Fact check: SB 6194 is constitutional

Two weeks ago, a bipartisan group of lawmakers studied, vetted, and passed a viable plan to keep public charter schools funded and open. Legal experts from both sides of the aisle, including non-partisan staff attorneys, combed through SB 6194 word-by-word to make sure it would pass constitutional muster.

Here’s what they say:

  • SB 6194 addresses the Court’s decision by explicitly stating that charter schools are public schools, but not common schools, and funds them from a restricted account that cannot receive monies that are constitutionally limited to common schools.
  • Schools and programs without locally elected school boards have existed for many years in WA — e.g., tribal compact schools and UW’s Highly Capable program.
  • Charter schools are more constitutionally secure than other public-but-not-common-school programs, such as tribal compact schools and UW’s Highly Capable program. The lawyers and others in Olympia all know that. Opponents have political concerns, which they are disingenuously framing as legal questions.
  • The Court decision originally contained a footnote expressing concern about whether the “general and uniform” provision of the state Constitution prohibited charter schools and other public schools without locally elected school boards. The state moved for reconsideration, pointing out that charter schools were not the only public schools without elected school boards, and the Court removed the footnote. Thus, the final decision does not question the uniformity of public non-common schools.