WSSDA is a great source of information particularly during the legislative session.

The following is an update from the Senate hearing of the charter school bill.

Senate committee hears charter school bill

January 18, 2012

Braving the winter wonderland conditions that have dumped what seems like a foot of snow on Olympia, WSSDA President Mary Fertakis (Tukwila School District) testified today in opposition to SB 6202 as written.

SB 6202 authorizes charter schools operated independently of locally elected school boards through a complex system of authorities and applicants. The bill also sets up state-takeover of the lowest persistently performing schools (no less than 10 and no more than 20 a year).

Fertakis shared with the committee that WSSDA has long supported alternative and non-traditional schools operated under the jurisdiction of locally elected school boards.

In her testimony, Fertakis pointed out the association’s concerns that the bill may fall short of its stated objective to serve students who struggle to achieve due to poverty, racial and ethnic diversity, and special needs. She referenced Section 105 of the bill, which allows charter schools to be set up for educationally disadvantaged students, but noted that the bill also allows charter schools to be set up around a special emphasis, theme, or concept that do not have to serve educationally disadvantaged students, which is the stated purpose of the bill.

The bill caps the number of charter schools to 10 a year, with a majority “reserved” for schools serving educationally disadvantaged students. However, as Fertakis noted, the bill (Section 115) is clear that if the reserve is not met, the State Board of Education must allow implementation of other charters, regardless of whether they serve educationally disadvantaged students.

Her suggestion? If the Legislature continues to pursue the bill, then all 10 of the charter schools should be focused solely on our most struggling students.

Fertakis told the committee the bill goes too far, too fast. She said if it was the Legislature’s intent to pass a bill authorizing charter schools in Washington, then a decision of that magnitude should be sent to the people for a vote. This is particularly important when charter schools will be using public monies without locally elected oversight.

“Let the people decide if this is the right time and the right tool to best serve our students,” Fertakis concluded.

Shawn Lewis, Chief Financial Officer at OSPI, speaking on behalf of Superintendent Randy Dorn, thanked the bill sponsors for a bill that would encourage innovation and address issues with our persistently low-achieving schools. “We want to encourage more of these types of innovations,” he said.

However, Lewis said that Dorn did not support the bill, and believed it should go to vote of the people. If voters approve the concept, then Lewis said OSPI should be the entity overseeing all public schools in the state, including charter schools.

OSPI has placed a fiscal impact of about $33 million a biennium to implement the bill, starting in the 2013-15 biennium. For the current biennium, the fiscal note lists about $1.2 million to get started. The preliminary fiscal note is here.

Shall I repeat that part?…$33M a biennium.


Post Script:

Please contact the following committee members and let them know your thoughts and opinions on charter schools in the state of Washington.

The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee members are: