in the courtroom by granting their motion to intervene.

Intervenors Reply to Plaintiff Opposition | August 30, 2016

Parents and schools attempting to intervene respond to plaintiffs’ opposition, arguing that “[t]he Intervenors are the parents of students and are students who attend or hope to attend these charter public schools. Their day-to-day lives, as well as hopes for their education and futures, will be materially and adversely affected should this law be struck down.”

State of Washington Reply in Support of Motion to Intervene | August 29, 2016

State defendants file a reply in support of Washington families’ right to intervene in the case.

Plaintiff Opposition to Parents’ and Schools’ Motion to Intervene | August 29, 2016 

Plaintiffs attempt to block Washington parents and schools from joining the suit, filing a motion in opposition to their motion to intervene. “It is especially hypocritical that organizations like El Centro de La Raza, an organization which purports to fight for Hispanic families… is trying to block members of the Latino community like my family from having a voice in the courtroom,” said Ed Pacheco, a father from Yakima who joined the motion to intervene.

State of Washington’s Motion to Dismiss | August 24, 2016

The State’s motion to dismiss seeks to throw out politically motivated arguments presented by the plaintiffs, including (a) an attempt to tie charter public schools to the state’s underfunding of basic public education, a separate matter that is under active supervision by the state Supreme Court in the ongoing McCleary case, and (b) a hypothetical claim that charter schools may, at some unknown point in the future, seek to operate under an alternative provision of the state’s education funding laws.

State of Washington’s Motion to Dismiss | August 24, 2016

The State’s motion to dismiss seeks to throw out politically motivated arguments presented by the plaintiffs, including (a) an attempt to tie charter public schools to the state’s underfunding of basic public education, a separate matter that is under active supervision by the state Supreme Court in the ongoing McCleary case, and (b) a hypothetical claim that charter schools may, at some unknown point in the future, seek to operate under an alternative provision of the state’s education funding laws.

Families’ and Schools’ Motion to Dismiss | August 23, 2016

The intervenors’ motion addresses the participation of lobbying organizations using the lawsuit to rehash policy arguments that have already been settled at both the ballot box and legislature. The Washington Education Association, the League of Women Voters and El Centro de la Raza are among the lobbying groups that may be dismissed.

Families’ and Schools’ Motion to Intervene | August 23, 2016

Twelve families, representing each of Washington’s eight existing charter public schools, as well as the community of Yakima, which has been organizing to open a charter public school, the Washington State Charter Schools Association and several individual existing and planned schools file a motion to intervene on behalf of the state. 

Plaintiff Complaint for Declaratory Judgement and Injunctive Relief | August 3, 2016

Plaintiffs, including a group of anti-charter lobbying groups, file a complaint challenging the legality of E2SSB6194, Washington’s strong new charter public school law. The law was passed by a bipartisan group of legislators in April 2016, and reviewed by independent attorneys for its constitutional muster.

 

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