Funding for charter schools this legislative session. No fix for the under-funding of public schools.
The state legislature will fund charter schools. No fix for the under-funding of public schools. maroke/Shutterstock

"We oppose charter schools," the Washington State Democratic Party declares on its website.

Bolstering the Democrats' position, the State Supreme Court struck down the initiative-created charter school system last September.

But someway, somehow, the leadership of the Democratic party in Washington—from House Speaker Frank Chopp to Governor Jay Inslee—have conspired to let a bill using $4 million in taxpayer money to fund charter schools become law. More than a dozen Democratic lawmakers believe the bill to be illegal, and a majority of Democrats in the legislature voted against it.

This afternoon, Inslee broke his circumspect silence on the issue. In a letter to the Secretary of State, he said he won't veto or sign the bill, despite still claiming to oppose charter schools. That means the proposal, which diverts state lottery revenues into charter schools—even though those same schools have the readily available financial support of billionaires, including the Gates Foundation and Steve Ballmer, to the tune of about $15 million—will become law by default by Sunday.

Unless Inslee changes his mind at the last second.

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Today is the 1549th day since the State Supreme Court ruled that Washington is failing in its "paramount duty" to fund the education of its 1.1 million children in public schools. Wealthy supporters of charter schools are strong critics of the public school system. But they won't go out and advocate for funding it. And lawmakers seem perfectly willing to rack up $100,000 daily fines levied by the court, which holds them in contempt, while doing nothing. A well-funded pro-charter schools lobbying effort in Olympia, on the other hand? That's harder to put off and ignore.

So: What does the highest court in the land have to do to make the legislature fund our public schools? Shutting them down—as the court's counterpart in Kansas recently threatened—could be next.

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