Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Washington State: New Charter Bill Versus Old Charter Law

Update 2:

I did forget one key thing.

From the get go, the former charter schools wanted reimbursement from the State from their costs, from Sep. 4, 2015, to run their schools if a new charter law came thru.  I found this fairly interesting given that the Court ruled the law unconstitutional and just because the legislature could find a financial fix, it didn't seem to me that the State owed them money.

I cannot tell if this is still valid in this bill. 

Also, the Department of Retirement Systems is to "seek legal advice as to whether the new structure proposed by this bill will allow charter schools to meet federal guidelines for being a qualified governmental employer.  The DRS is willing to absorb the very small cost to implement this bill."

This is all from the only fiscal note attached to the bill.  Since the bill has undergone substantial change, I can't say if the fiscal bill is still valid.

End of update

I just did second pass thru these two pieces of legislation.


(If you choose to read and compare, please note that the sections are renumbered on the bill (instead of 101, it's 201.)

Two obvious things to point out:

1) this new bill is not "the will of the people" because there are significant differences between the two.  No one can say (at least not with a straight face) that the people of Washington voted for this.  We did not vote for a blanket charter initiative or bill.

2) funding for charter schools before the fulfillment of McCleary? Speaks volumes about what's important in public education to legislators.  

Key changes (updated):

- the entire section after then enactment clause at the beginning and then to Part 1 is struck out.  That was a lot of blah, blah about how Washington's paramount duty, how great charters are, etc.

- They changed the enrollment if they are over-subscribed.  Siblings of current students get first priority with a "weighted" enrollment bump for at-risk kids OR in-state children of full-time employees.  Given how charters can keep their enrollments low and now also have to consider how many sibs and employees' kids there may be, those number of open slots may go way down.

- the Charter Commission is still at its same nine members (after the original bill added the Superintendent and Executive Director of SBE) selected the same way (3 by Governor, 3 by Speaker  of the House and 3 by President of the Senate.  However, instead of being housed administratively in the Governor's office, they are now in OSPI.

- the biggest thing that struck me was on page 18 of the bill.  It would allow 40 more charters in a five year period, starting when the bill is enacted.  But that means they add in the eight existing ones.  So, instead of 40 schools over five years, we could have 48.  

- the bill strikes down access to school district levies (like we at No on 1240 said, this did not seem legitimate so I'm not surprised that it's gone)

- the bill strikes down the "below market value" purchase price that charters could have asked for from school districts that had properties for sale or lease.  (Again, No on 1240 said this looked illegal and apparently it would have been seen by the State Auditor as a "gifting of public funds."  No kidding.)

- the new sections on Appropriations (127-128) are somewhat beyond my scope.  I'm not sure if it's a dollar-to-dollar sameness as I-1240.  I do think it appears there is some kind of bump up for transportation costs for charters.

There is one cagey part to this bill that WAS in the old bill and I'm not sure what to make of it.


All along we at 1240 said that operations of a charter - among other items and services -could farmed out to for-profit entities.  But that is hard to gauge.  The wording is the same in the bill as it was in 1240.  Here's what this section says (it's 103,(c):

"Enter into contracts with any school district, educational service district, or other public or private entity for the provision of real property, equipment, goods, supplies, and services, including educational instructional services ((and including)), pupil transportation services, and for the management and operation of the charter school ((to the same extent as other noncharter public
schools, as long as))
, provided the charter school board maintains oversight authority over the charter school. Contracts for management operation of the charter school may only be with nonprofit organizations;"

The first time you see the words "management" and "operations" they are indeed linked with the word "and."  However in the last sentence the word "and" is gone and it's just "management operation."

I'm thinking that is no error and that, legally,  the first phrase means something different from the last phrase.


Charlie Mas said...

Housing the charter commission inside the building with the OSPI or somehow in the OSPI org chart does not grant the OSPI supervision authority- which is required by the constitution.

Anonymous said...

Again, Charlie, I don't think the SPI supervision authority means what you think it means.

--- aka

Anonymous said...

"But that means they add in the eight existing ones. So, instead of 40 schools over five years, we could have 48."

Do the eight "existing" charter schools actually exist? Or will they have to be recreated/authorized under this new, presumably constitutional bill, pushing back any new charter approvals for at least another year?


Melissa Westbrook said...

SDD,the new bill fast-tracks renewal of existing former charter contracts.

If this bill becomes law, authorizers - the Charter Commission and Spokane SD, can immediately start up again. At this stage of authorizations, I would suppose any new applications that came in prior to the final ruling by the Supreme Court could be considered. But the timeline of work would prevent any of them opening in the fall (that's my take.)

But there were at least 2-3 approved charter applications that would go into effect in the fall including the Summit school in West Seattle.

Po3 said...

Does this bill give the charter schools more, less or the same $$$/per student that public schools receive?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Po3, as I said in my comparison of the old law and the new bill, I cannot tell from the wording. I do think that there is a bump up in transportation to help charters.

Charters get 4% less because that is a fee that goes to authorizers for oversight costs. That fee will go down based on longevity/performance by a charter.

Charlie Mas said...

I know that folks generally regard the Annual Approval of Schools as perfunctory and essentially meaningless - just a box to check, but in truth it is both critical and meaningful. People would do well to inform themselves about it.

Start with the most recent Annual Approval of Schools motion that came before the Seattle school board on January 20, 2016. It looks like it belongs on the consent agenda and it rarely gets any discussion. But check out this language:

Failure to approve the schools at this time will mean the District could forfeit some or all of our basic education allocation and/or $11,500,000 of Title I funds for the 2015-2016 academic year

Sounds pretty dire, right? So what is it all about? It's about this:

School Board approval of schools within the District is a requirement of Washington Administrative Code (WAC), Section 180-16-220.

If you check WAC 180-16-220, you will see that it, in turn, refers to an RCW.

"(2) Annual school building approval.
(a) Each school in the district shall be approved annually by the school district board of directors under an approval process determined by the district board of directors.
(b) At a minimum the annual approval shall require each school to have a school improvement plan that is data driven, promotes a positive impact on student learning, and includes a continuous improvement process that shall mean the ongoing process used by a school to monitor, adjust, and update its school improvement plan. For the purpose of this section "positive impact on student learning" shall mean:
(i) Supporting the goal of basic education under RCW 28A.150.210, "…to provide students with the opportunity to become responsible citizens, to contribute to their own economic well-being and to that of their families and communities, and to enjoy productive and satisfying lives…";

The charter school bill, 6194, does require compliance with RCW 28A.150.210 (see Section 104). That's not waived. They even keep the State Board of Education's requirements for school improvement.

So what does RCW 28A.150.210 say? It's actually pretty funny. It's a pretty weird description of the goals of Basic Education that includes: "Think analytically, logically, and creatively" and "Understand the importance of work and finance and how performance, effort, and decisions directly affect future career and educational opportunities"

The most interesting thing about RCW 28A.150.210 is from the Findings-intent-1993:
"It is the intent of the legislature to provide students the opportunity to achieve at significantly higher levels, and to provide alternative or additional instructional opportunities to help students who are having difficulty meeting the essential academic learning requirements in RCW 28A.630.885.
It is also the intent of the legislature that students who have met or exceeded the essential academic learning requirements be provided with alternative or additional instructional opportunities to help advance their educational experience.

I'm no lawyer, but this sure as heck suggests to me that the CSIPs MUST, by State Law, include descriptions of how the schools are serving students working below and beyond Standards.

It has never happened, but I suppose that the State Board of Education could reject a CSIP and, thereby, deny a school their basic education funding. The charter school bill does not appear to waive this requirement. In fact, in Section 104 of the bill appears to confirm it.

Po3 said...

Great, lawmakers are about to approve essentially a blank check for charter schools because the bill does not clearly spell out funding mainly because it is getting ram-rodded thru in the final hours of the session, which I think is by design.

Very interesting to see up close how these charter people work behind the scenes, thank you for posting all this information.

I hope the Gov shuts this nonsense down.

Anonymous said...

To the point I was making earlier, this amendment has now popped up: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2015-16/Pdf/Amendments/House/6194-S2.E%20AMH%20SENN%20HARJ%20219.pdf

EFFECT: Specifies that the five-year period during which
charter schools may be established begins September 1, 2014, rather
than the date on which the bill becomes law. For the purpose of the
forty charter school limitation, schools previously authorized as
charters by the commission that enter into new charter contracts are
included in the count of charter schools.

Clearly seems an intent to have more than The Original Eight in operation by this fall.


NO 1240 said...

Give me a break, aka. If the striker isn't adopted= there are multiple title-only bills in play. If you don't believe the title-only bills won't be manipulated then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

As well, the public did NOT have an opportunity to weigh-in on the striker bill and the bill will be in play...less than 24 hours...after the bill was released to the public. Please.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SDD, thanks for that update. I will again say that there is a very specific timeline (at least in the Charter Commission) for new applications. I believe that got interrupted when the ruling came down as the Charter Commission powered way down. Don't know about Spokane.