Rob McKenna: Court’s qualms with charter schools difficult to justify

Sep 11, 2015, 10:30 PM | Updated: Sep 13, 2015, 12:02 am
“If you fund charter schools you take money away from K-12,” KIRO Radio political analy...
"If you fund charter schools you take money away from K-12," KIRO Radio political analyst Rob McKenna said. "Well, everything else takes money away from K-12, by definition." (AP)

Supreme Court justices argue that because the state is already having trouble funding basic public education, it can’t also support charter schools. That opinion goes too far, KIRO Radio political analyst and former Attorney General Rob McKenna told Dave Ross.

“If you fund charter schools, you take money away from K-12,” he explained. “Well, everything else takes money away from K-12, by definition.”

The Court’s recent ruling that charter schools are unconstitutional is one of many problems plaguing Washington’s education system.

As the Washington State Charter School Commission prepares to close down, the state continues to struggle with meeting the requirements of the McCleary decision, which states that lawmakers are failing to provide necessary funding to public education. On top of that, Seattle teachers are on strike for pay increases, among other things.

They’re all problems that McKenna doesn’t believe will be fixed any time soon. The Legislature isn’t going to hold another special session, he told Ross; not for McCleary, not for charter schools, not for teacher strikes.

“They’ll have to come back to work in January to fix those problems,” he said.

As far as McKenna is concerned, charter schools shouldn’t even be a problem. Though the court argues that they are not “common schools” as defined in the Constitution, and therefore the state shouldn’t have to fund them; there have been other types of schools that weren’t originally “common schools” that now are. Take high schools, for example.

Historically, a common school was just an elementary school, Ross told McKenna.

“What I’m saying is we’ve clearly found a way to publicly fund schools that do not fit the definition of common schools, so what made charter schools so odious to them?”

“That isn’t clear,” McKenna responded.

More than 40 other states have adopted charter schools.

“The court seems to have blown past the concept that [public] schools have steadily been changing over time,” McKenna continued. Even preschools are being embraced as common schooling.

“I think the Court’s decision was poorly reasoned and is throwing the charter system into chaos,” he added.

There is a solution for charter schools: fund them with generated tax revenues.

As for the teacher strike, the solution might not be so clear. With teachers demanding 18 percent over three years and Seattle Public Schools offering 9 percent, even meeting in the middle will be costly, McKenna said. Heck, he’s surprised the school district can afford 9 percent.

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Rob McKenna: Court’s qualms with charter schools difficult to justify