September 11, 2013 in City

Spokane district approved to OK charter schools

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane Public Schools is the first district in Washington to become a charter school authorizer after the state Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to approve its application.

The district was the only one that submitted an application by the July 1 deadline.

Since before Initiative 1240’s final tally in November, Spokane Public Schools has pushed to become a charter school authorizer. Superintendent Shelley Redinger says the district needs to be a leader or choosing the right charter school for the district will be out of its control.

Charter schools are nontraditional specialty schools operating under a contract that outlines powers, responsibilities and performance expectations. The schools will still be public, each governed by its own board, and often focus on a particular study area or learning method.

The charter will receive state monies directly for the students who attend the school.

“If there’s no partnership, and they find their own facility and provide their own transportation, then the district gets no money,” said Steven Gering, Spokane Public Schools’ chief academic officer.

“They are independent schools with more flexibility and more accountability,” Gering said. If the charter schools don’t meet their contractual agreements, the district doesn’t have to renew their contracts, he said.

Up to 40 charter schools could be approved over the next five years, authorized by the state Charter Commission or by districts approved by the state Board of Education.

Teachers unions across Washington opposed the initiative, saying it diverts money from the traditional schools.

The Washington Education Association filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court this summer asking that the law be overturned.

Meanwhile districts and state agencies are moving forward to implement the law.

Spokane Public Schools has until Sept. 22 to issue an Request for Proposals, and all applications to establish a charter school within the district will be due by Nov. 22. District officials then have until Feb. 24 to accept or decline the proposals.

It’s possible Spokane Public Schools could approve more than one application, Redinger said. Under the law, only eight per year can be approved statewide.

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