Washington State Charter School Updates

There are three two new charter schools opening in Washington State this fall with a current middle school expanding to include a high school.  They have both have been authorized by the Washington State Charter Commission.
Green Dot is opening a 6-12 school in Seattle, called Rainier Valley Leadership Academy.  This is Green Dot's second school in Washington.

Summit is opening a 6-12 school in West Seattle.  This is Summit's third school in Washington.

Willow Public School, an independent charter, will open in Walla Walla for grades 6-8 in 2018.  (They had previously applied but their application was rejected but they had been encouraged to apply again.)  On that last sentence I was thinking of another charter when the Commission first started up.  Willow says they are enrolling which would seem odd for a school not opening for more than a year but hope springs eternal, I guess.

One of Spokane's charter schools, Pride Prep, which serves students in grades 6-8, is expanding to 9-12.  (So not a new charter but an expansion of one.)

As well, one charter, Excel Charter School in Kent, is being absorbed by Green Dot but will keep its own name.  Oddly, Excel's website has no notice to the public or parents about this.

This brings the total number of charter schools in Washington to 10.  Keep in mind, there could have been up to 40.  I believe that when the new law was passed by the Legislature, it reset that count so there could now be 51.  And yet, the Washington State Charter Commission only received three applications in 2015 and two in 2016.  Not sure about Spokane but clearly, they are not moving quickly.

Despite this, I've seen a spate of stories over the growth of charter schools in Washington State.

Why is the growth so slow?  It might be because of the continuing fight over the charter school law. I was told by someone highly connected that many charter groups are reluctant to come into Washington until the dust really settles.  (Clearly, Green Dot and Summit have taken on that challenge.)

Additionally, the Washington State law makes the application process a heavy and somewhat expensive lift.  While that's a good situation in some ways, it also means it would be harder for a stand-alone, home-grown group to start a charter school on their own.  Hence, Green Dot and Summit contribute the majority of charter schools in Washington State.

There is an application for a new charter school in Tukwila called Impact Elementary. The group starting it wants to create a network of eight new charter schools across the state called Impact Public Schools. With major moola from the Gates Foundation, they are on their way. But the group also intends to wait until the current charter school lawsuit is settled.

In other news, the Washington State Charter Schools Association has a newish head, Patrick D'Amelio.  He was formerly the head of the Alliance for Education, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Washington STEM.  He was the only head of the Alliance I ever liked and felt good about and it was a loss when he left.

Another odd thing about the landscape in Washington state for charter schools is how the WSCSA thinks they are the group of record for charter schools.  They are not; the Charter Commission is.

The Spokeman-Review story says students are designing the new high school for Pride Prep.  But I do smile at some of the statements from Pride Prep:
In its first year Pride Prep had few rules and no tradition or settled-upon procedures. In fact, there weren’t even classes in a traditional sense. 

Instead students enrolled in classes that interested them, regardless of their age. Everyone worked in a large open room. Classes were separated into pods.

Starting this fall the middle school classes will have walls. 
The school will also be a candidate school for the International Baccalaureate program. That will add structure to the school, McDonald said.
Charters or not, for the most part, classrooms need walls.  The open-space idea never works and you tend to see that change fairly quickly.  And yes, structure - both physical and mental - is a good thing for a school.

As well, I have seen a photo for the development of the building for the new Summit school in West Seattle and a sign just says "public school."  C'mon kids, let's be truthful.

I also note that there are now billboards - all in the south-end - for charter schools as well as ads on KUOW.

Lastly, I believe I have found a loophole in the charter law around management and operations.  I'm still exploring it as both the State Board of Education and the Washington Charter Commission have been somewhat vague in their answers to my queries.  Both have encouraged me to get a lawyer for clarity.  It is baffling that I should have to get a lawyer to get a question answer on a law that not one but two government entities administer.

As well, I have found the term "common school" used in a couple of charter contracts (and it's another oddity that some have it and some don't).  I thought that was made clear in the Washington State's Supreme Court decision - charter schools are NOT common schools.  That's why they can't get General Fund dollars.  An oversight?  Hmmmm.

I'll let you know what I find out. 


CT said…
Not only that, but standards that have not been tested out in a small scale first, and a curriculum written by a small group of people, not all of them experts in the areas in which they were working. Many of the lower grade literature choices were not ones I would consider appropriate for those grade levels. Some have since changed, but it is clear there was not a lot of thought into the developmental aspect of a child's education in some of them. A friend of mine - an English prof - was looking at some of the high school lit choices and remarked that there was a whole lot of representation from dead white men and not a lot from anyone else. I think it is important for the cultural makeup of a region to be represented in some of the literature choices. But then, I've never been a fan nor follower of the standardization mindset, which is probably why my principal dislikes me so much....
Too bad the PTSA equates standardization with equity, or at least puts forth the appearance of believing that. Oh for the dearth of critical thinking and ethics in the legislature, the Ed deformers, and the WSPTA.
Uxo said…
Charter schools are not needed in Seattle. Good management with Local School Councils would be the simplest way for each and every school to improve. The political aspirations of our supt and her desire to privatize would be squashed if each school truly became part of its geographic community. Alternative schools would survive and thrive.

Charters require govt. supervision - some of which comes from the school district (costing the district more in central administration services) and some govt. support comes from the mayor's office doing business with local businesses who get their hands on all sorts of dollars.
Anonymous said…
I'd like to know how charter law varies from state to state, and how much freedom a state has when writing their charter law? I'd also like to know if some states have more successful charters than others and if that is a result of the way they wrote their charter law? And if some states have charters that take their fair share of sped students and others don't? And is that the result of the way their charter laws were written?

Could state law stipulate for example that for the first 3 years they will only allow home grown, non chain charters, that must offer the same amount of sped seats in an inclusion environment as traditional Publics do?

"The political aspirations of our supt and her desire to privatize.."

Who are you talking about? Superintendent Nyland is a man and so is Superintendent Rykdal.

States have absolute freedom in writing charter law except for federal laws for Special Education, ELL, homeless and gifted students as well as following federal regulations on testing, health and safety, etc.

As for who has the most "successful" charter schools, I'd probably say Massachusetts but I don't really know for certain.

I will have another thread on the national landscape as there have been some interesting developments that speak to your questions, daf.

But yes, state law could make such stipulations.
Anonymous said…
Well it's simple really ,

if the law provides then people will build it.

Anonymous said…
Melissa, your info on Willow is outdated. They are not opening this fall. They plan to open next year.

They were also not previously rejected. Their initial opening was delayed by the court decision.

SDD, I got the info on Willow straight from the WA State Charter Commission.

Located in Walla Walla
Will Grow to Serve Grades 6-8
Opening 2017

Seems odd that they would have it wrong.

As for the rejection, I'll check but I distinctly remember being at a Commission meeting where it was rejected and they were encouraged to reapply.

Anonymous said…
No longer. Someone over there reads your site :)


That's the charter school association; I don't pivot off their info but rather the commission. But the Association is where the money is. I'll have to ask.

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