Washington State Charter School Update

Update: as was noted by one commenter, the Times has an article in its Gates-funded Education Lab called, "You asked, we answered: What can charters do that other public schools can't."

The article says charters have more flexibility and names these three items;
1. They have more control over whom they hire - and fire.
2. They answer to an appointed rather than an elected school board.
3. They are accountable to a charter authorizer rather than a school district, which allows them to define their own goals and metrics.
On that last goal, they left out "define their own goals and metrics within the charter school law."  They don't get to just set whatever goals and metrics they want without guidance from the law and their authorizer.

I found out something new from the article:

Second, charter-school prinicipals don't need to be certified by the state.

It was also stated that charter principals have to have skills that traditional principals don't - "understand finance, fundraising and how to manage a board."  Well, traditional principals may not have to fundraise on their own but they DO have to know how to manage their school's funding and whatever fundraising is done by parents.  They also have to know how to manage parents and parent booster groups and PTA.  Charters allow much less input from parents particularly in issues of direction and spending.

It was also reported that charters aren't in a large organization and if you are one school, of course you can set your own schedule and curriculum.  (Although, as we are finding out, many SPS principals certainly seem able to go their own way on curriculum.)

There was one very odd quote:
"While there may be penalities for the underperformance of traditional public schools, closure is not one of them.  The threat of closing, it may be argued, is a main driver for innovation," said Nate Olson, spokesman for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
This is curious for two reasons.  Was Mr. Olson speaking for himself or the Superintendent?  Second, fear is usually not a motivator for innovation.  And, speaking as someone who served on a committee that DID close schools, I have to disagree that traditional schools can't be closed. Detroit, anyone? Chicago?

Former Queen Anne Elementary principal, David Elliott, weighs in, complaining that the district did not give him full power, under the Creative Approach program, that he sought in staffing the school.

Another interesting comment was from an official in Spokane who said charters didn't do better on average than traditional public schools (good for him) but also said "But there's a group of them that do really, really amazing and get these crazy results" that he believes should be studied.

I would agree but I also think that there are an equal number of traditional schools getting "crazy results."

end of update

This particular update is about Washington State charter schools but the news around the country is so wide and vast, I'll have to do a separate post on other states' charter systems.

I attended the May meeting for the Charter School Commission.  (The June meeting was cancelled and they don't have another meeting scheduled until August 11, 2016, 10:00am-5:00pm, South Seattle Central Community College-Georgetown Campus, Seattle.)

Since the new charter law was enacted, there are two new members to the Commission. From the State Board of Education, it is Isabel Muñoz-Colón.  She sent BOE's Jack Archer in as her non-voting substitute.
From the BOE:
Ms. Muñoz-Colón is the K-12 Investments Manager for the City of Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning, where she also co-chairs the English Language Learner working group for the South King County Road Map Project. She has worked at the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction as the Director of Financial Policy and Research, where she was lead staff to the Quality Educational Council.
The other new member is from OSPI and his name is Dan Grimm.  Mr. Grimm is a former legislator who has worked on many commissions and taskforces on education.

- there were a few issues that the staff had concerns about for specific schools.  Excel had only reached 80% of their fundraising while Summit was one person short for their 3-person board that will oversee all their schools (this is a point the Commission has not been happy about.)

Note: Summit did find a new board member, Kathi Littmann.  Ms. Littman, currently the President&CEO of the  Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, is a former teacher.  She also has quite the ed reform background, having worked in the education wing of the Gates Foundation and being a Broad Urban Superintendents fellow.   As well, Excel got their money issues settled.

- None of the three new charter schools that had been scheduled to open this fall will be opening.  All three said they needed another planning year but I suspect that there was a lesson learned about opening a school when the law governing it is in the court system.  Those schools are Green Dot in south Seattle, Summit Atlas in West Seattle, and Willow over in Spokane.

- I don't know if this is a highlight but for entertainment value, you could not beat Mr. Grimm.  Almost from the start of the meeting, his body language (and facial expressions) showed he was not a happy camper.  He stated - a couple of times - that he had not been on a commission where X or Y had been done and yet this commission was doing that.

You can imagine how having a new person come in and try to explain what you are doing wrong went over with the other Commissioners.   Most of them seemed to be amused but I was quite surprised at his aggressiveness.  Maybe a harbinger of things to come.

Other Information on Washington State Charters:

- in May 201, Soar reported they "had significant availability for all grades." They also reported 2 of 5 staff members returning.

- Excel's founding director, Adel Sefrioui, is leaving their school.  Kristina Howard is their new director.

- Pride Prep's website appears to be gone.  I'll have to ask the Spokane School District  how to access their minutes.

- Rainier Prep has no recent minutes (despite having a couple of meetings in May and June.)  Their early May meeting does say:
All board members expressed concern regarding the fact that the recent charter school legislation deprives the school of approximately one-third of its prior funding. All board members expressed concern that absent a fix, this reduced funding will make it difficult to continue to offer the same level of program quality that the school has been able to provide to date.
Yes, this was an issue that a couple of charter schools complained about at the Charter Commission meeting.  I'm not sure what to tell them but if the law has been written to meet the Constitution, they would be getting the money they budgeted for.  That's the issue - they prepared budgets based on getting state funding like other common schools and now that they have been found not to be (and the new law does nothing to change that), they will get fewer state dollars.

They also seem upset about McCleary dollars and I can only say that taking one day out of their campaign for themselves to raise their voice in unison with other public school parents might have made a difference.  But they didn't do that so their unhappiness rings more than a little hollow.

Last thing - if you want to read the world's shortest minutes, read a charter school board meeting's minutes.  Terse doesn't even cover it except for Rainier Prep.


Anonymous said…
Dan Grimm is associated with DFER-WA, on their advisory board. He represented the 25th District (Puyallup, Fife, unincorporated Pierce County) in the State House 1983-1989, and was elected to two terms as as State Treasurer 1989-1997. I'd guess he has more experience sitting on boards than the rest of them put together.

-- Ivan Weiss
Yes, Ivan, I did see he is associated with DFER but forgot to include it. Bully for him being on many boards; it was not exactly the most polite way to act on his first day.
Anonymous said…
Waah- so they don't have the funding they want & whine about McCleary? No sympathy. They have no right to whine about McCleary when they never ONCE spoke up about it. Not in public, not to legislators. Stick it, charter whiners. Now you know how PUBLIC schools feel. Go ask your rich buddies for more $. My recollection is that privatized charters had full private funding before they got public money. Where'd it all go? Hiding in a reserve account?

CT, you're right. The money they got (at least for those who got it), did go into a reserve. I have e-mails that show that discussion.
NO 1240 said…

Meanwhile, the Seattle Times Education Lab spit out another story related to charters:


Has DFER endorsed a OSPI candidate?

The next SPI - or designee- will have a seat on the Charter Commission. I noticed that SPI candidate- Erin Jones- is promoting "choice". She had a hand in selecting Rainier Prep's founding charter principal, as well.


Thanks for keeping up on this issue, Melissa.

SouthendParent said…
Melissa: No need to contact Spokane School District, Pride Prep's website is up and running: www.prideprepschool.org. Check out their board meetings here: http://www.prideprepschool.org/governance/

NO 1240: I've been to a few events with Erin Jones and she once point blank told me that she "cannot support charter schools" even though she supports "choice" for families. Hard to believe that she had a choice in selecting Rainier Prep's founding charter principal if that's how she feels - where did you get this information? Not sure if she's changed her mind in the last few months given the landscape of the OSPI race.

NO 1240 said…


On June 16, 2013, Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate- Erin Jones- testified in front of the Charter Commission. She testified in support of the founding principal. Her testimony begins onpage 15".


Ms. Jones has NEVER held an elected office and there is no record for us to rely upon. She supported a charter school and began stating that she didn't support charter schools after running for OSPI. Any candidate would understand it is difficult to get elected if they supported charter schools.

Jones, via her voters guide video, claims to support "choice". "Choice" is often refers to charter schools. If she supported ALE...she should have said so. She didn't.

OSPI has a $10B budget and is responsible for the oversight of 1.1M students. Jones has never- even sat on a school board. She should at least have experience sitting on a school board.
No on 1240, Jones says she was only supporting a friend in her remarks for the charter school. It's up to voters to decide to flesh out who she is and if you take her at her word.

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