charter schools

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Washington state's charter schools will get one last regular infusion of state money — for their November operating expenses — before a state Supreme Court decision shutting off their current funding source takes effect next month, state education officials confirmed this week.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

The future of Washington state's charter schools may be up in the air, but for now, they are still receiving public funding.

Though the state Supreme Court ruled last month charter schools violate Washington’s constitution, state education officials sent regular funding payments to the schools at the end of September, according to Tom Franta, CEO of the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

photograph provided by Washington's Office of the Secretary of State

Most people do not spend a lot of time thinking about our state constitution.  But, perhaps they should. Recent Washington Supreme Court decisions, including one about charter schools, show how this 126-year-old document still affects our lives.

KPLU Law and Justice Reporter Paula Wissel talks with with University of Washington law professor Hugh Spitzer. He co-wrote what many consider the definitive book on the state constitution.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The state Supreme Court will give advocates another month to file a response to justices' recent ruling striking down Washington's charter school law.  The extension likely means the charter schools can continue receiving public dollars through much of October.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A network of donors will step up if necessary to keep Washington state's nine charter schools open through the school year, a leading charter advocate said Tuesday, even if public dollars stop flowing in the wake of a state Supreme Court decision voiding Washington's charter school law.

Tom Franta, who heads the Washington State Charter Schools Association, said his organization has reached out to a network of something like 50 donors — whom Franta declined to identify — that can help cover the estimated $14 million necessary to cover all nine schools' operating costs through the end of the year.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

The Washington Supreme Court has ruled the state's voter-approved charter-school law unconstitutional.

In a 6-3 ruling issued late Friday afternoon, the high court said that charter schools do not qualify as common, public schools and cannot receive public funding.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Washington state's first charter school is getting another second chance.

State charter commission members voted 4-3 against ending public funding for Seattle's First Place Scholars school Thursday afternoon, saying new leadership had made great strides to stabilize the school after its first chaotic months in operation.

They did so despite lingering doubts about whether the school would have enough cash to remain open into next school year — concerns commissioners had ordered school leaders to address in an ultimatum two weeks ago.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

State officials issued an ultimatum to Seattle's First Place Scholars charter school on Wednesday: Fix a host of academic and financial problems within two weeks or lose public funding.

Specifically, First Place staff must provide a "viable expense budget"  by June 15, along with detailed evidence of how the school is serving its English language learners and students receiving special education services, outlined the warning letter issued by the Washington State Charter School Commission.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle School Board president Sherry Carr would rather Washington had not entered the charter school game in the first place. But eventually, she says the state's largest district may have to decide whether it wants to play.

Only one Washington school district, Spokane, currently decides whether to allow applicants to start charter schools within its boundaries and oversees their operations once they open; they're the state's only local "charter authorizer" — for now.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

The process of vetting new charter schools will look different during the next round of applications, the head of the Washington State Charter School Commission has now said.

It's one of the lessons the commission says it's learned as it raises new questions about the academic and financial health of Seattle's First Place Scholars school, the first charter to open its doors in Washington.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A longtime Seattle private school will re-open its doors Wednesday as a charter school, the first to do so under a new state law that lets nonprofit organizations use state dollars to run public schools.

The conversion of First Place Scholars School is just the beginning of Washington's experiment with charter schools, which voters set in motion by passing a closely-contested initiative allowing for up to 40 charters to open statewide before 2019.

cdsessums / Flickr

The first charter school in Washington state will open in Spokane next year. 

Pride Prep was chosen from a pool of three applicants by the board of Spokane Public Schools on Wednesday. Brenda McDonald, a former middle school principal, will run the school for sixth through 12th graders. The school will focus on math and science, and have both a longer school day — eight hours instead of six — as well as a longer school year.

Those wanting to open up a charter school in the Seattle and Tacoma areas will be making public presentations over the next week and a half.

The state’s Charter School Commission is holding six public forums, which will help the commission decide which schools will open over the next two years.

cdsessums / Flickr

A King County judge has ruled parts of the state’s charter school law are unconstitutional. But the nuances of the ruling have both supporters and opponents of charter schools declaring victory.  

If it’s confusing why both sides fighting something in court would be happy, it has to do with how you read what King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel decided.

Washington state's new Charter School Commission has opened the statewide application process for charter schools.

The first step in the process is an Oct. 22 deadline for submitting a letter of intent to apply to open a charter school.

Washington voters said yes last November to allowing a limited number of charter schools, and now we know the names of the people who will select most of them. The Washington Charter School Commission is charged with setting criteria for new charter schools, and choosing which ones to authorize (Some school districts will eventually be able to do that, too).

The campaign to bring charter schools to Washington has now raised $10.8 million in cash contributions.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Some prominent education officials, including the top dogs in Seattle and in Washington State, want voters to reject a ballot measure that would allow up to 40 charter schools in Washington. Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn is announcing his opposition to Initiative 1240 Thursday morning, the day after Seattle School Board members voted unanimously to oppose the ballot measure. Seattle Superintendent Jose Banda recently reiterated his personal disapproval of the initiative as well.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle’s new superintendent of schools won’t be voting for the charter schools initiative on the November’s ballot. He doesn’t care much for “site-based management” that gives lots of autonomy to individual schools and he’s leery of letting schools more easily opt out of controversial curricula, such as “discovery math.”

Backers of a measure to allow charter schools in Washington are scheduled to turn in their petition signatures Friday. Meanwhile, a pilot project designed in part to short-circuit the argument for charter schools was blocked Thursday in court.