Charter schools: the civil rights issue of our time

Sep 8, 2015, 1:58 PM | Updated: Sep 9, 2015, 5:38 am
After 21 years of fighting for charter schools in Washington state, a recent state Supreme Court ru...
After 21 years of fighting for charter schools in Washington state, a recent state Supreme Court ruling is a major setback for advocate and Seattle business owner Jim Spady. (AP file photo)
(AP file photo)

By Jacob Rummel, KTTH producer

After 21 years of fighting for charter schools in Washington state, a recent state Supreme Court ruling is a major setback for advocate and Seattle business owner Jim Spady.

Late Friday afternoon, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that charter schools don’t qualify as “common schools” and because they don’t qualify as “common schools” they don’t qualify for state funding. This type of litigation isn’t unusual, but the Washington Supreme Court’s conclusion was a surprise, Spady told David Boze on AM 770 KTTH.

“There’s been lots of legal battles,” Spady said, “in every other state they’ve upheld the law, usually by unanimous vote.”

Spady says the criticisms often levied at charter schools, that they only serve rich, white, suburban kids, are lies made up by teacher’s unions.

“Charter schools, like any new organization, are born non-union, and because they are so highly accountable for results, they have to perform or they’re shut down,” Spady explained. “They have to perform or all the adults who work there lose their jobs.”

Teacher’s unions are threatened by successful non-union schools, Spady says, which is why they throw around inaccurate criticisms.

Others, like Karen Vialle, the Vice President of Tacoma Public Schools, argue charter schools are a distraction and they take money away from quality public school programs. Spady says throwing more money at public schools won’t help.

“Traditional public schools have been failing our students for decades,” Spady countered.

Charter school advocates are already planning to challenge the ruling. Spady acknowledges it will be a struggle, but he’s determined to continue fighting.

“They’ve got to get it right because there are a lot of kids and families – disadvantaged kids and families – that are depending on these new schools,” Spady said.

He won’t be able to do it alone, though.

“This is the civil rights struggle of our time,” Spady said, “and we can fix this but the more help we can get the better we’ll be.”

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Charter schools: the civil rights issue of our time