With the opening of Washington’s first charter school likely 15 months away, more dollars from Seattle’s tech economy are flowing toward groups that want to change the way the state thinks about public schools.
In November, Washington became the 42nd state to allow the independent public schools. The initiative campaign succeeded in part because of money from Seattle’s tech economy – Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates donated $3 million, outside his charitable foundation, first for the signature gathering effort and later to promote the initiative. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen donated $1.5 million.
The voter-approved plan would open as many as 40 charter schools over five years.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has now pledged nearly $800,000 to start a new charter school incubator to give charter schools extra help with start-up planning. Run by the League of Education Voters, the Charter Schools Association will begin by helping groups that want to start a charter school write their application.
Eventually the group also hopes provide leadership training and advocate for charter schools in Washington state government, said Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters. Charter school incubators like this new Washington group are common in other states where the schools are gaining a foothold, experts say.
The Gates money was a start-up grant to get the organization going, but Korsmo expects the organization will get money from other sources, including out-of-state foundations.