My reading of all that is going on comes to two conclusions.
One, the current charter school law is dead. Two Eastern Washington legislators, Senator Andy Billig and Senator Michael Baumgartner, are introducing a rather hacked-up bill (it's formatted using the old law to show the changes) - SB 6163. It's what Charlie calls "charter-lite" and it's nonsense. It would allow any school board in a district to become an authorizer of a charter. (The previous law made the district the authorizer with the school board having true role.) It is a vague mess that would put both districts and school boards in uncharted waters without a map.
Two, there is no frankensteining these former charter schools back to life. They have passed from being charter schools to being contracting schools. How they were authorized and overseen would probably not align with any new law enough to make them legal. They are done.
If people want charter schools, they need to start over with a clean (and constitutionally sound) charter law.
But I can't see it getting done in this short session because of the more important issues that need to be covered (see: McCleary) and because a new law would need serious consideration and vetting. There is not enough time to do that.
Of the nine former charter schools:
- First Place Scholars has withdrawn as a charter school and is making the switch back to being a private grant-driven school.
- The West Seattle blog is reporting this from Summit about its two schools:
Summit Public Charter Schools Offers Free, Personalized, High Quality Home-Based Instruction to Enrolled Families. This is a stop gap measure as the legislature works to find a permanent fix to keep public charter schools open across state.
After exploring all possible options, we believe the best way for us to be able to offer the same high quality academic experience to our students is to transition to Home-based Instruction (also known as homeschooling).
Summit Olympus and Summit Sierra will officially become “tutoring centers” and our students will be enrolled in Home-based Instruction. Despite the shift in educational program category, we will continue to offer the exact same Summit experience to each of our families – a free, personalized program with our outstanding and dedicated faculty.Naturally, it follows that any Seattle student that is being homeschooled would have to go thru SPS' Cascadia Elementary (the base for homeschooled students.) We'll see if that happens.
- the other six schools will now be part of the tiny Mary Walker School District (near Spokane) which is running the Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program that will instruct these former charter school students. From OSPI:
Technically, the seven schools function as contractors providing ALE to the former charter schools students enrolled at MWSD.
Public oversight will be through MWSD, just as it is for, say, Mary Walker High School.
On who gets to count them as students (for state funding purposes):
Our understanding is that most of the former charter school students have now transferred to MWSD, so the district might include them in the January count later this month. We don’t have any hard information on that yet though.
OSPI has not asked districts to contract with former charter schools or to enroll the students.
(I take that to mean that OSPI knows that districts, of course, have to enroll any student in their district who comes to the door. )
(One of the comments at the West Seattle Blog had a link to a great piece by Bill Keim, the Executive Director of the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA). His overview of the charter school situation is good reading.)
There's more great research being done by other (nameless) activists who have found the following:
- The MWSD board discussed the issue of charter schools during the months of October-December:
- Minutes from MWSD's November and December meetings are missing:
- The minutes from MWSD's 2/14 school board meeting indicate the district was having financial difficulty and considered a loan from Stevens County Treasurer. Resolution #13-04 was signed.
- The Stevens County Treasurer- twice- and asked for information regarding possible loan to MWSD. They have not responded to my e-mails.
- MWSD has not updated their web page/ financial information since 2014-2015:
The Supreme Court declared charter schools unconstitutional in September 2015. During the months of September 2015 through December 2015, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided the MWSD with over $2M.
OSPI is altering ALE rules to allow Mary Walker School District to become an ALE provider for existing charter schools.
end of activist reporting
I don't approve of the machinations going on over at Mary Walker School District and I believe that there will be fallout from it. Time will tell.
I do not approve of the machinations of Superintendent Dorn but sure, he was trying to be kind to allow these students to finish the year in the "school" that they started in.
But make no mistake, there was ALWAYS an option for these students. They were never left, high and dry, because our state's public schools would have taken every single student in.