Families and students in the Washington Families for Online Learning (WAFOL) coalition filed a lawsuit to restore basic education funding for students enrolled in the state's online public schools on February 13. Last year, the Legislature cut the basic education funding for students enrolled in online public schools by 15% below the basic FTE (Full Time Equivalent). The lawsuit filed by the families of the WAFOL coalition seeks to have those funding cuts restored, arguing the cuts are unfair and unconstitutional.
The Washington Supreme Court recently ruled last month that the state is not meeting its constitutional requirement to fully fund basic education for all K-12 students. In its strongly worded ruling, the Court said the state must fund basic education before all other programs, and any cuts to basic education must be done for educational reasons, not in response to a fiscal crisis.
"Not every child learns the same; online public schools give families an option to educate their children in the environment that fits their unique needs. Online public school is what works for my youngest son, while a traditional public school classroom works for my other children. Trying to put my special needs son in a traditional classroom would be a disaster?online learning has been the greatest gift for him," said plaintiff Melissa Staffenhaggen. "We don't understand why the Legislature thinks my youngest son doesn't deserve the same basic education funding as my other children, just because he attends an online public school and they go to school in a classroom."
Until the Legislature's funding cuts last year, Washington had been a pioneer in the evolution of online learning as a basic education delivery model. Washington hosted the nation's first-ever completely online school and today leads the nation for options and access to online learning.
Whether for a gifted student needing advanced academic curriculum beyond his grade level, or a challenged student who is falling behind in his class, online public schools are helping students learn. Washington families and students deserve full funding for online learning.