Wednesday, December 02, 2015

It Appears Many Are Lining Up to "Save" Washington State Charter Schools

Update 2:  I wrote to Kevin Jacka, the superintendent of Mary Walker School District, to ask him about his resignation from the Charter Commission and about taking the orphan charter schools into his district.

Here's what he said (or didn't say);

Thank you for your interest. At this point in time, Mary Walker School District is still exploring opportunities. Included for your information is our Resolution #15-02, which was passed unanimously by the Mary Walker Board of Directors on Monday, November 30, 2015. 
He did send their Board resolution - signed by all the Board members.  (I'm having trouble getting it to upload so I can't provide a link at this time.)  It's a boiler-plate of "whereas the District" with one being "believes all students should have a choice in their educational program."

It allows him to:
  • explore the feasibility of former charter schools becoming Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) programs or other programs of the District; and
  • Hire consultants to assist Superintendent Kevin Jacka in exploring the feasibility of former charter schools becoming ALE programs or other programs of the District
So more confusion.  "Former" charter schools?  And where is a tiny district finding the money for "consultants" plural?  
end of update

Update:  I heard from OSPI and here's their clarification:
At this time, the Mary Walker School District has a memorandum of understanding with the six charter schools. The MOU is part of preliminary discussions between the district and six of the charter schools. We don’t know the status of those discussions, and to our knowledge, no agreement has been finalized.

And as far as we know, First Place and the charter schools located in Spokane are still exploring various options.
end of update

Would that be as many folks lining up to support McCleary funding for over 1M Washington state public school students.

Here's the latest.

I asked OSPI some questions and got some curious answers.


1) if the charter schools go off state funding (and they should, on or about Dec. 14th) but they get private funding, what do they have to do legally with OSPI? 

Do they register as private schools?

Can they be in some quasi-charter state until/if they get funding from the Legislature?

In essence, by OSPI rules, could they go from a charter school to a private school and then back to a charter school? 

2) When charters go off the state-funding, will the Superintendent be making any kind of press announcement on how this plays out vis a vis OSPI?  


1. Six of the charters will go to Mary Walker School District as ALE schools. The two charters in Spokane will remain in that district as general education schools. We are still wrestling with First Place.

2. I’m not sure if we will be issuing a press release. I will, though, let you know if we do.

Do you know where Mary Walker School District is? I didn't. It's a tiny district outside of...Spokane.  So all these Puget Sound charters will somehow become ALEs within this district.

Do you know who is the superintendent for MWSD?  That would be Kevin Jacka who, coincidentally, is on the Washington State Charter Commission. EXCEPT that today, of all days, he resigned from the Commission.  No reason given.

Now the state has a specific law on ALEs and I'm pretty confused how it all fits together legally.  It's a bit hard to follow as each charter school is, under the seemingly now defunct charter law, its own district.  At this point, I assume they DON'T want to be their own districts so that they can fit the law and be schools under the umbrella of MWSD.  

OSPI has a detailed FAQ on ALEs (mostly around digital learning.)
An alternative learning experience (ALE) is a course or, for grades kindergarten through eight, grade-level coursework, for public school students that are primarily characterized by learning activities that occur away from the regular public school classroom setting. The specific requirements and expectations of these away-from-school learning activities are detailed in a written student learning plan (WSLP) developed and supervised by a certificated public school teacher. In order to receive state basic education funding for ALE, a school district must comply with the ALE funding requirements detailed in WAC 392-121-182.
You'll note that every single student in an ALE program MUST have a written student plan that is created by a certificated public school teacher.  I'll be interested to see if this is done because, naturally, I'll want to see all of them for each student at every single charter school.   I'm thinking the charters must be working double time because the state funding shuts off on or before Dec. 14th so they need to get under someone's wing to go on.

(Or they can convert to private schools but that's a whole other problem.  And don't forget about poor First Place who seemingly can't catch a break.)
The ALE rules are school finance rules, allowing school districts to establish programs and claim basic education funding for student learning experiences that occur primarily away from school. This is in contrast to the more commonly used "seat time" requirements for basic education funding, where school districts claim basic funding only for enrolled students who are expected to actually attend school each day for a specified number of hours. In addition to the requirements of WAC 392-121-182, ALE programs must comply with all other existing rules and laws governing public education in Washington state.
Ah, so MWSD can claim the basic ed funding for ALEs.  This kind of works out well for charters because, during this time period, they will actually get MORE dollars than they will as charters.  Why?  Because a small percentage is withheld from those basic ed dollars to pay for oversight by their authorizers.

It gets a bit muddy here because while the Spokane charters will actually be under the wing of their charter authorizer, SSD, all the others will not.  So will MWSD be actually overseeing these new ALEs/charters or are they on their own?

Frankly, I think this is all uncharted territory and I'm not sure it's entirely legal.  

So the Attorney General's office won't give me any info because of client/attorney privilege and I await further information from both OSPI and the Washington State Charter Commission.

Neither the Washington State Charter Schools Association nor their cheerleader group, Act Now for Washington Students has any information on this issue.  But I would guess that mum's the word.  


TechyMom said...

I looked into the K12 online schools several years ago, and K12 Washington was registered as part of the public school district of some tiny town in eastern WA. That district got the money for k12 students anywhere in the state, and (I assume) shared it with the school. It sounds like the former charters are using the same mechanism.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maybe so, was K12 Washington an actual school? Because if you read the RCW, it doesn't sound like schools but rather programs.

No 1240 said...

Melissa, Great piece and you deserve a lot of credit! I'm impressed that you ascertained Kevin J. Jacka's letter of resignation from the Charter Commission.

I am not an attorney, but I would like to learn more about this:

"2) General requirements: A school district or charter school must meet the requirements of this section to count an alternative learning experience as a course of study pursuant to WAC 392-121-107. This section applies solely to school districts and charter schools claiming state funding pursuant to WAC 392-121-107 for an alternative learning experience. It is not intended to apply to alternative learning experiences funded exclusively with federal or local resources. This section does not apply to alternative learning experiences offered by charter schools pursuant to charter contract terms governing the operation of alternative learning experience in the school.'

Then: "Six of the charters will go to Mary Walker School District as ALE schools. " Does this mean that Seattle's charter schools will be incorporated into a school district in eastern Washington and these students will be distance learners?

Who was the brain child of this plan and I hope there are attorneys looking into this issue.

This process is muddy- at best- and will take a long time to digest this information.

Thank you!

dorainseattle said...

Ironic that alternative schools were under fire with our former Broad supe Goodloe-Johnson. The effort was to close down as many (excellent) alternative schools as possible to make way for charter schools by choking off any viable alternatives.

Now they want to use the same protections for charter schools.

What hubris.

It's apparent they had this worked out for a long time.

I still don't see it panning out. My experience when my daughter was at Nova, an alternative and now called "Option School", is that the school has as much oversight as any other public school.

Unless they plan to change the policy on ALE schools, I don't see this working.


No 1240 said...

"The specific requirements and expectations of these away-from-school learning activities are detailed in a written student learning plan (WSLP) developed and supervised by a certificated public school teacher.'

I remember one charter school talking about becoming a home school center because they are "innovative". Any chance charter schools are being set-up as home school centers? My guess: There is no private donors and these schools will use taxpayer dollars.

No 1240 said...

Here is how it worked:

"We will walk parents through the process of completing the home school form and turning it in. And we will continue business as usual," Wickens said, noting that students are still in class with teachers at Summit Sierra.

"After Sept. 24, we will not be a charter school, temporarily, we will be running a home school program," she said.'

After September 24th, a Seattle charter school became a ome school program. Shouldn't that program have been connected with Seattle Public Schools because:

"The specific requirements and expectations of these away-from-school learning activities are detailed in a written student learning plan (WSLP) developed and supervised by a certificated public school teacher"

Charter schools are now unconstitutional. Any student learning plan was NOT developed by a public school teacher.

No 1240 said...

Charter schools being ruled unconstitutional does NOT stop Pride Prep from enrolling students for 2016 school year.

Charlie Mas said...

The rules for Alternative Learning Experience schools are different than the rules for traditional schools. Looser in some ways but stricter in others. So why would the charters become ALEs?

The answer lies in the question of whether a school district with geographic boundaries can enroll students in a school housed in a building outside those boundaries. Normally they can't. It took a special agreement between Seattle Public Schools and the Highline School District for Aviation High to be operated by Highline within the borders of SPS. The charters are ALEs because, for purposes of the law, the students are not attending school in those buildings but doing independent study. They aren't taking classes in those buildings, they're just meet with their teacher-coaches there.

This also means that the only teachers at the school who have to be certificated and union members are the ones who sign the learning plans. The lecturers in the classrooms don't have to be teachers in the legal sense. Remember, the students are doing independent study. If the classroom instructors are not legally teachers then they are not covered by any of the laws for teachers (certification, union membership, professional standards, statutory requirements or protections, etc.).

It's pretty clever. They found a crack in the law and they are driving a truck through it. Their plan is to operate as ALE schools within a friendly district (until the District's voters manage to organize enough opposition and vote in a Board that will end it) and retain their state funding. Then, when their friends in the legislature pass a constitutionally sound charter school law, the schools will vote for conversion.

Charlie Mas said...

From the minutes of the October 19 School Board meeting for Mary Walker School District:
"Charter School / ALE – Bill Kiolbasa and Dick Conley discussed details relative to a possible temporary ‘acquisition’ of up to nine (9) charter schools-turned-ALEs; many talking points were reviewed and identified for further discussion, including: agreements, teacher union involvement, risk analysis, administrative fees, audit, employment plans, grant funding, Provision 2 status, Priority school status, iGrants, etc. Dick Conley
was flown in at WA Charters’ expense for this and several more meetings, and is expected to be a point person on MWSD’s behalf; Kathy Fromme has been approached to oversee end-of-year reporting, and Scott Schell has been approached to oversee SPED issues. A site visit to Spokane PRIDE is scheduled for tomorrow.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No on 1240, I was not aware this had happened in September, thanks. All charter school teachers are public school teachers (just not common school teachers.) However, yes, I'd like to see a written learning plan for every student and that should be public record.

Charlie, that will be interesting to see if a new law is drawn up. I have said, over and over, that there are STILL issues with the current one and yes, it will go back to court.

Kiolbasa is CFO for WSCSA;not sure who Conley is.

Anonymous said...

Before I make an assumption, Melissa, I'd simply like to ask: Are you suggesting that students' individual written learning plans in ALEs "should be public record"?

--- aka

TechyMom said...

Is K12 Washington an actual school? Depends how you define school. They don't have a building, it's all online. They are accredited and award high school diplomas. The stuff on their webpage sounds a lot like an ALE. I remember the legal structure being more clearly spelled out on the website, but maybe it's buried in the videos now.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Conley was the Supe at Boundary County district in Idaho (Bonners Ferry) - before that he was Supe for Winlock here in WA - can't figure out what he does now as he's no longer listed as the Supe in Bonners Ferry.


Melissa Westbrook said...

No AKA, of course not. I do want to see evidence the plans exist and that a certificated teacher created them. If charters are going to whiplash over what they are AND get state dollars for doing it, they have to follow the same rules/regs as all public schools.

Anonymous said...

K12 has been busted in the national press a lot about its dismal operations and lack of educational successes. Star example of make-a-buck charters.

If this is the way the backroom charter set wants to play the game in our state, the bright spotlight needs focus now. Who's got contacts with national press? Ravitch? Washington Post's Valarie Strauss? New York Times? National teacher unions? Washington teacher union?

Let's also watch which state Dems support this black hole plan of "accountability".


Anonymous said...

I thought and expected that's what you meant but I didn't want to assume. Also too, charters will "have to follow the same rules/regs all all" ALEs, in this instance.

--- aka

No 1240 said...

Charlie, Thank you for your research.

Clearly, we are looking at an issue that requires more research and thought.

I'm looking at this:

"After Sept. 24, we will not be a charter school, temporarily, we will be running a home school program," she said.'

So, we are looking at a charter school home school? WTH? Is this consistent with I 1240? We're probably looking at folks playing fast and loose. No surprise...

Anonymous said...

Great detective work on the charter school issue! While this unfolds, perhaps our best response would be a massive, organized push for McLeary?


No 1240 said...

The following sentence comes after the Supreme Court found I 1240 unconstitutional. Are the individuals supporting I 1240 creating a temporary fix until if/when a law is changed? My guess: yes.

"Charter School / ALE – Bill Kiolbasa and Dick Conley discussed details relative to a possible temporary ‘acquisition’ of up to nine (9) charter schools-turned-ALEs;'

Anonymous said...

Charlie says the only teachers who have to be unionized in ALEs are those who sign the learning plans. Since no charters have WEA employees, how does that work? Is our union tracking this? I'd hope so but I doubt it.


No i 1240 said...

Pride Prep is enrolling students. Are they enrolling students as an Alternative Learning Program? Shouldn't Pride Prep be enrolling through a school district.(!!!)It appears the school connected with Pride Prep exists in eastern Washington. Pride Prep is an unconstitutional charter school.

mirmac1 said...

Fake charters like these will likely phone those IEPs and services in for students with disabilities.

Anonymous said...

teach @10:30 am said "Charlie says the only teachers who have to be unionized in ALEs are those who sign the learning plans. Since no charters have WEA employees, how does that work?"

Wouldn't the teachers just join the union?

If you were a new teacher starting at a job in a traditional school in a school district, how would it work? Would you get a job offer conditional on joining the union?


Charlie Mas said...

I must say that I find it curious that neither the Seattle Times nor the Washington Policy Center have reported on this. Did any Spokane papers carry a story about it? I can't find one.

Charlie Mas said...

Union membership comes with employment by the school district as a teacher. That's state law. The charter schools can evade collective bargaining by employing people in non-represented roles. In short, they just make the job title something other than "teacher".

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, the law says "certificated TEACHER" - how can they evade that?

I think it may become necessary to go to court and get an injunction to get this straightened out.

Yes, Charlie, I have been wondering why ALL these charter supporters are mum.

I am also amused that at the Washington's Paramount Duty Facebook page that Robin Lake of the charter thinktank, Center on Reinventing Public Education, is saying that I'm wrong to bring up charters with McCleary. I pointed out that it was Rep. Chad Magendanz who started this and the Facebook page administrators agreed. She seems to think that we should all get together on McCleary (which may, in the end, benefit charters) and yet charter schools should be first on the "to-do"list.

I just got back from an event where Rep. Magendanz and Senator Frockt had a discussion. I'll write it up soon.

Anonymous said...

TAF academy falls under innovative school designation. It's a private-public partnership in the Kent School District.

My understanding regarding opting out of teacher's union is you still have to pay your union dues, but can opt out of union membership. There is a clause in the contract which allows non-member a small rebate if you don't support (or wish to be neutral) the union political agenda. You can opt out for religious reason and have your dues be donated to charity instead. I think al these exceptions stem from lawsuits. Other unions have similar clause. Washington is not a right to work state which can be confusing for people coming from states with right to work law or who don't belong to unions.

Anonymous said...

Oops, forgot to sign above.


Melissa Westbrook said...

But the issue is whether the district is obligated to make sure these charter teachers understand that they must follow the process under collective bargaining.

Anonymous said...

my question about WEA wasn't really related to charters.
I was wondering about how it worked normally.

I went to the WEA website, and they say you need to be a public school employee (not necessarily a teacher) to have an active membership. Some comments on the thread seem to be saying (or maybe I'm just not understanding) that you have to be a WEA member before you can be hired as a teacher.

This seems to mean that you could never become either a WEA member nor a teacher. But there are thousands of teachers in Washington, so there must be some mechanism for it to happen.


Anonymous said...

You don't have to be a member of a union, but you have to pay union dues, unless you file for a religious exemption. You have to pay union dues because you benefit and are represented in the the collective bargaining process. As non-member, you can't vote in union elections and aren't subject to union discipline or fines if for example, you cross the picket line (though that isn't a smart professional move).

It's confusing and I learned some of this through a friend's spouse who was trying to organize a union for hotel housekeeping staff. I myself didn't know much of this for many years after I signed all those forms before accepting my position. This information is not always explicit . While I don't have a problem with my dues supporting union political activities (TBH-i don't know the details), I know colleagues who don't support for various reasons, which is why there is an op out clause for non-members. Day to day, I find people at work rarely converse about union internal politics which is reflected in low voter turn outs for union elections.The dues are taken off automatically just like SS so it's rarely on my radar.


Anonymous said...

Teachers should be paying close attention to ESEA “Every Student Succeeds Act” and the language the act contains around defining teachers and teacher accountability.


Anonymous said...

Actually, there is a big problem with their plan. If they have everyone listed as a homeschooler, then those students have actually withdrawn from the public school system. They would not get any public funds. The ALE's have to enroll students as public school students full time to get the full time dollars. There are some that enroll part time and receive pro-rated dollars. To not enroll them, they receive no dollars. The charters would work no differently than a private co-op or classes set up by many of the homeschool groups throughout the state.

However, that part of the plan may have been mis-reported, in my opinion. It would make more sense for the charters to join as is to the MWSD. But then my questions become how legal is that? Teachers and staff were hired with no OSPI oversight. Do they meet qualifications? Do the buildings? The assessments? The staffing? How are they meeting medical and special needs? Do they need an ELL program?

As for the student learning plans, they must be reviewed by a certificated teacher. Provided that these charters are using certificated teachers for each class (without hiring someone to review all students), the teachers can use their lesson plans. That happens in our ALE - the teacher turns in the lesson plans and that becomes part of each student's individual record for that particular subject.

I think it could work, but I suspect the charter won't want to jump through the hoops. Even as an ALE, there are certain requirements that must be met.

ALE Homeschoolmom

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, you can get hired, joined the union and later resigned as member, but must continue to pay union dues (unless you file for an exemption). There should be no retalitory action against you if you resign or choose not to join the first place. You can trace all of this back to the Taft-Hartley Labor Act and if your children had a good US history teacher, they can tell you all about it.


Melissa Westbrook said...

ALE Mom, yes, there are a LOT of questions which leads me to believe this will end up in court. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

I was confused by the earlier comment regarding Sierra. (I presume none of the other charters are planning to be considered homeschool program.) Does anyone know if they have continued to receive public money like the other charters? Or if that immediately ended? Is so, how are they paying for everything?

ALE Homeschoolmom

Po3 said...

So if Summit charter converted to a homeschool in Sept did they also receive the Oct (and Nov?) payments from the state?

When do the payments get cut off for all charters in the state?

Anonymous said...

For more info about unions and laws, I found this after a quick search. There's so much info out there including one recent case from WA state which went all the way to the US Supreme Court.


Melissa Westbrook said...

ALE Mom and others, that's what I'm going to find out and, like most, things - follow the money.

No I 1240 said...

An injunction needs to be filed. I was disappointed that the Charter Commission and charter school operators were permitted to open charter schools while I 1240 was in the court system. The state is failing to fund education and the state provided unconstitutional charter schools with millions of dollars.(!!) The path forward is murky and taxpayer dollars continue to be provided to these entities.

Are these schools entitled to levy funding? If so, would levy dollars come from eastern Washington or Seattle?

Melissa Westbrook said...

No on 1240, good question. If they are not charter schools in Feb. 2016, they cannot get any Seattle Schools levy dollars. I'd have to go reread the law because I know they are eligible for levy dollars in the district where they operate but if they are under the oversight of another district, I don't know.

Charlie Mas said...

For the ALE scheme to work, a number of hoops will have to be jumped through.

1. All of the students will have to apply for a release from their home district.
2. All of the students will have to apply for non-resident registration in the Mary Walker district.
3. Regulatory requirements that govern ALE schools will have to be met. Since ALE can be independent study, this won't be hard.

As for the questions of labor and compensation, there is an obvious choice.

A. The District can take on all of the charter school employees as school district employees. This means doubling their administration to support the legal, finance, reporting, and HR work. It means accepting regular
B. The District could simply contract out to the charter school operators to provide student support services - like the tutoring services paid by Seattle Public Schools. In this case almost nothing changes. No regulation, no need for reporting, no overhead or oversight. They might have to go through the usual RFP stuff, but maybe that can be short-circuited.

I wonder which way they will go

Rachel said...

I'm not sure anyone directly answered your question, so...
I am not currently a union member-I do not have a job in education that qualifies me to join the WEA. I interview for a union job, and they want to hire me (yay me!). Part of my hiring paperwork, along with W4, I9, ABC123, etc is paperwork for joining the union. I choose to either join as a full member, or whatever they call the other type of not-really-members who are still bound by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

No I 1240 said...

Those involved with charter schools do not want to go private. I guess they are realizing the complexities of going from schools that receive private funding to private schools that seek to become public schools.

Clearly, they are trying to maintain an Alternative School status, and we have a former Charter Commissioner/Superintendent trying to make it happen from eastern Washington.

I still want to know if Seattle's levy dollars will go to alternative learning schools being operated from eastern Washington. I say NO. Our elected school board should have oversight of these dollars....not a superintendent/board in eastern Washington...and a superintendent and former charter school commissioner that has a vested interest in keeping charter schools open.

Those that passed an unconstitutional law, prematurely opened charter schools etc. should be tossed out of our educational system. Note: Unconstitutional schools have been funded with public dollars and the path forward is murky. SPS should not be required to spend one ounce of administrative time dealing with this issue and a district in eastern Washington.

Anonymous said...

Why would an ALE from Eastern Washington get Seattle dollars? But sure, have them Mary Walker District dollars. What does that amount to, exactly, in Eastern WA?

Let me put the dots together. Charters are going to be all over levy equalization. Locate out of the reach of local school boards. Take dollars that will largely be siphoned from Seattle.

Red flags everywhere.