Editorial: seattletimes.com, January 8, 2013

Teachers union should withdraw suit to block charter schools
The Washington Education Association should accept the November vote that created charter schools in this state.

Seattle Times Editorial

THE state teachers union should not sue over Washington’s new charter-schools law. A courtroom battle over Initiative 1240 shifts the focus from improving education to arguing over only one educational strategy that is widely accepted around the country.

The Washington Education Association does not like charters because it cannot control them. The union believes the $11 million spent by advocates manipulated voters into supporting the nontraditional public schools in the election last fall.

Those are flimsy reasons on which to base a constitutional challenge. But it is all the union has so far.

The WEA is still searching for potential legal strategies. Here’s one: Focus on the needs of the state’s existing 2,281 public schools rather than on 40 schools that do not yet exist.

The charter-schools law was approved by 51 percent of voters and allows up to 40 charter schools over five years. No one expects charters in the near future, in part because of the time it takes to launch the statewide system to oversee it.

Also, the state Supreme Court’s McCleary v. State of Washington education-funding ruling lends fresh urgency to fixing the state budget to better support public schools from early learning to college.

So why is the WEA lawyering up now? The union could be flexing its muscle in advance of the upcoming legislative session’s showdown over education reforms and funding. Or it believes voters would not mind having their will overturned.

WEA President Mary Lindquist says the union is looking for partners on a potential suit.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn should not make such a mistake. Dorn favors charter schools but is unhappy an independent commission, rather than his office, will oversee them. The state schools chief will ask lawmakers to change I-1240 or risk him joining the WEA or mounting his own legal challenge.

No more threats. Amending voter-passed initiatives during their first two years would require a two-thirds majority in the state House and Senate. Lawmakers have more critical issues to vote on, namely a sustainable budget.

The WEA should let the lights come on in the first charter-school classroom before attempting to muster outrage.

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