City IS Going to Give K-12 Education Dollars to Charter Schools

Update 4:

After talking with SBE and the WA State Charter School Commission, I find that the law is worded in a clever manner.

Charter schools cannot themselves raise money thru levies.  Meaning, they can't have their own levy election.

And, there is no provision in the current law for them to receive levy dollars.

However, there is also no provision that they can't, if offered, receive levy dollars.

I believe the meaning is that they can't expect to receive levy dollars if a levy passes but, if some kind soul (or city) wanted to give them levy dollars, they can accept them.]

Also, the old charter school law said that only charters that existed when a levy passes were eligible for funds.  That portion of the law is now gone, meaning, that as more charters come online, the smaller the number of K-12 dollars for SPS.

Update 3: There is a newly scheduled Work Session today on the FEPP levy.  It wasn't scheduled on Sunday when I last looked.  This should be a good one, given the district  has now learned that the City wants to give K-12 dollars to charter schools.

Update 2: I believe that the City may be interpreting the charter school law to favor giving FEPP levy dollars to Seattle charter schools.

The law cites charters as being ineligible for "local levies." Is that school levies or "local" city levies? It's unclear. It looks like the City is saying no one knows so they can do this. It would take the Legislature to clear this up (and I advocate for that) or a lawsuit.

The State Board of Education says this in their FAQs on charter schools:

Are charter schools eligible for local levies?

No. There is no provision in Chapter 28A.710 RCW, as amended by Chapter 241, Laws of 2016, for charter schools to receive monies from local levies.

This could get interesting.

Update: It is Director Mack on the Oversight Committee now; Director Burke previously served.  (Councilperson's Gonzalez' office had this in her newsletter and I assumed they checked these kinds of things.)

To note, the Committee itself did not vote; they were just told by DEEL staff that the City had decided to share Families, Education, Preschool and Promise levy dollars with charter schools in Seattle.

BUT the City Council has to vote on the Implementation Plan.  I urge you to write to them and say a big NO to this idea.  It's close to disgraceful for person after person at City Hall to be questioned about this before the election and only now, after the levy is voted in, say yeah, we'll be doing this.

End of update

I will be writing more about this in the coming days but for now, I told you so.

I attended the press conference about the Mayor signing the City Council's resolution of support for the SPS levies.  I asked the Mayor directly whether the City's oversight committee for its education levy had voted to share levy dollars with charter schools.  She waved the question off and said we could talk "offline."

I had asked Dwane Chappelle before the press conference and he told me we could talk afterwards.

Both of them exited the room before I could talk to either of them.  Here's what I was later told in an email:

Dwane Chappelle, Director of the Department of Education and Early Learning.
“The Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise plan invests to close the opportunity gap across our City.  The Department of Education and Early Learning will allow all public schools and all public school students to apply for levy funds. This decision includes public charter schools in Seattle, which represent approximately 800 students at public charter schools,  and the more than 54,000 students at Seattle Public Schools. This decision was made after consulting with the City’s lawyers and is consistent with past precedent which allowed a preschool organization affiliated with the public charter school to apply for Levy funding and ultimately receive funds. We look forward to continuing our critical work through a strong partnership with the City and District’s to advance our shared vision and values.”
On background for your other questions. This decision is part of the of the Implementation and Evaluation Plan for the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy which will be transmitted to Council for approval in the coming weeks.
So my thought for now is to write the City Council and say no to this.
Some of them are running for office again - maybe it should be pointed out to them that Seattle did not vote for charter schools and that this move - given that they were asked over and over during the levy campaign about it - is wrong.

I have no issue with giving a pre-K in a charter building money.  But sharing K-12 dollars with charter schools?  The same group of schools that didn't lift a finger to pass those levies (my own non-support notwithstanding)?

Interesting group of people on that oversight committee:
  • Constance Rice (former Mayor Norm Rice's wife)
  • Denise Juneau
  • Donald Felder - Educational Consultant
  • Erin Okuno - SE Seattle Education Coalition
  • Greg Wong, lawyer
  • Mayor Durkan
  • Kimberly Walker - Soar of King County 
  • City Councilperson Lorena Gonzalez
  • Mackenzie Chase, Chamber of Commerce
  • Nicole Grant - MLK Labor
  • Phyllis Campano - SEA
  • Rachael Steward - SHA
  • Director Rick Burke -  Director Eden Mack SPS
  • Shouan Pan - Seattle Colleges
  • Stephan Blanford
  • Trish Dziko
I have to recheck but I do believe one saving grace, should the Council be foolish enough to approve it in the Implementation plan is that the charter law says only charter schools that exist when the vote was taken can access those dollars.  That would mean probably only four schools. 


Anonymous said…
Don't act surprised about Burke , you were told years ago that he supported charter schools. Burke and Blanford are on the same page.

Warned you.
Jeremy said…
Should we only allow money to go to schools that individually campaigned for the levy? The levy is a city levy, not a school district one.
Big Dem Donor said…
A little competition is a good thing. You know for "equity" sake.

Now sleep in the house you asked for!
Anonymous said…
I sure wish SPS and the city would make better use of levy education money. It’s so hard to keep voting for all these extra taxes when we see the ongoing lack of accountability, results, best practices, etc. it feels like handing money to some shady character on a dimly lit corner, hoping for the best.

Stuart J said…
Worth noting: students who go to Charters may or may not be residents of Seattle. Some are very close to city boundaries. Similarly, some Seattle children may go to charters (or out of district) outside of Seattle.
I note that on the City's FEEP levy page, it says Director Mack is on the committee and yet Councilwoman Gonzalez had Director Burke on it. I will double-check on that.

Jeremy, I didn't say individual schools campaigned; it was the efforts of SCPTSA to have member schools advocate for ALL Seattle Schools and nearly every single school is impacted by those dollars. There will now be fewer dollars to go around.

Stuart, very few other cities have education levies.
Anonymous said…
I would have thought this subject on this blog would have generated more activity. Maybe all the usual suspects have moved on because their children have aged out of Seattle public schools. Hopefully others will get the hint.

--Getting older
Anonymous said…
I voted against charters and I voted against this levy, but I don't expect the council to listen to us. They already don't, why would it change now?

Anonymous said…
It is disappointing that once again, Seattle seems to be reacting to an outdated and disproved way of thinking.

Public schools in LA outperform charter schools about half the time - showing there is little to no advantage to sending your children to charter schools. So what is the point of taking valuable and needed money from public schools to fund them?

Anonymous said…
One of the things that's going on with charters is that families in low-income areas lack choices people in wealthier areas have. If you don't like your assignment school, you're stuck (unless you can afford private, but even the middle class in Seattle can't afford private (if you can, you're not middle class)). In Seattle, option schools have geographic assignment zones that are used as tie-breakers, so getting into most option schools realistically means you have to live fairly close to one. So you're stuck if you don't. People in poorer parts of north Seattle and south Seattle are stuck that way. Charter schools are a way of getting unstuck.

This is also partially why several prominent/influential African American celebrities are huge supporters of charters (Ludacris, Sean Combs, Deion Sanders, Keisha Knight Pulliam, and most influentially Oprah Winfrey, among others). The anti-charter argument doesn't usually hold sway in communities of color, who feel locked into substandard schools. Left-leaning white people seem to have a harder time reconciling minority support of charters with support of public schools.

Even if charters don't perform better (and half the time, they actually do - that is not insignificant), families still want choices. Seattle Public Schools has little to show for its racial equity initiatives over the years, which is why we find charters more popular among local politicians than we otherwise might, even on the left.

There has also been a slight but meaningful gender gap in charter enrollment nationally ( More girls than boys attend charter schools, and boys are more likely to "leave" them (often, that means be kicked out). This is a double-edged thing: on the one hand, families want African American boys to have educational choices like charters and to succeed where other public schools fail them. One the other hand, but parents who know they have academically talented girls will usually go to greater lengths to give them academic options like charters, especially seeing the "prioritization" of African American boys over girls by the school district.

Not Clearcut
Anonymous said…
@ Anti,

I'm not big on charters myself, but your statement that "public schools in LA outperform charter schools about half the time - showing there is little to no advantage to sending your children to charter schools" isn't quite accurate based on the article to which you linked. It appears you misinterpreted the results. The article says:

A 2014 Stanford study that compared traditional and charter schools in Los Angeles found that 48 percent of charters outperformed traditional schools in reading and 44 percent of charters outperformed traditional schools in math; the rest of the charter schools were either similar to public schools or lower performing.

So, they OUTPERFORMED traditional schools in reading 48 percent of the time. True, that's about half the time. However, it's important to look at the rest of the results--what happens in those of 52%? Looking at the actual study, it shows that for 39% there was no significant difference, and for 13% the results were significantly worse. If I'm a parent considering a charter school and looking at nearly a 50% chance it's better than my traditional options and only a 13% chance it's worse, I'm likely to give it a try. The pattern is similar but not quite as strong re: math (44% significantly better, 34% no sig diff, 22% sig worse).

Eric B said…
It's also worth noting that just because Burke or Mack is on the committee doesn't necessarily mean that they voted to allow charters to access the money. They may have voted no. Without a roll call, it's awfully hard to tell. Even if the vote was reported as unanimous, they may have abstained or recused themselves.
HP, well, you do have a card - some of those City Council members are running again. If they hear from enough people that this item should be struck from the Implementation Plan, they might do it. They need to know that Seattle itself did not vote for charter schools. There is no big demand for them and, despite winning the last court case, there's no flood of applications.

Anti, I'm not even going to start with "charters aren't so bad." They are flawed, they are losing space in public education and I hope more and more people and electeds see/get that message.

"Ludacris, Sean Combs, Deion Sanders, Keisha Knight Pulliam, and most influentially Oprah Winfrey, among others"

Very funny - I get all my best ideas from rappers and athletes. As for Oprah, like Obama, she's listening to the wrong people (just like listening to Jenny McCarthy about vaccinations).

As Charlie used to say, there aren't failing schools; there are schools that have a lot of struggling kids. We need to drive resources to those schools (and the district is). As for Option schools, all regions of the city have Option schools.

Charters represent a choice and not much else. You can't be on a charter board as a parent. You can't make changes in how your school is run. Curriculum? Nope. Hours? Nope. Size of school? Nope.

Charters are significantly more segregated than traditionals. When did that become a good thing? (I have a talk I gave on charters; I'll have to put that up soon.)

Eric, it is Mack on the committee; Burke was on it previously. I read Councilperson's Gonzalez' newsletter and she had it wrong.

The Oversight Committee did not vote. They were merely told by DEEL staffers that this had been decided.

Sofa Voter said…
Could we do some of that open meetings act magic and find out how this decision was reached? What's good for the head tax dealings should be good for decisions about school students. Maybe a high school civics/journalism/? class could look into it.
Well, I am likely to do a public disclosure request for emails, etc. on this. What likely happened is the Mayor's staff and DEEL discussed this in a meeting and decided on it. They tell the City Council about it in the Implementation Plan and the Council then votes.

Again, write the Council and tell them no.
Anonymous said…
It looks like charters do the same or better with less. Am I wrong on this?

Fruitcake cornhole
Historian said…
Good luck getting records from the city. They are not transparent. It took a court order for them to hand over some documents.
kellie said…
Wow! 800 students are already enrolled in Charter schools. That is a pretty impressive enrollment number, considering all of the legal challenges and the general challenges of any new operation.

800 students is a SIGNIFICANT percentage of SPS enrollment shortfall. For the last 5 years enrollment has been significantly lower than projected with TOTAL enrollment actually declining this year.

SPS's failure to honor their own enrollment rules is continuing to push students out of SPS, with PUBLIC charters becoming a very viable option for families. With those enrollment numbers, I would expect other charter operators to find Seattle to be a very attractive location.

My personal opinion is that Public Charter schools are toxic to public schools. Charter schools practice of cherry picking students weakens the public system, in profound and dramatic ways.

That said, families need choices. Period. If SPS is going to simply refuse to enroll families in their legal public options of public schools that have space available as well as place dramatically artificial enrollment caps on option school like Cleveland, then we can expect SPS to continue to lose enrollment and charter schools to gain traction.

kellie said…
@ Fruitcake cornhole,

Charter schools do NOT need to educate all members of the public, in the same way that the public system is required to enroll all students. Charters have dramatic control over their enrollment practices and they use this control. They have to use this control because the only way for a charter school to be "profitable" is to enroll a substantial percentage of "less expensive" students.

Charters do not need to enroll students with significant needs and therefore the definition of "least-restrictive-environment" is very different. If a student's IEP requires two full time aides, (and that does happen), then SPS has to provide those aides. The charter school can just opt to not enroll that student because they are "unable to provide services."

Because of this, there is no excuse for charter schools doing the "same." Because of the dramatic control over enrollment, Charters should be outperforming public schools. But they don't.

The charter experiment has been operating for decades now and the data is pretty straightforward. Charter schools weaken the public system.

That said, the enrollment practices that were championed by Tolley and Herdon were ill conceived and have left Seattle ripe for charters. Seattle's choice system and option schools are a viable alternative to Public Charters. That said, SPS has created its own nightmare by refusing to support their own system, I fully expect Charters to grow in strength and numbers over the next decade because choice matters.

Anonymous said…

Thank you for pointing out the big picture issue of charters versus public education. They are problematic. You are spot on. Our public education system is the foundation of a (relative) democracy. When I was in college years ago, I studied the history of public education in the US. My professors liked to point out that historically in the US, and also in places where public education does not exist, we have evidence of it causing massive inequality in societies on a much larger scale. IMO charters undermine and take money away from our public system without the same accountability. Business interests have been trying very hard to infiltrate and exploit our public education system in the US.

Fruitcake, do charters do more with less? Some do but those are the ones backed up by groups like the Walton Foundation or the Gates Foundation. What the state provides to them is not all they have by a long shot.

Kellie, the Washington State charters seem to be sensitive to the charge of not supporting many Sped students. Interestingly, they didn't do much publicly to support McCleary funding (which they benefit from) nor the Families and Ed levy (which they will now benefit from) but, out of nowhere, comes this new pop-up group for Sped funding. And who's part of the group's founders? The Washington Charter Schools Association.

Kellie is onto a post I am in the process of writing,given what is currently happening in Seattle and the rest of the country. If we don't watch out, we'll be LA or Denver in 10 years. It's not pretty.
Anonymous said…
Kellie, it is not accurate that charter schools in Washington can deny enrollment to students with significant disabilities. Charter public schools are open to ALL students in our state. They are prohibited by law from discriminating in enrollment based on race, ethnicity, disability, or any other category.

This claim is common among charter school opponents in our state. This is understandable, given some other states' laws and longevity. With that said, this claim is inaccurate nonetheless.

Anonymous said…
For those interested in the details of how charter schools work (or don't), the most recent series of Gimlet Media's podcast Startup was a very interesting exploration of how Success Academy developed in NYC. Here is a link to the first episode:

Personally, I find it very troubling that our city leaders seem to be fine with promoting charters while undermining the existing school choice system.

kellie said…
@ Mel,

Yes, Washington State Charters are more sensitive to sped issues. However, that doesn't necessarily mean anything, because of the way funding and reporting is handled.

The P223 reports all students with an IEP as sped but does not distinguish the severity of needs in that category. Likewise, the funding is based on the "average costs" with the presumption that school district will serve both students from "resource room" to severe needs. This enables charter schools to cherry pick "resource room" students who will bring full sped funding but only require a few hours per week in a group setting.

While that is problematic, I think the challenges regarding medically fragile students and homeless students are even more striking. There is only extra funding for IEPs.

SPS is required to serve all student regardless of their medical or home status. This can get very expensive and needs to be done with the funding constraints of "average cost." For example, SPS operates at school at Fred Hutch for students undergoing cancer treatment. Charters are not likely to try to serve these students.

kellie said…
@ Francis,

It is fairy tale magic to claim that Public Charter Schools are subject to the same types of enrollment requirements as true public schools. It may be technically true that "Charter public schools are open to ALL students in our state. They are prohibited by law from discriminating in enrollment based on race, ethnicity, disability, or any other category"

However, discrimination against a specific student and the requirement to serve ALL students is dramatically different. How many homeless students do charter schools serve? How many medially fragile? How does a charter school handle a student who requires a feeding tube?

Charter schools are good businesses that turn healthy profits. They don't do this by serving everyone. It is not possible.

Anonymous said…
Kellie, once again you're parroting talking points that just don't apply to our state. All of our state's charter schools are non-profit by law. It is a violation of our charter school law to have a charter school turn a profit.

Anonymous said…
I'm not sure it's good for the anti-charter folks to use SPED as a comparative.

SPS SPED record is terrible and always has been.

SPED Parent
Anonymous said…
Oh and letting a disabled student sit in a room is NOT serving them

SPED Parent
kellie said…
@ Frances,

Profit is often a misunderstood concept. It really doesn't matter whether or not a charter school is technically intended to make a profit for the shareholders or a non-profit. Both concepts need to work on a healthy margin, in order to cover their operating expenses. For-profit charters may distribute "the profit" to shareholders (or not), Non-profits "reinvest" their profit elsewhere, either in salaries or other operational costs.

Education funding is based on the average costs. As such there is an expectation that some students will cost more and some students will cost less but that the average payment will cover all the expenses.

School districts amortize those costs across multiple building and multiple programs. Charters need to make decisions that will generate enough revenue to cover their overhead. The overhead of many non-profits are ridiculous on their face.

Washington's Charter Law is definitely more strict and has learned from some of the most egregious and blatant abuses of charter schools elsewhere. That said, it is beyond naive to treat them as equivalent.

Public schools must serve any student who arrives on the doorstep. Charter schools do not.

Anonymous said…
This is anecdotal. I have a student in SPS with an "expensive" IEP. Attends gen ed classes with significant support. I contacted one of the charter schools because I had heard good things about the school to ask how they work with students like mine and how they provide the support currently required by his IEP. The last thing I want to do is send him to a charter school only to find out at his next annual IEP meeting that they are unwilling to continue to provide the support. After a long discussion with an administrator in which he finally grasped what I was asking, he said I would need to talk to their director of special education and promised to have that person call me. Radio silence after that which spoke volumes.

For all the problems we have had in SPS, including bringing a due process case, I would never risk what we currently have by moving my student to a charter school.

One Parent
kellie said…
@ Francis,

For the record, I not an anti-charter advocate. I think the challenges with charters are not as black and white as many advocates claim.

I am simply illustrating the basic math of the situation and the basic math dictates that charters must cherry pick students to be economically viable and that public school districts do not have that luxury. To claim anything else is folly.

Because of this basic math, I would really like to be anti-charter. I do not believe charters are good for public education, in the aggregate. That said, SPS's active hostility towards parent choice has created fertile ground for charter schools and I fully expect charter schools to fully exploit SPS' lack of respect towards families.

SPS had pushed this dialogue of somehow choice and privilege are synonymous. While there is overlap, they are not the same. If charters give families some choices, that SPS is unwilling to provide, then I'm happy that some families are getting that choice.

The artificial enrollment caps at Cleveland is an illustrative case. Cleveland is 80% FRL. This is not a school of privilege. At the time Cleveland was converted to an option school the plan was to admit cohorts of 300 students per grade. SPS has artificially capped enrollment every year. There is space at Cleveland for more students and yet every year SPS refuses to admit students to enrollment capacity.

SPS has systematically and repeatedly denied choice to poor families. Because of that, I am glad that charters are giving some families some choices.

Thanks,Kellie, for that explanation (it saved me time).

I think SPS does not want to expand Cleveland for a couple of reasons. One, it's expensive giving every kid a laptop. Two, it might further hurt Rainier Beach enrollment.

But yes, SPS sometimes shoots itself in the foot with its thinking.

Charter will capitalize on that.
Anonymous said…
It's sad when you will accept piss poor vs unknown. I think in cases when expectations could be low then results will be low but that requires a case by analysis's to determine if meaningful and measurable improvements were achieved. On average for the 3,000 or so students with IEPs meaningful measurable improvements are not achieved.

There is plenty of data to show the systemic lack of measurable improvement like lack of improving test scores equating that 90% of students with IEPs are not at grade level. On top of those facts are people's anecdotal beliefs that if SPS were providing effective measurable educational IEP services SPS would be shouting it from the rooftop and not blaming it's failures on the state.

I know many of the insightful and informed SPED parents have moved on out SPS and there's a whole new group of SPED parents who unfortunately are going to endure the usual SPS SPED runaround. SPED parent groups will once again form and be seeded with pro SPS administration plants and now the circle is complete.

It's like the movie ground hogs day expect it's on a 10 year cycle and real people get hurt.

SPED Parent
Eli said…
Francis, do you have a reference to precisely what the fairness constraints are? Do they for example bar discriminatory intent but allow disparate impact? I remember thinking there was an issue when considering the initiative but I honestly have lost the details.

Non-profits do want to show efficiency and success and growth. Would a non-profit prefer to save $3K on a purchase of laptops? Sure, and would a non-profit prefer to have the student who takes $3K less staff time to educate to the same evaluated standard? Sure. Even if that $3K is purely spent to benefit students, that spending makes the school more attractive! Charter schools want students who are cheaper and who evaluate well. They will compete in sophistication of cherrypicking those students to whatever extent we let them. Only after that easy path is stopped will they have to compete on providing better education choices to a given student.

If you just bar explicit discrimination on race as a variable, you are leaving the door wide open to systematically racist outcomes, even unintended. It's easy these days to train an opaque machine learning system to do your optimization dirty work. "We never even told it who's what race, so we're in the clear!" The school probably doesn't want to be biased, hell they might even prefer a playing field where all charters do have to optimize for justice, but they're not going to be the only loser who does justice while everyone else skims off the best return-on-investment students.

Schools generally wouldn't explicitly choose "white students if we can get them", but you'd better believe they'd explicitly choose "fewer SpEd students if we can". To shave off a fractional probabilistic SpEd student they will optimize on any fuzzy proxy input you allow. Or if you made them accept equal SpEd percentage, they will cherrypick within the SpEd student population. The incentives are huge. Look, if you were a national charter nonprofit, you'd do it too or competitors would wipe the floor with you. These corporations are big money and it's worth it to them to have a SpEdlining analytics team.

And all that is talking purely about well-run nonprofits that aren't being used to pay out excessive salaries or to buy services from the CEO's nephew. Those obviously make a more direct incentive to take in money and not spend it on students.
Eli said…
The "school choice" parents want is to choose a school. Having the school influence whether to admit *you* is obviously not of direct benefit to the parent, that's to the school.

I know charter schools are required to use a lottery process (in all states with them, I believe?), but that's a lottery among completed applications that meet the school's criteria, and it's not a uniform lottery -- schools can add preferences, as long as these can pass the state's non-discrimination criteria. Here's one summary of what California wrote, which sounds pretty good here, right? Analyses of results aren't as rosy from what limited looking I've done.
As far as I'm aware (let me know otherwise) there are zero constraints on how you target your advertising, like to Facebook's demographic filters.

If you want fairness, I think you just need to go for a zero-barrier fair lottery. Anyone can apply, and preferences are… look I don't think you can get past sibling preferences, but preferences are minimized. Including on proximity, and if you're at all serious we need to provide transportation. I can't say that I'd enjoy busing but you can see how its rise and fall affected de facto segregation, say in Seattle schools. And you know charters will be location-optimized for proximity to cheap high-evaluating students.
Anonymous said…
Nice try Kellie, but no. At least half of SPS elementary schools only provide resource room special education, and a great many of those have only part time resource teachers. Any kid not meeting the increasingly narrow definition of acceptable for resource room, is shipped off as quickly as possible. A few years ago the teachers union (our supposed advocates) even identified the speedy reassignment of special education students as a high priority negotiation issue for their contracts. They wanted to include the removal of students and thereby breaking the law, as part of their employment contract. So much for teaching all students. Isn’t that cherry picking? So called option schools in SPS are famously unavailable to students with disabilities, and that is the subject of a currently active civil rights complaint. And even if they address that issue, entire types of common sped service delivery are not served at SPS option schools. That is, they aren’t an option. Isn’t that cherry picking? Less than a handful of schools in SPS support medically fragile students, which they fund with special ed and safety net funds. Sure, there is public school service in all sorts of non typical places: hospitals, juvenile prisons, military bases. So what? The district receives funding for this and has almost 0 accountability. It might even be revenue positive. Is a hospital bound cancer patient really focused on great special ed service delivery? Does Echo Glen really go to bat for kids with disabilities? (The answers here are no) It isn’t fair or reasonable to compare charter schools to an entire district. A reasonable comparison is to the typical neighborhood school. That typical neighborhood school has only a resource room, is very hostile to students with disabilities and certainly has no medically fragile students. And in that case, for Sped, it’s not so clear which choice is better. Public schools don’t have any special mandate to special ed other than doing as little as possible. If charter schools are sensitive to special ed participation, that’s great. The district, on the other hand, has made it clear that special ed is no priority at all with its recent strategic plan.

The district has access to statewide safety net funds to cover high cost students, do charter schools have that same funding source? I hope so. The district has for years been so unaccountable with its records and its operations that nobody is responsible for securing safety net funds. It’s a whole lot easier to just blame the kids and raise an underfunded flag.

Another SPED

Anonymous said…
Eli, I'm doing my best to decipher your meaning among your word salad above, but here's the bottom line: Charter schools MUST take ANY student who enrolls if there is space. There is no application, just an enrollment form, same as any traditional public school. A lottery only kicks in once the school is at capacity --- and that lottery is random (with some sibling preferences). Since there is no application, there are no preferences to accommodate.


P.S. It would be helpful if people educated themselves on Washington charter laws and practices before speculating intent. I know this is a tall order but I ask just the same.
kellie said…
@ Mel,

Tolley/Herdon pushed a narrative that "hurting Cleveland was helping Rainier Beach." That narrative was never accurate and highlights once again a profound lack of institutional memory and understanding of how systems work.

SPS has always had a bad habit of treating students like widgets, with the notion that any student can be assigned to any building. This was really evident during the closures when the "seat analysis" was not even sensitized to either grade bands or regions.

The closures were based on this notion that SPS could close this school and redirect all the enrollment to this location. However, the after analysis showed that only 50% of the students were actually redirected to where SPS wanted them and the other 50% went elsewhere, with the majority leaving the district entirely.

The mechanism has been used for the last 6 six years with waitlist management. Downtown has this idea that if we just don't move the waitlist, then student will go where we tell them. But the data does not support this at all. Since this policy has been implemented, there have been annual enrollment shortfalls.

And guess what ... the shortfalls correspond directly to the parts of town where waitlist movement is most restricted. And the enrollment shortfalls also corresponds directly with schools that have unused capacity. The entire situation is utterly maddening.

Artificially limiting Cleveland's enrollment does not support Rainier Beach. It is a cheap and disrespectful narrative.

kellie said…
@ Another sped,

I am unclear about what you think I am "trying." I am not stating anything about the quality or quantity of sped services. I am simply stating the distinction between the accountability of the charter system and the accountability of a public school district.

Everything you list in your narrative is actually supporting the point I am trying to make.

All of the ways you list that individual schools are able to "move" sped students is also true for charter schools. The distinction is that Public Charter schools "move" these students OUT of the charter and to the local Public School District. A school district can move students within their own network but the student still needs to be served within that network. That's a huge difference.

SPS operates over 100 schools and is by far the largest district in State of Washington. This means that way SPS has to provide services is very different from most districts. Tukwilla has three elementary schools, one middle and one high schools. In that network all services need to be provided at all schools.

It is simply not possible or economically reasonable for every service to be provided at every schools for a network of over 100 schools. SPS schools needs to have some specialization in order to get the same economy of scale that a smaller district gets naturally.

Charter schools may be "sensitive" to the criticisms around sped and Washington Charter Law might be "sensitive" about this as well. It does not mean they are going to do anything about it.

kellie said…
@ Frances,

You may be surprised by the number of people who have a different point of view, because they have taken the time to "educate themselves" on the issue.

There is a huge distinction between overt discrimination and the cherry picking that is being discussed here.

There are 1,000s of way to communicate to a family that they are "not welcome here" and they should "get services elsewhere." Once upon a time, there were multiple SPS elementary schools that were "notorious" for their 100% pass rates on the WASL and other standardized tests. It was an open-secret, that any student who was not going to pass was "counseled out" and passed to another public school.

That practice became much more challenging under the NSAP but it still exists as most sped families will be happy to tell you.

Charter schools simply do not have the same accountability as a school district. Plain and simple. Washington's charter law is better than most but the nature of the accountability is the entire point of charter schools. They operate OUTSIDE of a mandate to serve all students and they routinely pass students back to the public district.

kellie said…
@ Frances,

This story about the closure of SOAR academy in Tacoma, should illustrate both our points.

SOAR is clearly following the mandate as laid out in the law and as you have stated. They are serving 20% sped, 77% FRL, 15% homeless, 80% families of color. AND they are closing their doors because it is not economically viable to operate the school.

Charter schools have that option. If they are not economically viable, they can close their doors and send the students back to the public district. Public district do not have that option. Public districts need to soldier on.

Anonymous said…
Kellie, your statement regarding charter schools operating OUTSIDE of the mandate to serve all students in total BS and based purely on speculation on your part. You have ZERO evidence that that is occurring routinely in charter schools in our state.

These statements of yours are beyond the pale. Present evidence (as Melissa likes to say) or drop this line of accusation.

I won't respond to you further.

kellie said…
@ Francis,

I'm sorry you do not like my evidence, but I presented as straightforwardly as I can.

Charter schools simply operate with a different type of accountability than school districts. That should not be a controversial statement as the different type of accountability was part of the design of charters.

The example of SOAR academy makes that point. SOAR academy did serve a diverse and high needs population, and clearly has followed Washington State Charter Law. SOAR Academy is closing their doors because they are not economically viable. Those same students will now need to return to the public district, regardless of the economics.

The public school district needs to provide a seat, regardless of the economics. Charter schools have options that public schools just do not, including just closing their doors.

The basic math is still the basic math. Charter schools need to be economically viable to survive. The only way to be economically viable is to serve student who make the economics work or to secure substantial outside funding.

Anonymous said…
SPS, apparently, is similarly not economically viable. Isn't that why they need the levies?

kellie said…
@ unclear,


SPS needs to operate, period. No matter how poor the funding. The levies bring things up to "basic" or "functional" or "luxurious" depending on your point of view.
Anonymous said…
Kellie, your claim. Charter schools (which aren’t a system or district) are toxic because they cherry pick and use funding that otherwise would go to the district. To prove your point, you trot out special ed, the old favorite. The fact is, the presumed charter school behavior is exactly what most current neighborhood and option schools do already with respect to special education. Why should parents feel sorry for the poor neighborhood school, that lost students to a charter? If they lose students it is because of their poor service and responsibility. Students with IEPs rejected by charters will also most likely be the same ones rejected by neighborhood schools, especially in Seattle. Those rejected students will be sent to exactly the same locations regardless. So what? This is neither a win nor a loss for the public school system. Also, it really is irrelevant that a charter might go out of business or close. That also happens repeatedly with neighborhood and other public schools. So no. No given public school has to “operate period.” That is patently false. If enrollment is low, that public school closes, just like the charter. Look for Licton Springs to close any day now. Middle College High School? Closed her up already. And where did you get the idea that every student with a disability “gets a seat”? The out of district placements for special ed have ballooned. SPS is totally free to sell off of their special ed obligation, and they do. Not because they have to, or because it’s financially beneficial. In 2007, when there was a credible audit, SPS had like 5 kids total in out of district placements. Now it’s an industry and incredibly pricey. They sell off those students because they don’t care about them at.all. And finally, you seem to know close to nothing about special education. There’s no economies of scale derived from the baroque SPS service delivery model. Programs are underenrolled everywhere. Students move away and empty out entire programs leaving them with one or 2 students, but all the staff. And the transportation system for special ed is absurd. Most sped busses have less than 5 students because well, schools will do anything to fail to serve. Ship them anywhere. Let’s not pretend anything here is done for economies of scale. That is utter bs. Nobody is born with a Focus, Access, Distinct, SM2, SM4, Resource label on their forehead. Those are meaningless inventions, made up to explain why some teacher doesn’t have to teach some kid.

Another Sped
kellie said…
@ Another sped.

Thank you for taking the time to lay out the argument you think I'm making. Once again, I agree with the vast majority of your data points and your logic, but the narrative you have constructed is not mine. So I will try to clarify.

There are four distinct terms with four distinct levels of accountability. These often get conflated but the distinction matters. - Charter operator, charter school, School district and Individual Public School.

I used Tukwilla as an example because the vast majority of districts in the State of Washington look much more like Tukwilla than Seattle. Tukwilla has 5 schools in total - 3 elementary, 1 middle and 1 high school. In that case the accountability of the individual schools the school district is the same. They can't shuffle students between schools because they don't have enough schools to shuffle.

Because they can't shuffle students, their accountability is different, than a district like Seattle with over 100 schools. With over 100 schools it is simply impossible to do everything at every school, in the same way, as if you had only ONE school.

For me, the problem with Charters is that they have the option of shuffling students out of the Charter system and back to the DISTRICT. This is what will happen in Tacoma. SOAR Academy is just going to shut their doors and the Tacoma school DISTRICT needs to manage this.

That is the accountability I am highlighting. For better or worse, a school district has to be prepared for every.single.student that arrives. They don't have to do this well but they do need to provide a seat. Charter schools do not need to do this.

Francis took offense at my comment about "outside the the mandate to serve all students". She interpreted this as some type of speculative discrimination. It was not. It was a simple statement that the PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT has to serve all students. Charter Schools can say "We're full" and pass that student to the school DISTRICT. Charter Schools can close their doors and cease to exist. School Districts do not have the option to say we are full or stop operating.

Within a district, individual schools may be full and enrollment at any specific school may be severely restricted but the DISTRICT has to enroll ALL students. Charter schools and Charter Operators have drastically different types of accountability.

My comments started with my being impressed that there are already 800 students enrolled in Seattle Public Charter Schools and my belief that this number was likely to grow swiftly based on SPS's ongoing and routine disrespect to families and SPS's own choice process which SPS has chosen to disregard. I also stated that I am very glad that families have a choice and SPS is making it very easy for charters to gain market share.

If any charter operator wanted to focus on either resource room services or advanced learning, I am confident they would make a small fortune, and would be very happily received by the many families that have just had enough of SPS.

Anonymous said…
“In that case [Tukwila] the accountability of the individual schools the school district is the same. They can't shuffle students between schools because they don't have enough schools to shuffle. ”

Utter ignorant bs. If Tukwila can serve every student without shuffling them, then so can Seattle. And they should. It is an IDEA mandate. All districts can place students in Utah. You speak as someone who has glibly been shuffled to the top, and that wouldn’t be Sped.

Another Sped
kellie said…
@ Another Sped,

A district with more than 100 schools is different from a district with 5. That is just a simple statement. The systems need to operate differently.

That does not change the IDEA mandate and it does not excuse SPS poor execution of that mandate.

Once again, I am discussing the topic of this thread and the distinction between the accountably of charter schools vs the accountability of a public DISTRICT. SPS poor execution on sped is well documented. Charter schools in Washington are new enough that their execution is not documented.

I am well aware of how sped (and medically fragile) is shuffled to the bottom. I am also very well aware that neighboring districts do a much better job with the same level of resources. I agree with you completely on that topic.

Anonymous said…
“I am discussing the topic of this thread and the distinction between the accountably of charter schools vs the accountability of a public DISTRICT.”

But nobody cares about that. It is not relevant. The only relevant comparison people care about is your basic local or option school vs your theoretical nearby charter. Theoretical, because we don’t have them yet. And we all know neither can be infinitely welcoming. Most writers here simply don’t realize the depth of antagonism and basic injustice many people experience at their local schools. And I don’t mean AL. Will charters be better? I don’t know. I don’t think the charter option needs to be seen as the enemy or as a toxic mooching charlatan.

Another Sped
Anonymous said…
Melissa, please start a thread on the Jan. 30th Board Work Session on community feedback to the draft strategic plan.

kellie said…
@ Another Sped,

Yes, this is not the first time that I have been utterly pedantic about some distinction that "nobody cares about" and "is not relevant."

As I have stated multiple times on this threat, I am not anti-charter. I think the charter conversation is far more nuanced. About 15 years ago, I saw an interview about charter schools with the NAACP. They stated that they didn't think charters really worked and were unlikely to be good for education. BUT that the 2,000 worst schools in America were the same "worst schools" as 10 years ago and 20 years ago and that families should not have to wait for some relief.

I found the honesty and complexity in that statement to be very compelling. Public Charter Schools have already enrolled 800 students in Seattle and I fully expect that number to grow, precisely because of the "depth of antagonism" that you mention.

That said, I still think it is important to be clear that schools DISTRICTS operate under completely different rules and expectations than Charter schools.

Anonymous said…
For the first time this year I'm also seeing families in north Seattle trying for charter enrollment, even with the commute this entails. I think we really are on the verge of a tipping point with charters, which district antagonism toward families is speeding us further toward.

Chicken Little
"They are prohibited by law from discriminating in enrollment based on race, ethnicity, disability, or any other category."

Of course charters are prohibited from all of that. But they also use their applications to figure out who might cost them more and then figure out ways to exit them once they are in. The attrition rate at many charters shows that.

"Also, it really is irrelevant that a charter might go out of business or close. That also happens repeatedly with neighborhood and other public schools. So no. "

Not here it doesn't. Out of just 14 charter schools in what? five years, one has closed and another one is going to.

"Middle College High School? Closed her up already."


"My comments started with my being impressed that there are already 800 students enrolled in Seattle Public Charter Schools and my belief that this number was likely to grow swiftly based on SPS's ongoing and routine disrespect to families and SPS's own choice process which SPS has chosen to disregard. I also stated that I am very glad that families have a choice and SPS is making it very easy for charters to gain market share.

If any charter operator wanted to focus on either resource room services or advanced learning, I am confident they would make a small fortune, and would be very happily received by the many families that have just had enough of SPS."

Yup and yup.

I concur with Kellie and Chicken Little; the district seems to think they are the only game in town - no matter how they treat parents - and are universally beloved.

Chicken Little, I don't think we are quite there as far as a run to charters. I'll expand on this on a separate post but charters are not running as full as they like to advertise.
Anonymous said…
Is it just me, or is Supt Juneau doing a poor job of engaging families? She seems to have been so focused on engaging underrepresented families that she didn’t bother to pay much attention to larger groups—whom she also needs to represent and serve. It almost feels a bit Trumpian, where she’s playing to her perceived base. However, ALL parents want to feel like their students matter—and many will look for ways to leave if they aren’t feeling it. There’s no better way to convert an anti-charter parent into a pro-charter one than to convey that their child’s education really isn’t of concern to the district.

All types
All Types, I think some might say that Juneau is paying attention to families who have felt not heard in the past. That she is targeting very specific groups is good. But there is a weirdness to having just a single meeting on the Strategic Plan in the north end (with the other 7 in the south end) and having it at a church.

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools