Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Clarity on WA State Charter Schools from Charter Commission? Fuhgeddaboudit

That was one uneventful and less-than-insightful Charter Commission meeting.

There was a brief two minutes of administrative work (minutes), then about a 15-minute executive session and then about 15 minutes of real business.

What was that real business?  Basically, giving the Executive Director, Joshua Halsey, the authority to do the work to shut down the Commission's operations.

Halsey did a  "frame up" of where they are.  He said the Supreme Court's ruling on reconsideration (and delay of implementation of ruling) left the Commission in "unprecedented territory."  He said their office had talked to other state agencies, archives, Governor's office and Auditor's office about how to bring "this agency to a close and wind down operations."  (No date given but probably by the end of next week.)

He also said that they"may need to bring the contracts w/schools to a wind-down and working with OSPI about how that process may work.  He said there are rules within the law about closing a charter contract but not under these conditions and timeline.

If a school does want to end its contract, it will go thru Halsey.

Chair Steve Sundquist asked about the charters and their contingency plans.

Halsey said he was working with OSPI and schools and that ALL schools were pursuing an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) with Mary Walker School District.  He went on and said that even if ALE contract doesn't pan out that "they will remain open thru remaining month of school year."

Both motions for Halsey to see winding down of CC and for him to see thru any contract issues with any charter school were approved unanimously.

Sundquist pointed out that they had "taken actions that we think are necessary for an unprecedented situation."  He said they were still together as a Commission (but I think that is largely on paper.)

Halsey ended with the statement that he wanted to make it "clear to the public that the actions today pertain to the Commission and that schools are not closing for remaining months of school year."

No one even mentioned - not in public - the abrupt resignation of Commissioner Kevin Jacka, the superintendent of Mary Walker School District.

So while the CC seems to be powering down, obviously the charter schools are in high gear trying to survive.  It's clear that only one district is openly pursing the ALE program for these students.  That somewhat makes sense except that MWSD is so small and that alone makes it appear this is just a holding maneuver.

Thinking about it, even though there are many issues over how OSPI is bending rules for this ALE program and these charter students, really the issue is what will come AFTER the Legislature meets.

Will legislators grit their teeth and fund these schools in order to move on?

If so, where are they getting the money from?

But really, the money could be found for these schools to continue until the end of the year but what kind of schools are they?  Not charters.  There is no Charter Commission so who would oversee them?  The ruling makes that clear - it was the entire law struck down, not just the funding.  What legal basis allows a school to start one way, change and go back?  There's certainly nothing in the charter law for that; maybe there is in some other RCW.

And even they finish the year?  Then what?

I'm no lawyer but I don't think finding the funding solves it and the Washington State Charter Schools Association may end up finding that out in court.

One last funny/odd thing - when you come into these phone-in meetings,you can announce yourself.  Personally, I think it a polite thing to do but there were many people who were lurkers and did not name themselves.


Charlie Mas said...

Just what is the rule, if any, for a school to organize?

If I wanted to establish a private school, what state regulation, if any, would I have to meet? Are the rules and requirements any different for high schools? Will credits earned at these schools be transferable to public schools?

If there are rules for the establishment of private schools, particularly high schools that award credit, how are these schools complying with those rules or meeting those requirements. If there are no rules or regulatory requirements then why don't we all claim to have schools at home and award our kids credit?

Lynn said...

There is a process for a private school to be approved by OSPI. The charter schools were offered a fast track in September. If unapproved, students are not meeting the mandatory attendance requirements.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, that is the issue - when the Charter Commission shuts down, what are these schools? Without oversight, elected or otherwise, they are NOT charter schools.

The charters are choosing - once again - to gamble. They want state dollars so much that they are gambling with these kids academic lives that they will get them.

I'm going to have a short separate thread on this but I think I've finally figured a bit more out. Let's see if I'm right.

NO 1240 said...

In the event of the Supreme Court striking down I 1240, State Representative Gerry Pollet urged the Charter Commission to create a contingency plan. The Charter Commission did NOT create a contingency plan because they are cheerleaders for charter schools, when they should have been regulators. They have NO one to blame except themselves.

I listened-in to the Charter Commission meeting. Steve Sundquist was laughing and making jokes. It reminded me of when he sat on the Seattle School Board. Considering the gravity of this situation, I found his behavior very unprofessional. Considering the Charter Commission failed to make contingency plans, and he sat on the Seattle School Board and failed to oversee the district, he should never be permitted to hold another official seat.