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Washington Supreme Court To Hear Arguments In Challenge To Charter Schools

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
In this Feb. 25, 2016, file photo, Lavinda Trammell, of Tacoma, Wash., who said she is a parent of a child that attends a charter school, holds a sign during a rally in support of public charter schools at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

The Washington Supreme Court will hear arguments this Thursday in a case that has the potential to throw charter schools into turmoil. The plaintiffs in the case argue that the law passed by the legislature to allow charter schools is unconstitutional.

Charter schools are common in many other states but are new in Washington. They’re paid for with public dollars but run in most cases by private nonprofits. Voters narrowly passed an initiative to allow charter schools in 2012, but the state’s highest court ruled that the initiative passed by voters was unconstitutional.

In response, the legislature made some changes, but community and labor groups filed another lawsuit arguing that those changes still didn’t fix the problems. Paul Lawrence is an attorney for the groups challenging the law.

“The question is whether or not the legislature can create a private alternative to public common schools and our position is they cannot,” he said.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson argued in a court filing that charter schools do comply with the state constitution. He said the state allows many kinds of schools, including tribal compact schools and the Running Start program for high school students who want to take community college classes.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.