Protecting Flexibility and Accountability for Washington’s Charter Schools

Jun 9, 2015 | Blog, Updates

In 2012, voters in Washington approved the addition of public charter schools to give families access to additional public school options to meet the diverse needs of their children and communities. Public charter schools are given more flexibility to customize their teaching methods to improve student learning. In exchange, they are held more accountable for student success.

This combination—more flexibility in exchange for stronger accountability—ensures that students are getting the best learning environment possible and are put on a path to success beyond high school.

A few weeks ago, the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) released a new set of proposed rules impacting public charter schools. The goal—according to OSPI—was to clarify and formalize fiscal and reporting rules to ensure charter schools receive accurate and timely payment from OSPI.

However, WA Charters expressed concern about some of the language OSPI used in the draft rules. In particular, we sought clarification on two rules that would require charter schools to contract with Educational Service Districts (ESDs) in their first year and maintain certain staffing ratios, which might not account for support from teacher assistants or other staff.

In keeping with the law—rated as the fourth strongest in the nation—public charter schools should have the flexibility to select the organizations whose services best meet the needs of their students and teachers. We should also be more focused on ensuring charter schools meet standards for student outcomes, not mandating staffing levels.

Upon reviewing the rules, we immediately reached out to OSPI to share our concerns. Here is the good news: OSPI staff members have been very collaborative and open to our feedback throughout the rulemaking process. In fact, OSPI staff have indicated that they will be revising and re-releasing the proposed rules and extending the deadline for public comment to allow interested stakeholders like WA Charters and charter school leaders to weigh in.

In order for public schools to be successful, we all need to be in this together—OSPI, school leaders, teachers, families, and public and private partners. We are optimistic that the collaborative relationship between WA Charters and OSPI will result in revised rules that give charter schools the flexibility they need to personalize learning to meet their students’ needs and interests.