Friday, January 08, 2016

Charter Schools - As the World Turns

You could call it a soap opera or use another, more colorful, word (but this is - mostly - a family blog.)


Mary Walker School District.  Rolling in the dough and that would be Gates Foundation dough.  So now we're at over $2M for the last couple of years.  That's buying them four consultants to help manage the work of the six schools that are going to use ALEs to limp thru the rest of this school year. 

Summit - the outlier

I had it wrong in saying that Summit would have to go thru Cascadia for students who live in Seattle to homeschool. First, it would have been Cascade, not Cascadia.  BUT, as I learned at the Executive Committee meeting yesterday, those students don't have to go thru any real education entity.  Their parents just have to submit a form.  (More on this further down.)

Washington Policy Center.  The Gates Foundation is not the only big spender; the WPC announced today that they have a couple of commercials for charter schools that will run 700(!) times in the next two weeks.  Where they got the money for that kind of media spending is a mystery but I'll give you three guesses.

OSPI - I received an e-mail from OSPI on Wednesday, answering some questions I had asked about this situation.  From one answer, it would appear they didn't know Summit was going a different direction. 

Frankly, I don't believe there is one single person in the entire state who truly knows the entire story for all the former charter schools.   No one.

Seattle Schools
The district sent out two different emails on the subject of charter schools.  (link at the end of this thread via Seattle Education 2010).  All bold is mine.

The first was dated December 8, 2015 and it was from Ken Gotsch, CFO, to JoLynn Berge, CFO, at OSPI.  The subject line was "choice forms for charters converting to ALEs."

Gotsch was pivoting off of Superintendent Dorn's memo of the same date about OSPI processing choice forms for students from former charter schools to an ALE in another district.  He uses some fairly tough wording:
After talking with Seattle Public Schools Superintendent and other senior staff, SPS does not want OSPI to initiate choice forms for charter students who are residents in the City of Seattle.  
He went only to say they would be following their own district policies/procedures on assignment/enrollment. 

He then states:
In addition, I want to let you know that SPS will object to any physical program placement in the City of Seattle without prior School Board authorization.  
The next e-mail, dated December 17, 2015,was from Superintendent Nyland to Mary Walker SD superintendent Kevin Jacka.  He says that SPS is ready to "reabsorb" any students back to SPS.

Then he gets tough:
As we have made clear to OSPI and now to you, we do not intend to subvert legal processes to find ways to fund charter schools that have been ruled unconstitutional.  
He explains that parents of those students need to ask SPS for a release and goes on: I understand that OSPI is evidently looking for a way to subvert the current legal processes by removing our local control of this process.

He states that since MWSD isn't going to serve those students from Seattle thru MWSD (online learning) and that MWSD doesn't have an "inter-local" with SPS to operate a school in the district, "we will have to consider the legal implications of whether or not it is legal for you to serve students in Seattle."

Nyland is cordial in inviting Jacka to send an inter-local to be reviewed by SPS.  But says:
I am quite confident that Seattle will not be entering into an inter-local with you to serve Seattle Schools students within the boundaries of SPS via a charter school.

Our board has reviewed the charter school provisions and determined that we did not wish to become an authorizer; in essence that is what you are asking us to do - Authorize Mary Walker to authorize the charters in Seattle to serve students in SPS 
And kudos to Superintendent Nyland for his firmness in this matter.   (One interesting side note is that the Superintendent had intended to "mention" this at the Board meeting but "I forgot about it." He stated this at yesterday's Executive Ctm meeting.)

Executive Committee Meeting (I'll only cover the former charter school issue here but there was other discussion that I will cover in a thread about the Board meeting and this meeting.)

President Patu, VP Peters and Director Harris were all there, along with Superintendent Nyland, John Cerqui and other senior leadership.  Oddly, former director Marty McClaren came in at one point.

I had a bit of trouble following some of the discussion because there was some skipping around.  They brought Kim Whitworth to walk them thru the issue of homeschooling.

- apparently OSPI was trying to get Tacoma as well as Seattle to get on-board

- SPS received 120 homeschool forms on Wednesday.  They generally never get them in a stack such as this.  The issue - legally - is that these students are no longer in a school and had to be enrolled (somehow) in order to not be considered truant within Seattle.  Cerqu said some forms seemed to be filled out incorrectly, listing "Springdale" as their students' city rather than Seattle.  (Laugh of the afternoon when Cerqui first said "Springfield" and then Springdale and alluded to watching The Simpsons.)

- Whitworth said that generally the principal at Cascade would have a "basic conversation" with parents about their intent to homeschool but probably could not under these circumstances.

A rather odd bit of information about homeschooling came out during this discussion from Ms. Whitworth.  Basically, there's one form that a parent fills out but doesn't ask for parent or student ID or grade level.  Just "I'm going to be teaching my child."  No one investigates what the parent is doing but the person who supervises the child's work reports if it is "done to satisfaction."

On other hand, Cascade students are enrolled in SPS and have 20-25 hours there and each child has at least one FTE class.  Whitworth said that's "how the ALE part of it works."

- there was also mention of about 300 additional forms but it was unclear to me what forms they were. 

Director questions
Harris asked, after Nyland said there are really no "burning legal issues", who gives the credit for students in high school?  Nyland admitted he didn't know. 

Peters had pulled the RCW on homeschooling and said that these forms had to be turned in by a certain data and that it was missed.  Nyland acknowledged that may be true but there wasn't much they could do about that.  (I noted in my e-mail today to the Board on all this activity that Superindent Dorn also waived ruled in the law around ALEs.) 

Harris asked if perhaps an inquiry could be made to the Attorney General for clarification.

There was a bit of back and forth on anything else the district or Board should do but it seems they have made their position clear and will move on. 


Anonymous said...

So, when do they start truancy charges? Clearly the letters were not filed by the September deadline?

Po3 said...

Summit seems to be making it up as they go, with the students records and transcript at stake. Sad thing is that if it backfires, students are left to clean up the mess, which potentially could have truancy on their record and course credits that are no good.

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

I think that the Superintendent is reluctant to take action. Why? I think he is trying to be diplomatic and pragmatic. That's all I'll say.

Again, do I think these charter schools have and are doing the best by these students? I do not.

Eric B said...

I've read through the Billig and Baumgartner charter bill. If that's the cost of getting McCleary done this year, I don't actually have that much objection. The very worst provisions (conversion charters, levy funding) are largely gone (see below). In effect, charters become an alternative school under supervision of the school board in the district it occupies.

The plus side:
Conversions are much limited, and the application for a conversion has to show community support.
It appears that the school board can turn down any charter application, including conversions.
Charters have to apply to the school board where they are located. No MWSD cross-state BS.
School boards have to give the charters levy money, but not necessarily on a per-pupil basis. It looks like that levy money could theoretically be $1 per student per year.
The charter contract must be renewed every 7 years, so there are term limits to crappy schools.
The charters are released from specific requirements (length of school day, staffing issues, etc.) only if the school board allows them to be.

The minus side:
Charters still get some levy money.
Charters can still outsource work to Summit or Green Dot.
All of the good stuff depends on the school board negotiating a good contract with the charter school.

The bottom line is that there isn't all that much overlap between the places that want charters (redder areas) and places that charters want to be (cities with money). Spokane is probably one of those areas of overlap, and maybe some of the western WA suburbs. That will substantially limit the growth of charters within the state. In a way, charters become a means for mid-size districts to have alternative schools. I'm also not 100% sure that this would be held constitutional, but that's another issue.

As always, I'm willing to be corrected on what the bill actually says. It was a pretty cursory read via keyword search.

Eric B said...

Also, if a real McCleary fix is not on the table, this bill can go wait in line.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Eric, I honestly think that that the B&B bill is too much of a heavy lift and it's all directed at the Board,not the district.

Also, that conversion thing is NOT clearly explained. (I couldn't find it;I think you are referencing the application itself, not a conversion.)

The current charter law has the contract at 5 years, not 7.

And, all the current former charters would have to reapply. I think the charter supporters don't want that to happen at all.

And no, there is no McCleary fix (and won't be until next year.) I can hardly wait to see what the Supreme Court thinks of that.

NO 1240 said...


Thank you for attending and reporting on the Executive Committee meeting. I found myself pondering the following:

"He explains that parents of those students need to ask SPS for a release and goes on: I understand that OSPI is evidently looking for a way to subvert the current legal processes by removing our local control of this process."

In my mind, asking parents to sign a release is a very important part of the process. This part of the process allows for transparency and an opportunity for parents to understand what is happening to their child's school.

I also note: Kevin Jacka began working with MWSD to absorb charter schools while he sat on the Washington State Charter Commission. MWSD began talking about laundering charter school dollars through the MWSD in the fall of 2015. Between September - December the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided MWSD with $2.35M.

Between 2009-2013- the Gates Foundation provided MWSD with $500K. Clearly, the Bill and Melinda Foundation shifted millions of dollars into the MWSD as the district looked to absorb charter schools in w. Washington.

Eric B said...

In a way, directing all the work at the school board is a feature. How many school boards sit around wondering what to do with their time? If the workload looks daunting, they're less likely to want to actually do it and authorize schools. The conversion charter application isn't 100% clear, but it looks like it's all the stuff in a regular application plus documentation of community and staff support for the change. It's on page 16 of the PDF here: lines 23-31

I missed the 5-year deadline on the old version, thanks for pointing that out.

If the re-application for current charter schools (with a potentially reduced application workload for already-approved schools) stays in the bill, I doubt the current charters would scupper the bill entirely over that. They may not want to re-apply, but they'll have to. Plus, for several it'll be a moot point, since the school board won't authorize them even if they did apply.

Lynn said...

NO 1240,

I believe the release isn't something the parent approves - it's a request by a parent to the resident district. OSPI wanted to release students living in Seattle to the Mary Walker School District (removing SPS from the authorization process.)


Not only would the former schools have to reapply, they'd have to apply for authorization by the board of the district in which they're located. Summit wouldn't like that because neither Seattle or Tacoma's boards are interested in becoming charter authorizors. They'd have to find new locations and new students for their schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lynn, good point. I have been seeing dim support for this bill (like "we so appreciate B&B for this but....") and it's probably for exactly that reason. If you have two of the three biggest school districts not supporting charters themselves, that will make many outside charter groups not interested.

Eric, you make some good points but I hate vagueness in a bill.

Bnana said...

Finally some news coverage on this.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Briana, thanks for that. A fairly one-sided account with some things they got wrong.

"Kevin Jacka, the Mary Walker superintendent, was formerly a member of the state Charter School Commission but resigned when it became apparent that charters needed an ALE district sponsor."

Again, Jacka was STILL on the Commission when he, as superintendent, went to his Board to do this. Conflict of interest, much?

Also, the reporters claim that the B&B bill - a new charter law whereby the only authorizers would be school districts - is NOT what Spokane is currently doing. There are major differences between the now-defunct charter law that Spokane was operating under and this new bill.

They do get this right (in case you were wondering what the ALEs would mean to MWSD):

"The key component, as far as the charters are concerned, is that unlike home-schoolers, ALE programs receive per-pupil state funding — just more than $6,000 per student. That’s equivalent to the amount of funding community colleges get for Running Start high school students.

The ALE-charter students become, for state purposes, enrolled in the Mary Walker district — which has only about 500 students of its own. Mary Walker receives the funding, keeps a 4 percent administrative fee, then sends the rest to the charters."

Tacoma Public Schools appears to be having the same reaction as SPS - don't tread on me. They are not interested and are particularly worried they could get saddled with the Sped costs of the charter school students.

This was utterly ridiculous and shows that charter supporters will do just about anything to get what they want:

"Charter supporters, like spokeswoman Cynara Lilly of Act Now for Washington Students, view the ALE arrangement as a “temporary patch” designed to see the state’s 1,100 charter kids through to the end of this school year. They are hopeful that lawmakers will be able this session to fix what the court said was wrong with the charter law approved in 2012.

Lilly said charter supporters are disappointed over Tacoma’s reaction to the temporary patch.

“We are hopeful that the district will stand down,” she added."

Stand down? You mean stand up for the laws on ALEs as written and protect the interests of THEIR students? Unbelievable.

I cannot believe this is happening but I do believe somewhere, somebody is going to end up in court.

Bnana said...


You should comment on the article and do some education of the TNT reporter!

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm on my iPad but when I get to my desktop, I will.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One last thing. Where is the reporting - on all of this - from the Seattle Times? Their silence is deafening.

This is a major news story and come Monday, the real fighting begins and they have nothing to say?

NO 1240 said...

On September 9th, KIRO did a story on charter schools and the Supreme Court ruling. There was plenty of time for students to get absorbed into their local school districts, but, it was clear- charter schools had NO intention of closing.

Anonymous said...

I thought the temporary patch was to turn charter school to private for the rest of the year. What's the cost, 3 million? The charter supporters are spending that much on television ads. Obviously it is an issue of getting to public funds by any means, not just keeping the schools open the rest of the school year.


Melissa Westbrook said...

NNNCr, I think that was the idea all along. I would say with charters, it's usually not all that it seems.

What would be good is for everyone - MWSD, OSPI, the charters - to be more upfront.

Anonymous said...

So the person they brought in, Kim Whitworth, to discuss homeschooling has no idea what the heck she is talking about. That bodes well.

It's only if someone is enrolling at Cascade do they speak to the principal. Even Cascade has class size limits, so everyone is welcome to apply but not everyone will be able to attend. If a student enrolls at Cascade, that student is enrolled in the Seattle Public School system.

Homeschoolers are not being interviewed by anyone in the school system when they set out. After age 8, in WA state, all that is required to homeschool is for a parent to file a declaration of intent to homeschool with the appropriate school system. (In Seattle, you can mail it or drop it off in person at the big money sucking building in SODO.) The student needs to show progress in 11 subjects. The parents choose how their child is assessed and keep their own private records of these - no one else sees these.

For more information, please see And perhaps someone could forward the link to Kim Whitworth?

ALE HomeschoolMom

cmj said...

Not a huge fan of Nyland, but kudos to him for standing firm on the issue and working to make sure that whatever was done with the former charter school students was legal.

Melissa Westbrook said...

ALE Mom, I probably phrased it poorly but I was trying to say what you said about Cascade. You are right; just filling out the form is enough. I know this from my own experience.

seattle citizen said...

Speaking of charters, the NC Board of Ed commissioned a report on NC charters. Lt Gov, who is also on Ed Board, didn't like it: way to negative, he though medit aND charter opponents wold run with it. So he sent it back to be made more happy-sounding. Problem is, he presented the draft during a publuc meeting as he argued to ignore it, soooo... ;)

The sausage factory: watch NC charter report get revised Charlotte Observer

The charter industry can't stop spinning....

Anonymous said...

Wow. Sure have been a lot of charter posts from someone who just can't bear anymore charter commentary.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't say people couldn't comment; I said I wasn't going to argue about the efficacy of charter schools and charter school systems.

The reason there are a lot of posts is that there are a lot of questions that could affect funding in every single district in this state.

Anonymous said...

Agree with ALEhomeschoolMOM: their homeschool consultant, and more importantly, their info, is lacking accuracy and depth.

Fact check / corrections on WA homeschooling laws:
--September 15th isn't the end-all-be-all HBI deadline. i.e. Any parent can choose to homeschool any child of theirs, at ANY time of the school year.

--there's more to HBI than just signing the DoI. The parent needs to be qualified under one of 4 options FIRST. Also parents must:
-- test or assessment, yearly.
-- provide a minimum number of 1000 hours of homeschooling.
-- cover all 11 required subjects (which not even public schools do each year...).
--do annual recordkeeping, which, if the child never does any schooling other than HBI, won't be seen by anyone else. But if they join High school orchestra, baseball, use the certified teacher method, utilize a FTE ALE, or apply to a college, most definitely those records get pulled and viewed.

--For a child under age 8 there's ZERO need to declare: Declaration is a function of informing the truancy folks/ truancy is a law that only applies to kids ages 8 through 17.
Were any former-charters outside of maybe FirstPlace even covering that age range?

I know you might just be reporting the meeting, but to factcheck one last point:
"No one investigates what the parent is doing but the person who supervises the child's work reports if it is "done to satisfaction."" not accurate.
The certified teacher, if that's the qualifying method the family chose, IS supervising academic progression. Weekly - for 10 months / year.
And for all the methods of parent qualification, the required annual tests, which have to be a) WA SBOE-approved standardized tests and b) administered by a state-BoE-approved test administrator, is effectively supervising/checking the parent too.

Summit may think calling their 120 student HBI is a handy safety net, but it's a sticky one. There are 32,000 HBI families doing it right in WA. It takes effort, commitment, time, work to be legal: NOT just a signature.


Anonymous said...

Ultimately, IMO, there are potentially legality issues with Summit turning its students 'into' HBI/fully-tutored homeschooled kids but keeping their program the same, as they claim:

--Were summit parents qualified under local law to choose HBI?

--If summit ceased being a 'school' on Dec 14th, didn't the parents need to declare as homeschoolers then, rather than Jan 5th/6th?

--Can the private company that is Summit be teaching the kids their 11 required subjects (IF they are) fulltime and can that count still as "The parent providing/ being responsible for the schooling of their child only" as the HBI law requires?

--If using option 3 (cert teacher supervision) to qualify those 120 parents, have Summit Sierra and Summit Olympus made sure to stay under the legal per-teacher limit (it is ILLEGAL for a teacher doing this HBI certification weekly to certify more than 30 students. Period.)

-- Summit needs a minimum of 4 currently-state-certified teachers (not staff) in order to do this trick for 120 kids. 5 if they have 121-150 kids. Do they have the spare teachers?

--Even then, it's a 3/4 time gig!! To be legal, those teachers must put in the time:
a) if summit Olympus has 3 of the teachers, they can't just sign off on kids at another campus - they must DO THE TIME with the kid (an hour weekly with each child. So it may be 5 or 6 teachers needed to cover both campuses.
b) Let's say it's 4 teachers and kids are split 60 and 60 at each formercharter: then those teachers each must put in 30 hours a week of just fulfilling the RCW HBI law...!!

--[ Could they put all the kids in 4 or so special "Homeschool Qualifying class" that meets an hour every week? Maybe. That's a deeply grey area -- the INTENT is that the certified teacher is checking the students' home-based instruction progress.]

Here's the RCW:
(a) Provided by a parent who is instructing his or her child only and are supervised by a certificated person. A certificated person for purposes of this chapter and chapter 28A.200 RCW shall be a person certified under chapter 28A.410 RCW. For purposes of this section, "supervised by a certificated person" means: The planning by the certificated person and the parent of objectives consistent with this subsection; a minimum each month of an average of one contact hour per week with the child being supervised by the certificated person; and evaluation of such child's progress by the certificated person. The number of children supervised by the certificated person shall not exceed thirty for purposes of this subsection;"


Melissa Westbrook said...

So Juliette, all good questions and all of the machinations lead to one big question:

Is anyone ever going to be held accountable for this bending/breaking of law and regulations?

I don't think so and I think many people, including Randy Dorn, are counting on it.