Thursday, January 07, 2016

Washington State's "Former Charter Schools" - Updates

I call them "former charter schools" because, according to OSPI, that's what they are.  They are "contractors" fulfilling a program formulated by OSPI for their students.

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- First Place Scholars has withdrawn as a charter school and is making the switch back to being a private grant-driven school.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.  


Watching said...

The Mary Walker Superintendent- Kevin Jacka- resigned from the Charter Commission on December 2nd. The Mary Walker School District is being used to launder taxpayer dollars through their district and to the charter schools.

The Gates Foundation has provided Jacka and his district with a financial reward of $2M for his troubles.

Charter schools and the corruption, bending of rules etc. has begun.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Superintendent Jacka did not resign from the Charter Commission before he brought this before his school board. That's the first thing that made my radar go up.

Anonymous said...

You wrote "Naturally, it follows that any Seattle student that is being homeschooled would have to go thru SPS' Cascadia Elementary (the base for homeschooled students.)"

Could you explain what function Cascadia provides for homeschoolers?

RCW 28A.200.010 says that the declaration of intent to homeschool should be made "with the superintendent of the public school district within which the parent resides".


Anonymous said...

My repost from Open Tuesday thread with additional information that now there is a Seattle Times story about the new bill:

Not a surprise: Pettigrew and Litzow have filed another charter school bill. Wonder how much time they have spent on McCleary. Let me guess.


Anonymous said...

Homeschool students do not have to go through Cascadia. Cascadia as an option for homeschool families if they want to do an ALE parent partnership. The summit students will not go to Cascadia, they will continue to go to summit. No one will get state dollars for them. They will no longer be truant. That is the difference of signing the homeschool forms.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I probably misspoke. The students will go to the Summit building and do their work there. My understanding is that some may choose to enroll in Cascadia and do their work thru that building.

I'll let you know as I get more information.

Yes, Summit will get state dollars - via Mary Walker District - to fulfill the ALE.

Anonymous said...

Summit did not contract with Mary Walker. First place and summit are the only two that didn't contract with Mary Walker. First place became an approved private school, and the summit students turned in home-based instruction declarations to avoid being truant. All of the others are contracting with Mary Walker.

If the summit student to turn in home-based declaration services want to get services from cascade, they can, but Seattle public schools will get the funding for that, not Mary Walker.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Re: the first paragraph - I said all that in my thread.

This issue of what role Seattle Public Schools will have comes up at the Executive Ctm meeting in just about an hour. I'll let you know.

Anonymous said...

Right, but you keep saying that the former summit students are going to be Mary Walker students. That's not the case.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Not going to beat a dead horse, but I do not say Summit students are MWSD students.

Anonymous said...

Melissa Westbrook1/7/16, 2:43 PM
I probably misspoke. The students will go to the Summit building and do their work there. My understanding is that some may choose to enroll in Cascadia and do their work thru that building.

I'll let you know as I get more information.

Yes, Summit will get state dollars - via Mary Walker District - to fulfill the ALE.

- yes you did, right there.


Anonymous said...

You said that summit would get state dollars through Mary Walker school district. That's not true. Summit is the exception to the Mary Walker money laundering scheme, along with first place. We agreed on this topic, but your insistence o you said that summit would get state dollars through Mary Walker school district. That's not true. Summit is the exception to the Mary Walker money laundering scheme, along with first place. We agreed on this topic.


Dora Taylor said...

"OSPI has not asked districts to contract with former charter schools or to enroll the students."

OSPI contacted the districts that had charter schools to contract with MWSD. Truthiness at best.

The money would go from OSPI through MWSD and directly to the charter schools.

The Exec Committee met today to either agree or not to having the schools in their district. If that happens, the money for the students in that district would be pinned for the charter school rather than go to the district. The number is $6,308.69 per student.

It's still illegal. They would function as charter schools and still receive our tax dollars.

The Summit deal is to try and keep the schools intact in hopes that legislators will attempt to make huge changes to our laws to accommodate 850+ students...and the Predator Class. (Word for the day, got it from Bill Moyers and it fits.)

Watching said...

Gates has enough dollars to fund existing charter schools. Here are some of his recent contributions to charter schools and/or charter expansion:

Nov. 2015: Washington State Charter Association $3M:


December 2015: Mary Walker School District $2.1M

November 2014: Washington Charter School Development 2014: $19M


Dora Taylor said...

Either way, Summit is listed legally as a charter school and would be receiving public funds for each student. In that case, that's illegal also.

It's amazing how some folks think that laws don't pertain to them.

Dora Taylor said...

If Gates wants to fund charter schools, that's fine. They would be private schools and run like private schools with no public oversight.

Have at it Bill.

Dora Taylor said...

There's this concept referred to as "Democracy" that Bill Gates has problems with.

Unknown said...

I believe you have your school names wrong. Cascadia is the school previously known as APP @ Lincoln, formerly Lowell @ Lincoln, soon to be Cascadia at what use to be Wilson Pacific. Cascade or Cascade Parent Partneship @ N. Queen Anne which was formerly known as Home School @Wilson and before that as Home School @ Crown Hill. So in summary Cascadia=highly capable program, Cascade= home school, ALE program.

Names Matter

Anonymous said...

Summit students cannot simultaneously keep the exact same 'Summit experience' and become HBI students. That's no less illegal than the public-money-using 1240 charters!! They run afoul of the HBI laws!

Sorry, this will take a long post...
But first, several notes about Cascade, HBI & RCW aka the homeschool laws.

the name of the parent partnership ALE in Seattle is Cascade. Cascade is a true ALE (the way that the law intended, not a faux ALE -slash- former-charter).

Cascade Parent Partnership is currently housed in the QA neighborhood. There are about 120 legit homeschoolers/unschoolers taking courses there this year.

How it works (the thumbnail sketch of it): Some of those 120 are part-timers (and retain their legal status as HBI students, educationally this means parents are fully in charge of how/when/what they learn), and some of them are Fulltime ALE students, meaning that they've signed an agreement to let the majority of their studies be directed by or (more often) supervised by a certificated teacher (i.e. staff at Cascade) and so they no longer retain legal HBI status (though they still may, and most often do, School-at-Home).
There are ala carte courses, and most meet for FAR less than the usual time nor number of days of week when compared to traditional education. They also offer some non-academics, and plenty of balancing of structure and flexibility, so that Cascade students can be either HBI (taking a part-time load of courses, but still homeschooling) or Fulltime ALE student (in which case, culturally still homeschooling and the key: SPS gets full funding for each of those FTE students).

Also, as far as homeschoolers "Have to go through Cascade": no, there is ZERO such requirement: in fact, there are an estimated 900 to 1200 homeschoolers in Seattle (based on W.H.O. numbers figured earlier this school year), so the student population of those NOT going to Cascade is about 90%.
As far as the Declaration of Intent letter: by law that's to be sent to Dr Nyland's mailing address, by anyone planning to homeschool whose child is AGE 8 or older, by Sept 15th, once each year. The superintendent can opt to name an /additional/ address (such as Cascade's) to which to have DoI letters sent (which SPS superintendents traditionally have done), but it by no means supersedes the RCW which says DoI letters sent to his mailing address are the letter of the law. Even though most office staff in neighborhood schools think that the DoI must 'go through Cascade'.


Anonymous said...

So, a [charter] family signing the DoI swears they (the parent) are taking full responsibility for the learning / teaching of their child. It legally takes the 'hook' off of public schools. And accordingly (though it seems this is a foreign concept to those supporting I-1240), this means that the 'school funding' normally tied to each student does not and CANNOT go to any program / school / ALE. Ex: If an 8 year old child goes from FTE enrollment in Daniel Bagley to homeschooling, then the school potentially loses as much as ~6000-8000 funding for that year and the parents are now entirely responsible for teaching her.

ALE's get some partial revenue for part-timers, but it's a tiny cut: Thus, most ALE/parent partnerships are highly motivated, like gyms, to upgrade their families from HBI (non-public school kids) to FTE (public school kids).

There are 3 major legal education CHOICES in WA: public, private,& home-based.
In the case of HBI, parents BY LAW must be personally responsible for each HBI students' education; that includes covering the 11 required subjects, making sure to put in at least 1000 hours of homeschooling, and doing a yearly assessment/test. And being responsible for the education of that child

That's where I'm having trouble: you can't be a legal HBI kid and ALSO be an ALE student (who's generating FTE money for Summit).
If summit has taken the flexibility and structure options away- that's not homeschooling. If they're declared/official HBI students, they cannot be full-funding-drawing ALE students. There's partial funds for part-time kids, but there's NO doubledipping.

Added snafu: HBI also requires that the parents of HBI kids be legally qualified to homeschool, or else they cannot be HBI students: There are 4 options:
1. parent must have enough college credits (45); I daresay there's a chance there are parents at Summit without college degrees.
or, 2. parent must take a qualifying HBI parent course (offered a few times each year);
or, 3. parents must utilize the supervision of a certified teacher who will follow the child's progress, meeting with the family at a minimum, weekly. (Summit may be able to offer this option, but according to HBI laws, it's up to parents to do due diligence and make sure about schedule & credentials)
or, 4. get approval from your district Superintendent to home-school. These approvals are so rare they are considered a unicorn in the HBI community. It would be FASCINATING if Dr Nyland or MWSD started handing out these special approvals.

(FYI: while co-ops are okay under the law, there's a limit to how many a parent can share, and , more on point here, for using the 'supervised by a certified teacher with weekly meetings' method, there's even a specific number of kids limited by the RCW: 30. i.e. If summit schools have 300 kids turning into HBI kids, the HBI RCW requires they may need to have no less than 10 DIFFERENT teachers willing to sign off in order to fulfill the HBI 'parent qualifier' part of the law).


Anonymous said...

JulietteF wrote "That's where I'm having trouble: you can't be a legal HBI kid and ALSO be an ALE student (who's generating FTE money for Summit). "

From the letter, it sounds as if they are not ALE students, and Summit is NOT getting any money from the state for the students.


Charlie Mas said...

So here we are. In lieu of unconstitutional but marginally overseen, regulated, and accountable charter schools, we have legal "tutoring services" or ALEs with no oversight, regulation, or accountability at all.

Anonymous said...

LisaG: my mistake there: I agree, but don't believe, that that's what it sounds like, Lisa. It's too hard to believe their business plan is 'wait for the Leg to undo the Supreme Court': I predict they'll convert 'business models' again soon.

Big points against Summit's plan's legality:

-- Not all parents of summit kids may be qualified to HBI

-- unlikely any took the HBI parent qualifying course before the switch, & HBI parents don't get a grace period: the law says "in order to homeschool, you must qualify".

-- Do they have enough teachers to sign off for their students using method 3? These numbers obscured.

-- Method 4 isn't realistic.

-- By the fact that Summit, it sounds like, is teaching the 11 required subjects (is a full school "running the same way") ...how could it be legitimately claimed that these parents are HBI ??
RCW says "...Provided by a parent who is instructing HIS OR HER CHILD ONLY and who has either earned forty-five college level quarter credit hours or its equivalent in semester hours or has completed a course in home-based instruction at a postsecondary institution or a vocational-technical institute".
While HBI kids are welcome to, and often do, utilize tons of tutors, classes, camps, co-ops etc, NONE of those are for full-time hours like a regular former-charter school day. (It used to be that local homeschool groups would warn new homeschoolers to make sure to stay under 20 hours/half-time with these so they could be sure to maintain their status as HBI) Even The-Attic learning group, the most 'school-like' of the co-op type HBI groups, is still only part-time daily hours, and only 3 or 4 days per week.

If they're 'continuing the same way', then Summit parents are completely hands-off: That's not 'educating your child only' / isn't quite the rights granted by RCW 28A.200

Note also 28A.200.020, which explicitly spells out exactly what parents must be responsible for if choosing HBI: Textbook choice, curriculum, teaching philosophy, timing, place, provision and evaluation are all supposed to be parents, not a corporation, making the decision.

IF summit is cutting hours or days, is making parents choose coursework and textbooks, and already got a training course for parents, making the parents administer tests and file the required form and parents are doing all the record-keeping for their kid (as the law requires) ...then that may be an entirely different story...

@Charlie: ah, but we had that already, in places like Kumon and Dartmoor tutoring centers, didn't we? ( It's just never been pushed to this extreme). ALE conversion was a smart play on the part of WSCSA & friends; I gotta hand them that. I think it's important though that we keep them in the corner/box in which they've painted themselves.


Charlie Mas said...

Summitt must be relying on the privately raised money to keep the former charter schools going. They are banking on a legislative fix. Even if they don't get the legislative fix, the option to become a Mary Walker ALE will still be there after the legislative session.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So I will have an update soon.

My apologies on Cascade versus Cascadia - it is Cascade but no, they won't be having anything to do with these students.

That was one eye-opening Executive Committee meeting and all I can say is there is not a single person in the state - not even Randy Dorn - who can truly say what is happening in theses former charter schools.

Watching said...

Interesting, JulietteF. Thanks for the information.

It is important to note that on December 30th, 2015, The Mary Walker School Board:

-Authorized the Superintendent to Sign Contracts with Washington State Non-Profit
for Alternative Learning Experience Program Services

- Adopted policies for Education Programs and Nonresident Students

Grab a pencil and start documenting a timeline. This is going to get interesting. As previously noted, in 2014 Gates provided $19M for charter expansion. These guys have enough funds to keep their schools going.

Anonymous said...

to JulietteF @6:53am

"Provided by a parent who is instructing his or her child only and are supervised by a certificated person." means that a parent cannot instruct someone else's children. The "only" doesn't mean only the parent can do the instructing.

and RCW28A.200.010 (3) "Ensure that a standardized achievement test approved by the state board of education is administered annually to the child by a qualified individual or that an annual assessment of the student's academic progress is written by a certificated person who is currently working in the field of education." means that most parents would not be allowed to administer the test themselves which is why the Washington Homeschool Organization has a list (http://washhomeschool.org/test-providers-washington/) of people who will do testing for homeschooled students.

(homeschooling parent)

Anonymous said...

So, the Mary Walker district is the off-shore Bermuda tax haven, essentially, for Washington Charter schools to be legitimized?

So, people actually support a public district way over in Spokane WA overseeing Seattle Charters. And these are the same people, typically, who abhor big government and frequently demand "local control."

This is such a patent, dishonest end-around democracy it should be laughed out of Olympia and barred by law. But Money Changes Everything, doesn't it?


Watching said...

'So, the Mary Walker district is the off-shore Bermuda tax haven, essentially, for Washington Charter schools to be legitimized? "

Exactly, WSDWG!...and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided the Mary Walker School District with over $2M for doing so!

Melissa Westbrook said...

This pouring of money into frantically trying to shore this situation up is very depressed. If Gates would put half that time and energy into real ed reform, what a difference it could make.

Teacher Greg said...

700 ads for the former charters turned shell corporations? That's an ad for every student they have enrolled statewide.... Tell me again why they need taxpayer funding? I realize taxpayer handouts are cheaper for the 1% in the long run, but if you have this kind of cash from Gates and Zuckerburg (and clearly small enrollment figures) why not just go it alone and stop pretending to be "public" schools. Just be tuition free private schools for students without means.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Because it's about creating more of these schools and having tax-payers pay for them.

Anonymous said...

Glad I found your blog. It is nice to know what is going on in my school district. So far I have to get most of my information from the newspaper that is where I found out that six charter schools had joined our little district. My administration and school board are not very forthcoming with information. It seems like everything is a big secret. It makes me wonder what they are hiding.
MWSD Employee

Watching said...

MWSD Employee,

I'm glad you found this blog, too.

Seattle would not subvert legal processes to allow state funding to charter schools-through the Mary Walker School District- that have been ruled unconstitutional. I am feeling enormously proud of or school district.

Melissa Westbrook said...

MWSD employee, send me an e-mail if you would like to talk, sss.westbrook@gmail.com

The editorial in the Spokane newspaper about how great the money is from the Gates Foundation misses the point that if that money wasn't there, much of this could not happen.