Finding Out about What Happened During Lull of Washington State Charter Schools

As I have previously stated, I have had public disclosure requests in for some time to various groups including former charter schools in Washington State, OSPI, and the Charter Commission.  I am still awaiting yet another drop from OSPI.

I had a very difficult time getting ahold of anyone from couple of former charters and gave up.  But, if they ARE public schools, there should be no mystery of who is their public disclosure officer and how to contact that person.

The former charter schools I did finally reach?  All told me "March or April" for my requests.  That is interesting that school that had been open less than four months at the time of my narrow request can't get the documentation to me for at least three months.  One of the them, Green Dot, sent my request to their CFO (?) and he okayed it to at least four other people.

It's this kind of subterfuge that gives charters a bad name.

Here's what I think happened when the Supreme Court came down with their rejection of reconsideration of the case.

1) First of all, there was planning for the ALEs long before that announcement was made.  So again to my point about all these adults who sent kids into these schools, knowing how bad it could be in the end -you have to wonder about the "caring" going on.

No, this is about a fight for survival of charter schools, not for these students' academic lives.  This was truly about adult issues and not child-centered issues many people.

2) What is the end game if you are the Gates Foundation?  Is it just out of the goodness of their hearts that they have thrown over $2M at tiny Mary Walker School District?  Nope.  What they want is one of their "charter-district compact" where charters and the school district work as one. (This is their latest great theory on education.)  This would be via the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) as part of CRPE's "portfolio strategy."

From public disclosure documents we learn:
  • Bill Kiolbasa of the Washington State Charter Schools Assn was worried First Place Scholars might be part of the deal.  
  • Kiolbasa, at one point, says, "This shouldn't limit any changes you'd like met; just keep it moving in the Gates machine."  Because all and all, your kids are just another cog in that great big machine.
  • Summit paid for five MWSD staff to fly over and check Summit out.  I know many public schools that wish they had that kind of money on hand for public relations.  This was in early November.
  • Kiolbasa writes to charter operators, speaking of IEPs and saying, "it is part of preparation from the conversion to ALE and is not optional."
  • People from a variety of entities - former charter schools, OSPI, different staff from different districts - were working night and day right thru to New Year's Eve.  
  • The "provider" of the teaching services - the former charter schools - get 96% of WA state ALE apportionment allocation for each FTE.   
  • Charters were concerned over transportation costs but it appeared that those were not covered under ALEs. 
  • There was worry by the charters over the Choice Transfer Forms and how to "prep parents."  
  • There were also several references to "truancy" and "consequences."  
  • There was a reference to the SAO and that schools have to "transfer state assets to MWSD who then "loan" them back to schools.  
  • MWSD appeared to hire former Charter Commissioner, Cathy Fromme, to work with charters.  
  • Then there was an odd back and forth between OSPI and MWSD on the issue of testing.  MWSD's Tammy Ward wanted to know what percentage of students can be in ALE before they don't have to give testing.  What was odd is that OSPI's Brad Howe stated that "as long as students are marked as 'homeschooled' in CEDARS, then they should not receive test books."  But I thought all the students coming into MWSD's system were ALE?
  • There were also other concerns about the SAO and passing any audit by that office.  I know SAO is aware of this situation and it will be interesting to see what they end up saying.
2) Right after the announcement, the charters, who had lost their public standing with OSPI, were in a bit of freefall and you know what?  A lot of people - like OSPI and all the districts where these students were referenced from - turned a blind eye to the fact that most of the charter students were, technically, truant.  

And, between about the beginning of December to the end of December, it is unclear what money - whose money - any of the former charter schools was operating on.

3) Most of the districts, where the students are residents in, had to scramble to figure out what was happening and what it might mean to them.  The number of charter students had shrunk (by at least 300 to about 1,000.)  Where those 300 students went to is anyone's guess but my guess is back to their home districts.

So districts probably did take back some students.  They also had to figure out what their role would be vis a vis the new ALE program at Mary Walker School District.  Would they sign the interlocal that allowed their student to be part of the program (which, according to OSPI bending of rules, wasn't technically necessary but useful to have) or not?

Seattle and Tacoma said no.  Highline just recently signed an interlocal and it is unclear to me if Kent did (they seem to hedge every time I ask.)  But Highline has had pushback from some parents who worry that their district will get stuck with some costs.

Indeed, these interlocals have almost everyone saying, "I'm not responsible."  Even MWSD has a back-out section.

To wit, lawyers from Highline and Kent  Tacoma (oddly, both former SPS staff, Holly Ferguson and Shannon McMinimee) were quite worried about who was responsible for what and told Dierk Meierbachtol at OSPI this at the beginning of December. (bold mine)

My clients are concerned that by adopting a process that removes the resident school district, the resident school district is not only not in compliance with the above statutes, but the resident school district also could risk violations of truancy obligations as well as Child Find and IDEA obligations. As the Charter Schools have ceased to be LEAs, truancy, Child Find, and IDEA obligations all fall back to the Tacoma School District as the LEA.
SPS's John Cerqui chimed in that SPS had similar concerns.

OSPI's Meierbachtol writes to them on Dec. 14th, saying how disappointed they are in the Supreme Court and the issues of finding how to not disrupt these students' education.  He explains how OSPI is doing "emergency rulemaking" and working to "amend" one of the WACs. 


On another note . . . Susan Enfield hasn't received any type of communications from Mary Walker. I'm assuming that the charters are currently operating as non-approved schools, as there is been no Interlocal created. If that is true, how does OSPI contemplate getting them their December (let alone January and beyond) apportionment?

Sorry to piggy back on Holly, but her email caused a light bulb to go off in my head.

(1) The former charter schools ceased to exist as an LEA on December 9, 2015;

(2) With the exception of First Place, none of the former charters have obtained approved private school status via OSPI;

(3) Mary Walker's Board Meeting minutes do not reflect that they have passed a resolution necessary for instruction provided under contract pursuant to WAC 392-121-188; Mary Walker has not entered into an Interlocal Cooperative with the any of our districts or Spokane to provide services on their behalf pursuant to RCW 28A.225.250; and none of our districts and Mary Walker have not executed an Interlocal Cooperative Agreement pursuant to Chapter 39.34 RCW to facilitate Mary Walker locating an educational program or programs within Highline/Seattle/Spokane/Tacoma boundaries; and

(4) Mary Walker isn't accepting students into an online school or program that we are aware of.

Doesn't that mean that every former charter school student who resides within the Highline/Seattle/Spokane/Tacoma boundaries meets the definition of truant under Chapter 28A.225 RCW?

As I see it, Highline/Seattle/Spokane/Tacoma also are the LEA for all former charter school students who are eligible for special education services, and need to be offering services to them ASAP, as they technically stopped receiving services from an LEA on December 9 and are not in approved private schools (and then even if they were, would still be eligible for special education services from the resident district, and nonresidents would be entitled to participate in Highline/Seattle/Spokane/Tacoma's child find process.
OSPI lets them know, on December 16th, that new "emergency choice transfer rules" were drafted.  (Remember here that Superintendent Dorn told a Senate committee in January that this was "one time only" which made me fairly certain that these rules were been rushed into play for this group of students.  I'm not sure why that is but if I were a school district, I would keep this in mind for future reference.)

McMinimee comes back with more worry and references RCW 28A.250.070

I am not seeing how there is statutory authority for a rule that applies to an ALE program that is not for the purposes of enrolling in an online course or online school program.
The office of online learning under RCW 28A.250.030 shall develop a standard form, which must be used by all school districts, for releasing a student to a nonresident school district for the purposes of enrolling in an online course or online school program.
Let's see what the next batch of e-mails shows.

The House Ed Ctm has scheduled a hearing for the HB. 2367 which is the House version of Senate bill SB 6194.  That's next Friday, the 19th, at 1:30 pm in Olympia.  (They will also be hearing a bill about simple majority for school bond measures.)


NO 1240 said…
Charter school documents are public documents. The Charter Commission referenced this issue during it's "wind down" process. Charter school documents should have been archived.
NO 1240 said…
Both Rainier Prep and Excel charter schools are enrolling students for next year.
No 1240, I wonder if what they are telling prospective parents.
So I looked up Rainier Prep and Excel and, to my surprise, they are still calling themselves charter schools. That would not be truth in advertising; wonder what the State Auditor will say.
No 1240 said…
The Mary Walker School District is working in conjunction with the Center for Reinventing Public Education. Gates has provided funding and MWSD officials will be flying around the country looking at charter schools and partnerships.
They are heading to Texas to look at "Sky". More on Sky:

All About SKY

Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) has partnered with KIPP Houston Public Schools (KIPP) and YES Prep Public Schools (YES Prep), two high performing charter management organizations, to expand middle and high school choices and opportunities for SBISD students. This partnership, known as the SKY Partnership, launched in the 2012-13 school year with KIPP Courage at Landrum Middle School and YES Prep Northbrook at Northbrook Middle School.

Anonymous said…
It is odd that Rainier Prep is still advertising itself as a charter school. Buried in the FAQ is this:

What is Rainier Prep’s current legal status?

We are currently an Alternative Learning Environment (ALE) that functions as a free public school option for all students.

So Act Now for Washington Students is registered as a PAC. It initially was registered as "WA Charters PAC" and just yesterday was registered as "WA Charters Action PAC" with $252,880 cash and in-kind donations. Act Now's site has no "about us" feature and no one's name attached.

When I see that kind of thing - no person as the responsible head or who funders are - that makes my radar go up.
Charlie Mas said…
Culture of lawlessness. It's not unique to Seattle Public Schools; it runs throughout the public K-12 education industry.

If the rules are not enforced, then the rules don't matter. If the very people who are responsible for enforcing the rules are the ones breaking them, then there are, in fact, no rules.
Anonymous said…
Interesting - there is a Charter Schools Action Pac registered with the Federal Election Committee - wonder if the WA is a "child" of that group?

And actually, according to the PDC record for WA Charters Action PAc, $250,000 of their money came from Steve & Connie Ballmer - gee what a surprise ;o)

Anonymous said…
Ah and here's a bit more. WA Charters Action (which is too coincidentally named not to be the same entity methinks) registered with the State as a non-profit in Oct 2015. There are 4 directors listed including Lisa McFarlane Full details here

NO 1240 said…

Thanks for the link, reader 47. The address of Wa. Charters Action shows Washington Charter Development in that office. My guess: Franta, MacFarlane et. al don't have much to do since the Wa. State Supreme Court decision, so, they decided to fire-up a PAC.

The culture of lawlessness can be traced directly to Randy Dorn and Bob Ferguson has turned a blind eye.
NO 1240 said…
The "Directors" of Washington Charter Action are Lisa MacFarlane, Thomas Franta, Joel Domingo and Stephen Mullin. The SAME individuals sit on Washington State Charter School's board.

Anonymous said…
Lots of U-ACT/TFA staff at Rainier Prep. Think one of their board members is also associated with the UW College of Ed. Feathering the nest? Oh what incestuous little threads run through the charter/ed deform groups. Charter officials with dubious past records at other facilities - check. TFA - check. Bill Gates - check. CRPE/CRAP - check. PACS inside PACS inside PACS sponsored by ed deform orgs like LEV/A4E/Excellent Schools Now - check. But the red herring of "choice" as well as the "I got mine, the rest of you can just stick it" attidude is embraced by GOP and a good many Dems/Neolibs, so this is all allowed to continue. Disgusting.

NO 1240 said…
CT, We are getting a few new faces mixed into the usual cast of characters.
For example, we now have Bill Kiolbasa. Bill Kiolbasa is the CFO/COO for the Washington Charter School Association. He is married to the founding principal of Summit Sierra. He was working DIRECTLY with the MWSD, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He worked to procure the grant, deal with union and legal issues etc.

Kiolbasa's activities did not stop with the Gates grant. He has been VERY busy involving himself with Washington Charters Action PAC:
Anonymous said…
Kiolbasa may be new to WA State, but his name is well-known to those who have followed the mess that is NOLA's RSD/charter experiment and One App. Left one mess to create a new one. His group is best known for taking over a low scoring high school and driving the scores EVEN LOWER.
That is the way the charter folk/ed deformers operate. When it gets too hot in one state, time to move on to another. Since no one does background checks (or don't care what malfeasance they've committed elsewhere as long as they've got connections) - clean slate, fresh for more misdeeds!

NO 1240 said…

Thanks for the link, CT.

Bill Kiolbasa's name can also be tied to a $1M audit discrepancy at McDonough High.

The manner in which Kiolbasa is working with the Gates Foundation and the MWSD is beyond disturbing. Don't expect the Seattle Times to cover ANY of this story.
No 1240 said…
I'm also not comfortable with Kiolbasa being married to the founding principal of Summit Sierra charter school.
Anonymous said…
His wife who taught for 3 years as TFA before becoming an admin? The ed deform crowd does stick together. All the better to profit off both private & public monies, not to mention, kids.

NO 1240 said…
Interesting to note that Rainier Prep charter school works with EdTec.

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