Let's start with what raised my antenna - the memo staff gave to the Board about Seattle Schools becoming a charter school authorizer.
Staffer Clover Codd, who wrote the memo, told the Board:
We have formed a cross- departmental working group to better
understand the implications for the district. The working group includes
representatives from Budget, Enrollment, Facilities, Legal, DoTS, Policy and Strategic Planning.
So I wrote to the Board this morning after I was cc'ed on an e-mail from Ms. Codd to President Peaslee. Ms Codd wrote:
Just to clarify, the District does NOT intend to submit a LOI by the October 1st deadline. We do have this school year to learn more about the pros/cons of becoming an authorizer. Staff wants to be sure we provide you with all the information you need to make informed decisions.
Seven people in SPS formed a group to work on this? Why, don't they have enough to do with the schools we have? If you read Ms. Codd's e-mail, it seems they will continue working. Why?
Now the concerns that were raised during the 2012 charter school initiative campaign are coming into sharp focus for Tacoma. From the Tacoma Tribune:
From my e-mail to the Board:
As for her (Ms Codd) assessment about charters, It's mostly accurate. I'll point out a couple of things not in that memo:
1) districts do NOT control their charter destiny. SPS could become an authorizer (and that's a heavy lift and Spokane created a whole department just for charter work) but that doesn't mean that applicants can't apply via the Charter Commission.
The law allows an applicant to apply to only ONE authorizer at a time. So an applicant has to apply to either a district authorizer or the Charter Commission.
So, for example, this idea that you could control exactly where a charter would be geographically is not really true.
2) I think a district might have some control over what types of schools they bring and maybe where BUT if districts put too much emphasis on those issues - meaning, not looking at the overall quality of the application - then a district could find itself in hot water with the Board of Education (which oversees district authorizers).
Here's what is happening in Tacoma:
The opening of three charter schools in Tacoma next fall
could cost Tacoma Public Schools as much as $10 million once the
charters reach full capacity by draining students and funds from the
public school system, according to Tacoma School Board member Karen
That figure, which emerged in a sometimes strained
discussion Thursday night between the local school board and several
members of the state charter school commission, was just one complaint
school board members aired before several members of the state body.
They plan to start teaching students in the fall of 2015. At full
capacity, the three Tacoma charters would enroll a total of nearly 1,500
students. State funding for those students would follow the students to
their new schools.
“If there are multiple applications in a single school district,
there is nothing that says we can only authorize one,” added commission
member Trish Millines Dziko. “We are not looking at their location. We
are looking at their applications.”
Vialle suggested that it might
be time to ask the Legislature to amend the charter law “so districts
do not get overloaded with charters.”
Heinze said he was frustrated that charter applicants cited Tacoma’s
reputation for school innovation as one of the reasons to locate here.
As proof that Tacoma schools are already offering families choices,
Heinze and others point to district-run preschools, universal free
all-day kindergarten, expanded programs for gifted students and a number
of state-recognized innovation schools.
here: when I went to a conference in March for public education
writers/activists, I told people there about how SPS has such a rich
variety of schools. They could not believe how much our district has
going on and without charters. Most of them said they had never heard
of a district with that many dual language schools without charters.
Ushka pointed out that the majority of Tacoma voters did not favor the initiative in the 2012 election.
I will point out here that the majority of Seattle voters did NOT favor charters.
What Tacoma is just starting to experience could be Seattle Schools' problem next.