Charter public schools constitutional, remain an option for Washington students

Voter-approved charter public schools will remain available to students after today’s Washington State Supreme Court ruling upheld their constitutionality. Sen. John Braun said the court’s affirmation that 2016 legislation corrected constitutional infirmities with the original initiative will ensure charter public schools remain one of many tools the state has to provide all children with a high-quality education.

“Not all students learn the same way so our state has a responsibility to provide a range of choices that best meet the needs of children,” said Braun, R-Centralia, who serves as the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “Our state has recognized we must provide alternatives for students when a traditional public school does not meet their needs. Those methods include online classes, college courses while in high school, and for the last few years charter public schools, where we’ve seen positive results.”

Washington became the 42nd state to allow the publicly funded and privately operated charter public schools after voters approved Initiative 1240 in 2012. The initiative, which passed in 36 of the state’s 39 counties, was specifically aimed at helping students in communities where schools were chronically underperforming. However, the education establishment led by the state teachers union filed a successful lawsuit seeking to shut the schools down.

In 2016 the Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 6194 with bipartisan support, addressing the issues identified in the previous court ruling and keeping schools open. According to Braun, adult-focused groups again filed suit to close the schools for students, which was rejected in King County Superior Court and ultimately appealed again to the state Supreme Court.

“Since 2015 our state has demonstrated we can make historic investments in public education while also allowing at-risk students in struggling schools to choose a school that works best for them,” said Braun. “I hope that once and for all the adults in the equation will accept that charter public schools are a targeted and beneficial part of our overall education system.”

Braun wrote in-depth about the state’s history and efforts to provide charter public schools in his Economic Sense newsletter, which can be read here or at