Of all the treachery and danger posed by Koch Republicans to America, and there are many, it is doubtless that their devotion to corporations and churches ranks near the top of a very long list. If the GOP is not using despicable machinations to turn every aspect of government over to privatization, they are using equally dubious ploys to abolish the Constitution and replace it with the Christian bible for America’s slow walk toward Iran-like theocratic rule.
One of the areas where the Kochs, Republicans, and evangelical Dominionists have had raging success with some assistance from the Obama Education Department is turning public schools into corporate religious madrasas with little attention or pushback from the public who are being forced to fund them. It is curious, too, that more Americans were unaware that the government is forbidden by the United States Constitution from forcing taxpayers to fund religious instruction, and that public education was not created to be a reliable source of corporate profit funded by taxpayers.
Now, at long, long last, the Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional; something many semi-informed Americans knew was the case all along. The Washington Supreme Court case languished for a year before delivering the very one-sided decision, 6 – 3, that put a damper on the Kochs’ and the religious right’s plans to create highly-profitable religious corporate schools funded by taxpayers in every state in the nation. What seemed to irk the Justices most of all was something that should enrage every American; the charter schools were unaccountable to anyone, including the taxpayers who were forced to fund them.
Apparently, the state’s Supreme Court has had just about enough stonewalling from the state legislature on two counts. First, a part of the law that allowed charter schools to take taxpayer funding for construction was struck down two years ago with no results, and the High Court levied fines against the legislature for not investing in basic K-12 public education; likely because the money was stolen and sent directly to charter schools. The Supreme Court fined the state $100,000 a day for failing to adequately fund basic education according to its constitutional duty. It is a very similar situation that led the Kansas Supreme Court to order Republican Governor Sam Brownback to reinstate public school funding lost to tax cuts for the rich and corporations.
The Supreme Court’s decision was aptly put in perspective by the president of the Washington Education Association, Kim Mead, who stated what many education advocates have claimed was blatantly obvious to any semi-sane human being. She said, “The Supreme Court has affirmed what we’ve said all along – charter schools steal money from our existing classrooms, and voters have no say in how these charter schools spend taxpayer funding. Instead of diverting taxpayer dollars to unaccountable charter schools, it’s time for the Legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools so that all of Washington’s children get the quality education the Constitution guarantees them.”
It is likely that Republicans and the Koch brothers took the ruling as a personal affront, and dangerous sign that their crusade to transfer public education funding directly to corporate-run charters and churches might gain public exposure and garner the robust opposition it warrants.
For nearly all public education advocates, this ruling is important because it is no revelation that Republicans have made assaulting public schools by underfunding them and sending the money directly to corporations and a sign that when educators, parents, and voters challenge corporate theocrats in the courts, the Constitution prevails. In fact, it was just last June that the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the abominable idea of using public money for private schools is unconstitutional. Colorado’s High Court was particularly incensed because parents were using the state’s “school choice” voucher program “to appropriate taxpayer money to send their children to private religious schools” that had no accountability to the state or voters.
According to reports after the ruling, the decision blindsided charter school operators who were completely unaware that a panel of jurists would rule according to the U.S. Constitution; likely because they have had relative free rein to rob public school funds with impunity and use them for profit and religious indoctrination. The chair of the Washington State Charter School Commission, Steve Sundquist, said, “We were not expecting a ruling as deeply disappointing as this one.” One can only imagine that the state’s Republicans, the Koch brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and theocratic corporatists were deeply disappointed as well and are preparing for court battles in several Republican-controlled states.
The Washington and Colorado rulings are a victory for students in those states as much as for the Constitution and public education. Every dollar funneled from public education into corporate-run religious charter schools is theft from students in public schools that are being underfunded deliberately. In states with Republican governors and majority legislatures, not only are public school funds being diverted to corporate charter and private religious schools, the overall education funding has been slashed drastically to fund tax cuts for the rich; and likely the same corporations operating charter schools.
However, at least for the time being, two state Supreme Courts have ruled that robbing public school funds to profit corporations and churches is unconstitutional. It is a good sign that the religious privatization of America’s public schools may not reach fruition until at least next year; because the Kochs and the religious right do not acknowledge the Constitution as the law of the land and with Republicans doing their bidding, public education is still in danger.