Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Washington State Charter School Letters of Intent Filed

The deadline for letters of intent to file a charter school proposal in Washington State was 5 p.m. today.  Checking the Charter Commission website, I count 15 but Seattle Weekly is reporting 24 (I suspect SW called and asked and that the Charter Commission just doesn't have all of them up yet).

Those 24 do NOT include whatever letters of intent that Spokane School District received as it is the only school district in the state to be a charter school authorizer.

All full applications must be in on November 22nd.

Seattle Weekly had a good story on Puget Sound hopefuls who are getting a boost via the Washington State Charter Schools Association (and, of course, the money coming from the Gates Foundation).  Three different women each received $100k for their charter school planning.

A second charter group out of California, Summit Public Schools that runs high schools, has filed (joining Green Dot).

The newest entries are signalled by a *.
One thing I'll need to clear up with the Charter Commission.  It looks like applicants are using the box for "conversion" on the letter of intent to explain a conversion from private to public.  That's NOT what that means in the law so it is confusing.

Update to the list:
Quantum Leap Educational Foundation (PDF) - K-12 (they put down Seattle/Puget Sound for area)
The Village Academy (PDF) - to be at JBLM, preK-8 (I believe this is a military wife that I saw on the news.)

I looked through all the letters - after checking, I'm getting a vibe off one that may indicate a Gulen charter (the largest charter chain in the country).  Not good. 


Anonymous said...

And if the lawsuit is upheld and charter schools are ruled not to be public common schools - which they like to claim they are/are not when it is convenient to them - will those 3 women have to give the money back?
Just wondering..
$100K to "plan" a charter school. Bet we'll be seeing some of those tax-breaks-for-donating-to-charter-schools legislative bills popping up soon in our oh-so-effective Rodney Tom legislature.


Melissa Westbrook said...

No, that money is from the Gates Foundation (but the Foundation has lots of money so no worries).

I have to say the lawsuit against 1240 looks better all the time.

Anonymous said...

3 x $100K

What if instead that money was given to Dunlap and Emerson and Aki Kurose? So that each of these schools could have hired 2 teachers each? 6 Teachers for a year? What if each teacher had 20 FR&L kids? With a lower class size, they could have intensively worked with these 120 students, raising their academic achievement and possibly their spirits too. Great teachers can do that. 120 kids would have benefitted. Plus more, because the classrooms they would have been pulled from also would have had a reduced class-size. What if... We will never know. Not that 20 is such a small class. But it is a start. Oh, wait, silly me, I forgot class size doesn't matter.

Instead, three women will file a bunch of paper to some office, that might yield a magical school, that might hire some actual teachers (although, they may not necessarily be certified, so they may not be real teachers after all), so that at some point down the road in the future kids might actually be learning something somewhere.

Not how I would spend $300k, if I had it to spend. No doubt I am simply
(and deeply) misguided, wanting to spend money for education on teachers to teach kids. Clearly, I just don't get it.

-kids first

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, Melissa. That is an interesting collection of charter school proposals.

There is college prep high school proposed for Seattle, as well as a Core Knowledge K-8. Pioneer school in Spokane is proposing to serve gifted students as "gifted and highly capable children are an underserved and at-risk population." There's a dual language school proposed for Yakima and a Green Dot middle school proposed for Tacoma.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you, kids first. That was my first thought too - what could that money have done in a public school? Counselors? After-school activities? Tutoring program? More teachers?
But better for it to be pocketed by a private citizen so as to keep the money out of the public realm, right Bill Gates?


Anonymous said...

"Clearly, I just don't get it."

No, you get it, kids first, but many others don't.

Venture Philanthropy is not benevolent and generous, but protects and furthers the self-interests of those who practice it.

We should dispense with the labels and slogans and call it out for what it is: Hegemony. I.e., Their way is best. Period.


Charlie Mas said...

Here are a couple things that mystify me.

1) Four of these schools want to open in Seattle. Where? Where is there a building suitable for use as a school and why hasn't the District acquired that property?

2) The four schools that want to open in Seattle are a 6-12 STEM-focused school using blended learning, a K-5 STEM school for traumatized families, a rigorous K-8 STEM school for at-risk students, and a high school offering personalized instruction. Are these the schools that are missing from Seattle? Apparently we need a lot more STEM.

3) If these folks had come to the school board and proposed these programs, what would have happened?

4) How will the pro-Ed Reform folks in Spokane, Highline and Tacoma welcome their charters?

Anonymous said...

STEM is all the buzz....even though we have pienty of grads already. They just don't want to work for barely above minimum wage, which is what some of our major companies pay, particularly because they can get foreign workers on the cheap and have a compliant, unquestioning workforce.
STEM is the new black.


Eric B said...

Some answers for Charlie:

1. You could open a K-5 school with 6 classrooms (~150 students) in about 7500 square feet of office space as long as it was near a park you could visit once a day for recess. While I'm not a real estate broker, I'm sure that this space is available in many places in the city. SPS doesn't want a small school in an office building, they want a standalone school that will last for years and hold 650 kids.

2. There is a lot of demand for STEM in Seattle (see K-5@Boren, Cleveland, STEAM at another site, etc.). It may be just a fad, but it does seem to be popular.

3. They would have been (rightly) told that SPS doesn't have the money, space, or bandwidth to develop these programs. SPS has enough to deal with without developing four new boutique schools.

4. With open arms. The ed reform muckety mucks can't let this be a failure. The schools will not lack for funding and whiz-bang stuff, the newspapers will write glowing articles about the cool new tech invigorating a half-empty office building with super-awesome teaching, and we won't know if they produce results for 3-5 years. By that time, Harold Hill will be selling trombones somewhere else.

Lynn said...

What I don't understand is the financing. They're going to get the state funds for each student - but that only covers classroom costs. How will they pay rent, furnish the classrooms, etc.? Charters only seem fiscally feasible to me if they are conversions of public schools.

Patrick said...

3) If these folks had come to the school board and proposed these programs, what would have happened?

We know what would have happened. They wouldn't even have gotten calls returned. And even if such a school had been opened, it would have had kids assigned there involuntarily from "failing" NCLB schools, moved, split, and finally closed because families get sick of having their school moved every couple of years. They'd still have to use the same materials neighborhood schools use and the same dysfunctional central office services, so they have only a little scope for being different from the neighborhood schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lynn, they don't have to pay union wages. That's the number one way they save money. Teachers, at some charters, also clean their own classrooms. Most don't serve lunches. They use more technology, fewer books. And, for the lucky ones, you have outside funding from Gates and other foundations. Or you are part of a larger group - Gulen, Green Dot, etc - that help with funding.

The biggest issue - and the absolute reason that 1240 has the conversion part that it does - is facilities. That's why they are arguing in NYC - Bloomberg allowed some charters to not pay rent (even though the state law said they should). This has also had major ramifications in LA. There are even charter groups that exist solely to set up facility space.

It can't be that big a problem if there are this many charters. Having said that, I suspect the low per pupil funding in this state might be a challenge for some.

Lynn said...

I understand about the union wages, but how much less can teachers accept and still support themselves? Aren't transportation and lunch funds different pots of money? I don't think they'll provide the services, but they won't be able to use the money to cover other costs either.

I agree that charters are going to find It much more difficult to operate in Washington than in other (adequately funded) states.

Eric B said...

I'll do some math on the fly here for my hypothetical 150-student K-5.

State money: ~$9500 per student = $1.43 million
SPS Operating Levy money after the next levy passes: ~$500K
Assume no federal or state FRL/Sped/ELL money
With parent fundraising, bring that to an even $2 million

6 teachers @ $30K nominal salary, top end $75K total cost including taxes, benefits, etc. = $450K
1 principal @ $150K total cost
1 admin @ $75K total cost
1 financial person @ $150K total cost (could be part time and reduce cost as well)

Total personnel cost: $825K

Rent: About $200K/year ($26/sq ft)

That leaves just shy of a million dollars a year for all of the soft costs (new books, tech support, supplies, copier rental, etc. etc.). In the first couple of startup years, it would be about $500K less since the charter doesn't get operating levy money until a new levy passes.

I've surely left out a lot of stuff, but the budget also has lots of slack. Of course, this presumes that teachers do PE/library/language etc. Lunch can be done extremely cheaply--sign a deal with your local cheap pizza joint/Subway to get food from them at about $2/person/meal.

Anonymous said...

A link to Summit Public Schools, a CA based charter, with two applications for WA (one in Seattle):


They propose starting both of them as roll-ups, with only 9th grade to start. That seems to be the intent of several schools - to start with a fraction of the grade band and roll-up. Summit has merit based pay and with their current locations they draw teachers from schools such as Stanford and UC Berkeley. They have a record of success in CA.


Patrick said...

Can a charter really get away with cheap pizza or sub sandwiches for lunch every single day?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Summit looks very slick, was featured in Waiting for Superman and is probably one of the better charter chains.

But I'm always suspicious of websites for established groups that have a tab for "FAQs" and then have none. Summit also has very little on governance.

It's like most charters - you take what they are giving and if it works for your child, great, otherwise keep looking.

Eric B said...

@Patrick, I think it's possible. If the lunch meets federal and state standards for school lunches, it shouldn't matter where you get it. Chains in WA have to post nutritional information, so it should be readily apparent if they meet standard or not. If you did a rotating weekly menu (Monday is cheese pizza, Friday is ham and cheese sandwiches), it shouldn't be hard to make it work. Worst case, you charge the students $3 for lunch and bump it up to $4/meal budget. It's a feature to have nobody buy lunch--that's just another logistical headache.

Eric B said...

Ya know, a Gulen charter may be just what this law needs if it's upheld in court. It would be a real object lesson in how badly written the initiative is and how a charter operator with an agenda can exploit all of its loopholes.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Many charters in AZ and Utah offer neither transportation nor food. Kids are driven by their parents, they bring their lunch, oftentimes eat in the classroom (no duty-free lunch for teachers) because there is no cafeteria (most common with the storefront charters), and recess is in a parking lot or game time in the classroom.
This effectively knocks out 1) your families with no car or 1 car needed for work, 2) both parents working - usually lower income shift work so hours are not good for dropping kids at school - or single parent families doing the same, 3) kids who need FR breakfast and lunch at school, 4) kids who need recess to work off their energy - most often boys and kids with ADD/ADHD -type issues (sometimes they'll start out at a charter, but their behavior gets them "counseled out")..

So already, the charters start with a different audience than public schools.
Then you've got the application process, which also lends itself more towards the wealthier, more educated populace.
I always picture a greater than/less than sign with public schools on the big side, and charter schools on that teeny-tiny point.


Anonymous said...

As for the question about pay and how teachers can afford it - again, both AZ and UT don't require certificated teachers in charters. In Utah, you find your job first, then start on the road to getting your cheap-ass certification, often via online schools like WGU. Many times these people just want a job - any job - so they take a charter school job until something better comes along. Or they think they're getting a cake job (after all, teaching is just like babysitting, right?) and when it gets hard, they quit. And the charter school "principals" in most cases just want a warm eager body to fill the spot and be worked to death. In AZ, charter schools were frequently where you found the teachers who couldn't get hired in the public system.
Obviously there are always exceptions, but I found the bulk of this to be true more often than not.


Charlie Mas said...

So here are 17 potential applicants - 24 if you go with the Seattle Weekly count. Let's say that 14 of them - just to pick a number at random - actually complete their application.

I don't imagine that any of them will be denied. Really. I don't see this commission denying any applications because I think they see their role as supportive rather than regulatory.

If 14 applications are approved then that's all eight for this year and six of next year's. That means two things:

1) There will be a race to submit applications since only the first eight can start this year. Frantic.

2) There will be only two spots for new applicants for next year. That's going to be an even more frantic race.

Charlie Mas said...

Here is the answer to my question.

"The following schedule is used to determine state salary allocations for certificated instructional staff
(i. e., teachers and educational staff associates) for 283 of 295 Washington State public school districts.
The remaining 12 public school districts receive somewhat higher allocations due to a higher base salary.

"The state schedule determines ALLOCATIONS of state funds. ACTUAL SALARIES ARE DETERMINED
IN LOCAL NEGOTIATIONS. Questions regarding individual employee compensation should be directed
to the local school district personnel or payroll office.

The charter schools will be allocated funding for their teachers in accordance with this scale, but the schools don't have to pay that money to the teachers.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, the Charter Commission tells me that the number is 20 (some submitted electronically and by hard copy). I don't have the number from Spokane yet but I suspect it's about five.

Yes, the race will be on BUT you are wrong about approving all of them. This Charter Commission is very serious about getting it right. For their own work, I'm not even sure they will get to eight because they are going to pick through the applications very carefully.

I mean, how will it look to approve anything less-than-great that serves truly at-risk students? I know some of these members and I can only say - not on their watch.

However, Spokane gets to use whatever process they want and I would think they would be the ones to approve all of theirs.

So you could see 8 approved (plus a couple of others that would roll over into the next batch) but mostly coming from Spokane.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
seattle citizen said...

In Charlie's post of 6:28, he quotes state code on state funding of teacher salaries, including this gem:
"Questions regarding individual employee compensation should be directed to the local school district personnel or payroll office."
That's rich: Charters aren't part of a local district in some cases. To who, then, does one direct questions about the total compensation of charter teachers? Will this information be public record, as it is with public school teachers?
Someone should ask these charter letter of intent grouo s what they are paying their employees.
If they aren't told, they should ask the state: These ARE still public employees, right? Earning OUR tax dollars?

Anonymous said...

Nope - that info will NOT be public record. Or there may be some disclosure - teacher salaries - but not administrative compensation. And when the state asks for that info, the charters tell them no way - we're not public schools, or make some whiny claim about how they're trying to get away from the bureaucracy that strangles public schools, so they don't have to provide that info.

Exhibit A: Arizona


John Foster said...

It's very simple, it really is:

Charter "Schools" claim that they're "public" when they want our tax dollars---often to pay the "CEO" and other company executives posing as educators.

Ask "Ms. 1240 Shill", Shannon Campion, who was everywhere last year, whining insistently that "Charter Schools ARE public schools", and outright lying during an online chat sponsored by the Seattle Times when she said no one was paying her for that work.

However, when the Charter Shills and PR Lackeys determine that it is to their advantage to say "but we're private", then that's their claim.

Kind of simple, actually. Right?

When it benefits Charter Shills to say they're public schools, that's the claim they make. When it benefits them to say they're private, then they'll call themselves that.

See? Pretty easy. Say "public" or "private" depending on who you're talking to and what question is being asked. When you have billionaires backing you, you CAN have it both ways. Can't you?

Charlie Mas said...

I think that the Charter schools will have to make financial disclosures as part of their "accountability".

They are free from mandates about how they budget, but they are not free from disclosure about how they budget.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie is right. As well, under 1240 each charter is its own district and since they receive public dollars, we get to know how they spend them.

Now grant dollars, that may be different.

Anonymous said...

Is First Place the only one that is already in existence, while the other ones will be startups?
- Muir Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Muir Mom, no there are one or two other private schools turning but none but First Place are in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

So who is going to enforce the public disclosure of how funds are spent? That's been one of the major issues is other states - they can ask, but no one has the teeth to do anything about it when they say no.