The point of charter schools is to provide an alternative to standard public schools. As the text of I-1024 says, public charter schools are “independently managed public schools operated only by qualified nonprofit organizations.” Furthermore, Part I, Section 101 says:
Public charter schools free teachers and principals from burdensome regulations that limit other public schools, giving them the flexibility to innovate and make decisions about staffing, curriculum, and learning opportunities to improve student achievement and outcomes.
In other words, charter schools differ substantially from the standard public schools, with different rules, different staffing, and different management.
But Article IX of the Washington State Constitution clearly says:
SECTION 2 PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools. The public school system shall include common schools, and such high schools, normal schools, and technical schools as may hereafter be established. But the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools. [emphasis added]
If words have any meaning, charter schools are unconstitutional. Yes, there is some variation allowed in what counts as a public school. For example, high schools that specialize for language, arts, or technical subjects are allowed under Article IX, Section 2. But it stretches credibility to say that a school that operates under different management and different regulations can be part of the “general and uniform system of public schools.” After all, the entire point of charter schools is to provide an alternative to such general and uniform schools!
Added March 3, 2013: Coalition files legal challenge to state charter-schools law.