Key Facts about Charter Schools in Washington
Charter schools are public schools
A charter school is a free public school, and any child who lives in the charter school’s enrollment area can attend. These schools receive funding based on student enrollment just like traditional public schools.
Charter schools are managed by nonprofit organizations
Charter schools are independently managed public schools operated by qualified nonprofit organizations. In Washington, they are authorized and overseen by the Washington Charter School Commission or by an approved local school board. Priority will be given to schools that serve at-risk populations or students from low-performing schools.
Public charter schools will be held to high academic and accountability standards
Public charter schools are subject to the same academic standards as traditional public schools. They will have strict oversight and public accountability, including annual performance reviews to evaluate their success in improving student outcomes. Schools not meeting the accountability standards will be closed.
Charter schools allow for more flexibility
Public charter schools can set their own schedules (such as offering a longer school day or school year), have more control over their curriculum, budget and staffing decisions, and can offer more customized learning experiences for students. For example, some charter schools focus on STEM education, performing arts, project-based learning, college preparation, career readiness, language immersion, civic engagement, global awareness or meeting the needs of autistic students – to name a few.
Washington is the 42nd state to have public charter schools
Washington’s charter school law was carefully designed to incorporate what other states have learned in 20 years of experience with public charter schools and we modeled our law on the best of what works in other states. That’s why the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked Washington’s law as the third strongest in the nation.
Why do we need charter schools in Washington?
Voters confirmed that they want more options for Washington’s children – options that give every child the opportunity to succeed and be prepared for college and their careers. The sad reality today is that not every Washington state student gets these opportunities. In fact:
- Just 56% of seventh-graders in Washington are reading at grade level. For low-income students and students of color, more than half are not reading at grade level.
- Fewer than half of 10th-graders – and about one-quarter of low income 10th-graders – are at grade level for math and science.
- 24% of our students are not graduating on time from high school. For Native American, Pacific Islander and limited English proficient students, the odds of dropping out are 1 in 3.
- Among states with a high proportion of technology companies, we are last in the number of high school graduates who move directly to college.
And yet, by 2018, close to 70 percent of jobs in the Washington state will require a college degree or credential. Every child deserves to have access to these careers – to succeed in work and life. As a community, we have more work to do to ensure this is a reality for our children.
Charter schools are only one piece of the puzzle
When district schools, charter schools, policymakers, parents and the larger community work together, we can create great schools that help all students succeed.
How are charter schools authorized and approved?
In Washington state, charter schools may be authorized through local school boards or through the new Washington State Charter School Commission, an independent state agency. The Washington State Board of Education approves the local school boards that can authorize charters and oversees the performance and effectiveness of all charter schools in the state.
A board of directors will govern each public charter school. The school must create a performance framework that addresses student achievement, financial performance, and board performance. An authorizer may revoke a school’s charter if the school does not meet its performance contract.
What is the timeline for charter school rules and implementation?
The State Board of Education is in its final stages of adopting rules for charter school authorizers. Updates on the rulemaking process can be found at www.sbe.wa.gov/charters.php. On April, 13 school district boards submitted letters of intent to apply to be charter school authorizers. The school board applications will be due July 1, 2013. By September 12, 2013, the State Board of Education will announce which districts will be charter school authorizers for 2014-15.
Do charter schools steal money from district public schools?
Charter schools do not take money from other district public schools. Charter school funding follows the student, no matter where they enroll. A child enrolling in a charter school will have the same financial impact as a family moving to a new neighborhood.