Charter schools have had to overcome two decades of reflexive opposition by those who fear innovative approaches to educating the state’s children — especially minority children. So it’s sadly predictable that the still-incipient charter school system — eight schools are operating with three more scheduled to start in 2017 — faces yet another hurdle.

A charter school is a public school that is open to all students but operates independently of district management and administrative rules; the schools can try approaches like longer school years or more class time for students who need it. Recall that supporters had to try, try, try, try again to win voter approval of the concept before finally gaining narrow voter approval in 2012, after three ballot failures dating back to the 1990s.

After Initiative 1240’s approval, opponents mounted a legal challenge that paid off when the state Supreme Court ruled last year that the state’s “common schools” fund can be spent only by locally elected school boards, not by the appointed members of the commission that oversees the schools. The Legislature this year responded with a fix that takes money from lottery sales instead of the state general fund, which supports other public schools.

That action prompted another challenge from a coalition of labor groups, school administrators and others, which last week filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court. They say the legislative action doesn’t address the constitutional flaws initially cited by the Supreme Court, and they also challenge the legality of the state’s decision to fund charter schools last year — the high court’s decision came down in early September, just as the school year was starting.

This lawsuit, in which the Washington Education Association and Washington Association of School Administrators are key players, will do nothing to further the ostensible mission of educators, which is to further the knowledge of the state’s children. It does serve to further uncertainty in the charter movement, which recognizes that the state’s public schools aren’t working for all students.

Charter school advocates are focused on ethnic minority students, whose achievement in this state’s schools are lagging by all statistical measures. Advocates say ethnic minorities comprise more than 70 percent of charter students statewide, and a similar percentage qualifies for free or reduced-priced lunch. Minorities make up almost 40 percent of charter teachers, more than three times the statewide average.

Charter schools have a mixed record in the 42 states that allow them; supporters in Washington understood the need for oversight as they developed a tightly defined law that limits the number of schools and requires that the schools meet a range of standards. Charters won’t solve all of education’s problems, but they can serve as a laboratory for finding better ways to educate students.

The education system’s energy would be better spent letting the schools conduct their mission under the scrutiny of the Washington State Charter Schools Commission, and not trying to stop the schools just because some folks don’t like the idea.

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