Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Charter school interest slows . . .

Since passage of the charter school initiative and implementation of the commission to provide guidance and direction, thirteen public school districts indicated an interest in becoming a charter school authorizer.  The date for submitting applications to the State School Board has passed and only one of the thirteen applied; Spokane School District.

What is causing the others to delay their applications?  Liv Finne at the Washington Policy Center, an early charter supporter, suggests it could be action by WSSDA, the state school directors.

The fall-off in charter school interest among school districts dates from a meeting held June 4th at the Olympia offices of the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA), the statewide professional association of school board members.

The school board association was a major player last year in the unsuccessful effort to defeat Initiative 1240. The organization passed a resolution urging a “no” vote and endorsed the “No on Charters 1240” campaign. In a September statement WSSDA president Mary Fertakis called the creation of a state charter school commission “troubling” and expressed opposition to allowing local school boards to open charter schools.

The June 4th meeting was also attended by school district officials, charter school activists and representatives of the powerful Washington Education Association union. In the weeks following the meeting, officials from all but one of the school districts that attended concluded they will delay seeking to open a charter school in their communities. The next deadline for interested districts is October 1, 2013.

Another reason for the delays shared in the article could be the tight timeline for putting the application together that precluded smaller districts from applying.  Are there other reasons?  Anything I would offer would be assumptions with no basis in fact, but I can't believe that the WSSDA meeting would have resulted in the large number of delays during this first application period.  My sense was that many of the thirteen wanted to be one of the first, if not the first, to authorize a charter school.  It will be interesting to watch what happens between now and the next deadline on October 1st.

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