Friday, July 5, 2013

Another education related, constitutional lawsuit . . .

In January I posted about a possible lawsuit against charter schools if WEA could find partners.  On Wednesday in this Seattle Times article we learned that they found partners and  are proceeding with the suit on constitutional grounds.

In filing the lawsuit, the Washington Education Association was joined by the League of Women Voters of Washington, El Centro de la Raza, the Washington Association of School Administrators and several individual plaintiffs.

The state Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday it plans to fight the suit.

“It’s the attorney general’s job to defend the will of the voters, and that’s what we’ll do in this case,” said Janelle Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the office.

I have mixed feelings about this suit even though the Association I belong to has joined.  I especially don't like having another education related suit being defended with state tax dollars like we have seen in the McCleary case.  Though charter proponents believe that it is a distraction suit and that the law will stand the constitutionality test it may need to go all the way to the State Supreme Court before that determination is finalized.

Though I am not a proponent of charters and do not believe that they are the answer to the needs of at risk students in our state, I am struggling with the need for this lawsuit.  Too many resources and energy will go into this effort on both sides when what we most need is greater collaboration as we implement  major changes driven by state reforms . I also find it interesting that Superintendent Dorn, who has said that the law is unconstitutional because it takes away his power, did not comment Wednesday on the suit.

What are your thoughts?  Is this suit necessary because the charter law is a threat to public education in our state or are there other reasons?


Scott Mitchell said...

I am not in favor of this lawsuit because I do not think that this is a good use of our money and efforts. We had an opportunity to work on not allowing this to pass in the first place but WEA chose not to put money towards that effort. I think that we should focus our time and energy on the things that will most help our public school system. There has not been a lot of talk about charters and while I know they are starting to pop up, I say let them. The focus needs to be on what we can do now for our system.

John said...

I agree for the most part Scott. I think charters will end up continuing to see the mixed results they get, and will not be the panacea their proponents hope they will be. I also worry that we as an education community are going to be seen as obstructionists to any sort of reform, be it common sense or not (in this case, not). Sometimes the best lesson for our students is to actually fail, and I do hold that same opinion with charters; our state needs to see them fail before we will learn that they are not a solution.

The one exception I have is the financial component of this debate. A lawsuit is spendy, that is for certain. If charters do take off, which I am certain they will, the amount of money that will go to fund them will have an impact on the overall education budget, draining resources that we desperately need. I also do believe that charters are unconstitutional under the language we have in this state, so therefore there is an argument for fighting them in court. Funding for a lawsuit or funding for unconstitutional charter schools: which is worse? Which has a greater impact?

But in the end, let a dead horse lie. We need to focus on solving the problems that lay before us; that is where we should be placing our energies.