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Authors

Laura Habein

Abstract

On September 4, 2015, in a 6-3 decision in League of Women Voters of Washington v, State, the Washington State Supreme Court became the first in the nation to deem charter schools funded by taxpayers unconstitutional. Charter schools in Washington are not governed by elected boards; thus, the Court found charter schools unaccountable to voters and not public enough to be deemed “common schools” under the state constitution. This recent decision splits with supreme courts in many other states who recently faced similar constitutional challenges. Thus, the question comes to mind: How public is public enough when determining the constitutionality of a charter school? This note argues that the Washington Supreme Court came to the wrong conclusion in League of Women by defining public too narrowly and in the end, failed to serve the true purpose of article IX, section 2 of the state constitution. On the spectrum between public and private, League of Women falls too far on the side of private because the Court places too much textual emphasis on the state constitution, relies too heavily on outdated precedent from over a century ago, and fails to draw the appropriate line between restricted and unrestricted funding.

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