I have a love-hate relationship with the courts—a fact well known to my readers. From Douglas County vouchers to tire scraps in Missouri to Thompson union battles (even though logic eventually prevailed in that case) to decisions on teacher tenure and forced tribute payment by non-union members, I often find myself befuddled by the apparent lack of ability (desire?) on the part of some courts to do stuff that makes sense.
But even among all that silliness, one decision really stands out as the most surprising in the last couple of years: a decision by the Washington Supreme Court to declare the state’s charter school law unconstitutional. Huh?
I wrote last September about the unpleasant surprise that was the Washington Supreme Court’s charter school ruling. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of a court striking down something as firmly rooted as charter schools.
According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, there are more than 6,700 public charter schools in America. Those schools serve 2.9 million kids across more than 40 states. In Colorado alone, charters serve 108,000 kids—about 12 percent of all public school kids in the state—in 226 schools. Charter laws have been around for more than 25 years. Until Washington, the laws had withstood legal challenges in every state where they’d been brought, including Colorado.
Charter schools are not some new-fangled experiment or radical idea. They are an inerasable part of the American public school system. Well, except in Washington, where a panel of unelected judges decided that an obscure ruling from 1909 provided enough of a legal platform to outlaw them entirely. Or at least they thought that would be the result. Continue Reading »