Tacoma School Board Vents Frustration with Charter Schools

Let's start with what raised my antenna - the memo staff gave to the Board about Seattle Schools becoming a charter school authorizer.  

Staffer Clover Codd, who wrote the memo, told the Board:

We have formed a cross- departmental working group to better understand the implications for the district. The working group includes representatives from Budget, Enrollment, Facilities, Legal, DoTS, Policy and Strategic Planning.

So I wrote to the Board this morning after I was cc'ed on an e-mail from Ms. Codd to President Peaslee. Ms Codd wrote:

Just to clarify, the District does NOT intend to submit a LOI by the October 1st deadline. We do have this school year to learn more about the pros/cons of becoming an authorizer. Staff wants to be sure we provide you with all the information you need to make informed decisions.

Seven people in SPS formed a group to work on this? Why, don't they have enough to do with the schools we have? If you read Ms. Codd's e-mail, it seems they will continue working. Why?

Now the concerns that were raised during the 2012 charter school initiative campaign are coming into sharp focus for Tacoma.  From the Tacoma Tribune:

From my e-mail to the Board:

As for her (Ms Codd) assessment about charters, It's mostly accurate. I'll point out a couple of things not in that memo:

1) districts do NOT control their charter destiny. SPS could become an authorizer (and that's a heavy lift and Spokane created a whole department just for charter work) but that doesn't mean that applicants can't apply via the Charter Commission.

The law allows an applicant to apply to only ONE authorizer at a time. So an applicant has to apply to either a district authorizer or the Charter Commission.

So, for example, this idea that you could control exactly where a charter would be geographically is not really true.

2) I think a district might have some control over what types of schools they bring and maybe where BUT if districts put too much emphasis on those issues - meaning, not looking at the overall quality of the application - then a district could find itself in hot water with the Board of Education (which oversees district authorizers).

Here's what is happening in Tacoma:

The opening of three charter schools in Tacoma next fall could cost Tacoma Public Schools as much as $10 million once the charters reach full capacity by draining students and funds from the public school system, according to Tacoma School Board member Karen Vialle.

That figure, which emerged in a sometimes strained discussion Thursday night between the local school board and several members of the state charter school commission, was just one complaint school board members aired before several members of the state body.

They plan to start teaching students in the fall of 2015. At full capacity, the three Tacoma charters would enroll a total of nearly 1,500 students. State funding for those students would follow the students to their new schools.

“If there are multiple applications in a single school district, there is nothing that says we can only authorize one,” added commission member Trish Millines Dziko. “We are not looking at their location. We are looking at their applications.”

Vialle suggested that it might be time to ask the Legislature to amend the charter law “so districts do not get overloaded with charters.”

Heinze said he was frustrated that charter applicants cited Tacoma’s reputation for school innovation as one of the reasons to locate here. As proof that Tacoma schools are already offering families choices, Heinze and others point to district-run preschools, universal free all-day kindergarten, expanded programs for gifted students and a number of state-recognized innovation schools.

My note here: when I went to a conference in March for public education writers/activists, I told people there about how SPS has such a rich variety of schools.  They could not believe how much our district has going on and without charters.  Most of them said they had never heard of a district with that many dual language schools without charters.

Ushka pointed out that the majority of Tacoma voters did not favor the initiative in the 2012 election.

I will point out here that the majority of Seattle voters did NOT favor charters.

What Tacoma is just starting to experience could be Seattle Schools' problem next. 


Charlie Mas said…
I guess all of that choice at Tacoma schools isn't enough choice.

Here's the truth: to be viable, option schools require a certain amount of density. They cannot be created in rural communities. They are difficult to create in suburban communities. They are really only viable in urban communities. That means that option schools - and charter schools - can only appear in urban centers like Seattle, Tacoma, or Spokane, or in some suburban communities if sufficient transportation resources are provided.

So charter schools are going to appear in communities that already offer "choice". They will not appear in communities that don't offer choice because those communities don't have the density to support choice.
Anonymous said…
Clover Codd is very ambitious (by her own admission). Anything to further her career is her MO. She and Bree (and other career ladder ascending friends) hosted a fundraiser for Burgess back when he thought he'd become mayor last election.

Keep your eye on her.

--enough already
mirmac1 said…
Why isn't A4E or Matt Griffin paying Codd's excessive salary? Seriously, how much would it cost to find someone smarmy and willing to bend the truth? I got a cousin looking for work.

Is the person who tasked her with establishing an internal task force to study charters, the same one who told Cashel Toner to do whatever COS wanted and fast-talk the board? Am I Wright?
Incrementalism Works said…
I am feeling concerned that the concept of charter authorization is being pushed. I suspect we're seeing a timeline of 2-5 years.
I absolutely believe that the charter authorization thing is being pushed. Why staff is pushing it is a mystery. And maybe the powers that be are getting ready so next election season they can try to take over.

And good luck with that because their candidates with their money have not been elected.
CD, and the disconnect that charters can offer smaller classes because they can control the size of their schools.

I'll have some info on the class size initiative as I think there may be a lot of misunderstanding in it.
Anonymous said…
@Cognitive Dissonance: Seattle's leadership becomes more Republican every day, as it expands it political bedfellows to include plenty of arch-conservatives for one simple reason: That's where the money is.

Anyone who doesn't see the DFER, LEV and A4E as the camel's nose inside the tent for their profit-driven benefactors has their head in the sand.

Where are the Democrats? In bed with big money.

Anonymous said…
Mirmac1: Please tell me there's a treasure trove of e-mails revealing millions of tax dollars being spent on salaries of people AT SPS who aren't working FOR SPS, but for the minority string-pullers who want Charters.

The Biggest ? for me: Who authorized their work, and payment for it? I doubt very much that the School Board authorized it.


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