Questions and Answers About The Washington Public Charter Schools Law
Q: What are charter schools?
Charter schools are independently managed public schools that are operated by approved nonprofit organizations. They do not charge tuition, are open to all students and receive funding based on student enrollment just like traditional public schools.
Public charter schools are subject to the same academic standards as traditional public schools and hold teachers to the same certification requirements as other public schools do.
Public charter schools, however, are free from many other regulations, so they have more flexibility to set curriculum and budgets, hire and fire teachers and staff, and offer more customized learning experiences for students. Most other states have public charter schools – Washington joined those states when voters passed Initiative 1240.
Q: What does the November 2012 voter approved charter school initiative actually do?
This measure allows up to 40 public charter schools in Washington State over a five-year period. These schools will be subject to strict oversight and public accountability, including annual performance reviews to evaluate their success in improving student outcomes and an evaluation at the end of the five-year period to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed.
Q. Why are charter schools needed 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.
- Of the students who do move directly to college, too many are unprepared for college-level work: Close to 50% are enrolled in pre-college (remedial) math.
- High school dropouts are three times more likely to be unemployed than college graduates.
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.