Washington state's charter schools will get one last regular infusion of state money — for their November operating expenses — before a state Supreme Court decision shutting off their current funding source takes effect next month, state education officials confirmed this week.
After the high court struck down Washington's charter school law in September, charter advocates and the state's Attorney General filed motions asking justices to reconsider their ruling. As the court deliberated, the state's nine charter schools had continued to receive regular state funding payments.
But last week, justices announced they would not reverse course. Most of their original decision — everything but a footnote they deleted — will take effect on Dec. 9.
"We have no plans to ask for a refund of any funds we’ve given them," said Nathan Olson, a spokesman for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. "The money was used to educate children."
In general, charter schools are an alternative sort of public school operated by a non-profit organization, not a school district. But the Washington Supreme Court's September ruling held charters cannot receive state funding under "common school" statutes because — unlike traditional public schools — charters are not overseen by an elected school board.
What happens next for charter schools is not clear at this point. The Washington Charter Schools Association has promised the schools will stay open through the year, saying it would tap a network of roughly 50 donors who could cover all nine schools' operating expenses if necessary.
Joshua Halsey, executive director of the Washington State Charter School Commission, urged lawmakers to create a way to allow charter schools to continue to receive public funding in the upcoming session.
"How do you fund public charter schools in a way that does not violate the Constitution? Calling them common schools under the definition in our Constitution doesn't fly. Therefore, the legislature needs to figure out how we fund these public charter schools," Halsey said.
While schools will get one last state payment, it's not clear whether charter schools will receive their latest share of federal funds. Halsey said federal officials would update schools next week.