Sunday, January 03, 2016

Charter Schools: What's Happening, What's Next

I'll start with what I think is coming next.  A big fat fight in the legislature - one that will take time and energy away from the work of McCleary.  (Despite what Republicans think, a one-pager to the Supreme Court with some dates and thoughts on funding are unlikely to change minds on the court.)  The legislature starts its short two-month session on Monday, Jan. 11th.

I think there will be at least one charter school bill in the legislature (I'm hearing there may be two which would make it interesting.  I'm also betting one of them will have Rep. Eric Pettigrew's name on it.) 

Now, there are three major issues with the current law that would need to be fixed, two of them constitutional, and I think those two come with so much baggage, that a bill can't be created, vetted by both legislators and the public, amended and then passed.  It could happen but I think that's not likely.

I think the charter schools will be opening their doors after the holiday break but honestly, I can't really tell you what they are now.  I don't think the ALE program has been set up, I don't know where the money is coming to run them, they have no real public oversight (maybe OSPI in a vague way) and I'm not even sure they are public schools at this point. 

Three - I previously mentioned Dora Taylor's good work over at the Seattle Education 2010 blog on this issue. 

  • She says that Tacoma, Highline and Seattle school districts were asked to take in the charter schools under the "ALE umbrella."  Naturally, Highline, which is run by former SPS interim superintendent Susan Enfield, said yes.  Seattle said no (and she doesn't mention what Tacoma said.)  
OSPI came back to the Seattle Public School district and responded by basically saying in a memo (I am paraphrasing here) “You are being overruled and will have charter schools in your district. You will allow charter schools under the ALE umbrella and specifically using the Mary Walker District as your money laundering facility”. The Seattle School Board  Executive Committee will be meeting this week to make a decision on whether the Seattle Public School district should accept this “proposal” from OSPI.
She doesn't link the memo so I'll have to ask about that.  The Executive Committee agenda is still not available but will be by Tuesday.  I sure hope that this kind of arm-twisting doesn't work in SPS.  Seattle Schools is responsible for the students who parents chose SPS, not charter students.  
  • It appears Mary Walker School District has a couple of troubling issues.  One is financial woes as evidenced from a Feb. 2014 minutes where they considering asking for a "temporary loan from Stevens County Treasurer, to cover expenses, due to the cash flow timing constraints."  Bringing in charter students would probably be very good for that cash flow.  And, of course, the Gates Foundation just gave them $250,000 in "community grants."  
The MWSD with have agreements with school districts to keep the charter schools in place in their districts. The charter schools will be operated by the MWSD and will take a cut of the funding provided by the state for each student which is  $6,308.69 per student and the remainder will go to the charter school owners. The MWSD will theoretically operate the schools. 
  • Taylor also reveals that the state had looked into ALE programs in 2005 and found issues in 18 school districts including, you guessed it, Mary Walker School District.  
I asked OSPI some questions on how the ALE program will work and I was not surprised, given how Superintendent's memo on December 3rd, to find that OSPI is going to continue to bend over backwards for these charter schools.

When I asked about why the charter schools are allowed months to file Written Student Learning Plans as required by the WAC:  
Regarding the first part – and more generally, the easing of requirements regarding the plans – we are allowing the delay simply to give those students time to complete them. Their education shouldn’t be interrupted because of rules that they had no idea they needed to follow.
But, didn't the charter schools know that there was a lawsuit against the charter law that was in the Supreme Court when their schools opened? They did.  And weren't they to act as responsible parties for these students and guard against upending their educations?  They were.

I asked: In an OSPI webinar from April 2013, says, in multiple places, that a learning plan must be in effect before a count date.  But the Superintendent memo says that it doesn't have to be.  Why is that?
That is true about the learning plans and the count date. But I’ll repeat that the overarching principle here has to do with the students. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling on this issue, Superintendent Dorn has been adamant that the decisions and rules of adults shouldn’t affect student learning. That means that the most important thing is for those students to be in classrooms learning. Superintendent Dorn is fine if their learning plans will be completed a couple of months later, and trusts that school officials will ensure that that will happen.
I normally would not say this but WTF?  "The decisions and rules of adults shouldn't affect student learning." 

Well, if that is so, then that opens the door to ALL kinds of rule-bending.  And, ATTENTION all Washington State School districts: ask and ye shall receive.  (Given Superintendent Dorn's actions, he looks like a guy who wants to go out the political door with some good relationships  - in some particular venues - in place.)

As well, Dorn "trusts" these school officials that didn't have the good grace to warn prospective families about the possible outcomes of the lawsuit?  I'm not sure they are truly all that trustworthy.

I asked: Won't this waiving of the count date help MWSD get funding earlier than other districts under an ALE program?
OSPI granting a temporary exemption for the students in question from having in place certain elements of an ALE program that are ordinarily required. We are doing this because those students already have been in a school and will continue to be in a school (albeit different from the one they were in). Again, this is being done so that their education isn’t disrupted.
I asked: for an ALE program there should be monthly evaluations (that is both in the WAC and the webinar) and those are based off the WSLP.  How will teachers do these evaluations if there is no WSLP?  Are charter teachers not going to have to do the monthly evaluations until the WSLPs are in place?  
 You are correct: We are granting an exemption for those students from monthly evaluations until their WSLPs are filed, in February at the latest. See the answers to Questions 1, 2 and 3 for the reasons why.
So all the other students in ALE programs in the state have to follow the rules but somehow, not charter school students. 

Naturally, I was interested in what was happening in discussions between OSPI and the charter schools so I filed public disclosure requests.  Well, I tried.  First, I can't even find how to make such a request to half of them.  Of the ones I did make requests of, one charter (Summit) said they didn't have to because of the Supreme Court ruling.  I refiled that request, tweaking the dates so that it covered the time they WERE a charter school. I mean, I'm fine if they want to tell me they aren't a charter school.

Green Dot?  They are forwarding it to "GDPS Washington" "for their consideration."  Never heard that phrasing - ever - from SPS.

No answer from Spokane International Academy but maybe I'll ask Spokane Schools for help on that one.

Rainier Prep actually gave me a date of Jan 8. 2016.  Good for them. 

It's going to get very interesting and very busy very soon. 


Charlie Mas said...

It's good to know that the OSPI policy is to choose not to enforce the law if the law would create an interruption in students' learning. I can imagine all kinds of situations in which this policy could be applied. And, of course, if the OSPI ever threatens any district with this sort of enforcement, the district can remind the OSPI of their policy.

OSPI didn't do much enforcement before. Now they have made it clear that they don't ever intend to do any.

Robert Cruickshank said...

OSPI is making a mockery of the law. Randy Dorn is going far, far out of his way to help these charter school management companies, and is destroying his credibility and reputation in the process.

Kathleen S. said...

The legislature has acknowledged serious issues with Alternative Learning Education (ALE) dollars and lack of oversight, and ALE is being used in a manner for which it was never intended. I question whether Randy Dorn is working within his rule making capacity.

Rufus X said...

"District Charter" proposal filed today

Melissa Westbrook said...

That proposal does not sound plausible. I suspect it's a place holder for something else.

Anonymous said...

Make the PRA request to OSPI. Ask for all of their communication with the Mary Walker school district about ALEs and charter schools; all of their communication with Tacoma, Seattle, Spokane, and Highline about the same topic; and all communications to the former charter schools since the date of the initial ruling. I think you will find the response to be very interesting.


Watching said...

Randy Dorn created an emergency rule for Charter schools/ ALE on 12/18:

"That immediate adoption, amendment, or repeal of a rule is necessary for the preservation of the public health, safety, or
general welfare, and that observing the time requirements of notice and opportunity to comment upon adoption of a permanent
rule would be contrary to the public interest."

Problem: Randy Dorn allows for funding of unconstitutional charter schools without oversight of an elected official. I believe this is illegal.


Watching said...

Disregard previous comment. I"m confused as to whether or not existing charter schools are designated ALE/Running Start and funded via OSPI. It appears Summit Sierra's students (p. 1/7) are listed as Running Start or ALE, but funding levels may be significantly lower. I'm not sure.

OSPI and Summit Sierra appropriation:


Charlie Mas said...

When I read the draft legislation for District Charter Schools, it sure sounded a lot like a deal that I wish our option schools could get.

"District Charter Schools" sound a lot like option schools.

Ms206 said...

I am a Seattle native who currently lives and teaches in Philadelphia, PA. I am not totally against charter schools. I think that there is some merit to using charters as "laboratories of innovation." However, what seems to be the norm now is that various foundations, school district executives, and business people push charter schools as a way to privatize public education and to give more "flexibility" and "control" to the school boards and charter management organizations (which is an implicit way of saying non-unionized).

That said, I can speak to what is happening in Philadelphia. The charter schools here are literally like a cancer. They keep metastasizing. (I mean no disrespect to anyone battling cancer or who has died of cancer. The simile is very accurate to the situation in Philly.) Each year, the charter schools suck more and more out of the School District of Philadelphia's budget. In PA, the law says that local districts cannot cap charter school enrollments. It takes years to close down charter schools that have major issues. The only way that the charter schools close quickly is if they implode from financial mismanagement. Two examples of implosion are Wakisha Charter School and Walter Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School.

The charter schools will try to Function as publicly funded private schools, e.g. Greenwoods Charter School. The charter schools will try and appeal to the most savvy and engaged parents. This ends up leaving the neighborhood public schools to handle most of the most difficult-to-educate students, such as the ones with emotional behavioral difFiculties who require constant babysitting as well as a disproportionate share of students who have IEPS.

I could go on and on, but I will conclude with this warning about charter schools: caveat emptor!!!

NO 1240 said...

We're already watching the charter story unfold in Washington State and it isn't pretty.

- Millions of dollars were spent to collect signatures for a ballot initiative.

- $11M campaign was launched to promote I 1240.

- An unconstitutional initiative was put on the ballot. There was no attempt
to file an injunction.

- Charter schools opened and we were told we had the best charter school in the
country and we were told "Charter schools ARE constitutional."

- Charter schools opened and it is unclear if parents were informed that charter
schools were in the court system.

- Charter schools were determined to be unconstitutional.

- Pro-charter campaigns kicked into action. The Supreme Court was called mean
and assertions were made that the court was bought.

- Randy Dorn, single handedly, alter ALE rules to accommodate unconstitutional charter schools.

- Kevin Jacka, a former Charter Commissioner and Superintendent of a small school district in eastern Washington, volunteer Mary Walker School District to become an ALE provider for charter schools in w. Washington.

- We see a bending of rules and, according to KUOW, two unconstitutional charter schools are being funded as homeschools.

- We see a pro-charter PAC formed. This PAC is expected to raise $500K and the pac
has begun targeting legislators.

- We will see attempts to force through charter legislation this fall and possibly hold educational funding hostage.

Forces that seek to privatize education will not stop. The goal is to preserve existing charter schools and expand.