This blog originally appeared in Seattle’s Child
Last November, Washington voters approved an initiative that allows the creation of up to 40 public charter schools over five years. The first public charter schools in Washington will likely open for the 2014-15 school year.
This is great news for Washington’s students, especially those for whom traditional public schools are not working. Charter schools will provide an opportunity for kids who need a change of direction and a different learning environment, and will be a potential lifeline for parents looking for another public school option for their student’s education.
Charter schools are publicly funded based on student enrollment, free, and open to all students without restriction, and are authorized and overseen by local school boards or a state commission. Public charter schools are independently operated and have the flexibility to tailor curriculum, school hours, budgets, and staffing to the needs of the students and neighborhoods they serve. Washington is the 42nd state to implement charter schools.
In other states that have charter schools, communities, families, and teachers have embraced the schools for their flexibility and focus on student achievement.
“There’s a lot of freedom, there’s a lot of energy, and there’s a lot of change that’s happening within charter schools that excites me as a teacher,” said Joel Key, who has taught both in a traditional public school and in a charter school in California. “I have seen students succeed and grow in ways that have been incredibly inspiring to me and to the students’ families.”
Since the law was passed in November, the state has made steps toward implementation. In March, Gov. Jay Inslee, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, and House Speaker Frank Chopp announced their appointments to the state’s Charter School Commission. The nine members named have been appointed to oversee the charter school system, in addition to acting as an authorizing body for charter school applicants in districts that have not become authorizers themselves.
The State Board of Education (SBE) has also been hard at work making sure that the new charter law is implemented faithfully. SBE is tasked with creating an annual application process and timeline for those seeking to start a charter school in Washington.
As progress continues toward opening high quality charter schools in Washington state, the focus must be on ensuring that the new charter law is implemented with fidelity and the highest degree of accountability.
To learn more, visit the Washington Coalition for Public Charter Schools website.