Charter schools in Washington state face uncertain future

OLYMPIA -- The state Supreme Court’s surprise decision to throw out charter schools has left over 1,200 students and families worried about what is next for their schools.

Charter schools have been controversial ever since they were approved by a narrow majority of Washingtonians.  Opponents vowed to take them to court, arguing that they take money away from already underfunded public schools and therefore harm kids.

The state’s highest court agreed.  The 6-3 ruling last week held that charters can’t take public money because they are overseen by appointed boards, not public elected school boards.

Those who fought for these alternatives are extremely frustrated that their hard work has been thrown out by one simple ruling.

“This is the most embarrassing decision even from the state Supreme Court,” said Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center.  “To adopt an archaic model that was in this state 150 years ago as a vision going forward, it is a disgrace.”

To keep the state’s nine charter schools running will cost $14 million between now and June.  Most of the charters have actually started classes.  Supporters are scrambling now to come up with the money from private sources to at least get through this school year.

But unless something changes, the state’s short-lived experience with charter schools is about to end.