EVERETT — Washington officials are preparing to solicit applications for the state’s first charter schools, issuing guidance this week on how schools will be authorized and evaluated.
The Washington Charter School Commission approved 30 pages of rules Thursday, requiring applicants to provide information about school facilities, financing and management, The Daily Herald reported. Commissioners included language that encourages innovative curriculum but deters experimentation with untested methods of instruction.
Washington voters agreed last year to legalize charter schools, allowing the development of no more than 40 such schools over a five-year period.
Now that the rules have been approved, the commission plans to issue a request for proposals next month, with applications due by Nov. 22. Commissioners would then conduct public hearings on the applications before making decisions in February.
Education and business professionals will provide recommendations to the panel about the charter school applications, although commissioners will not be bound to follow those ideas.
Charter school opponents have challenged the constitutionality of the law and have filed a lawsuit to halt it. The opponents argue that the system would improperly divert public school dollars to private organizations that are not subject to voter control.
Proponents contend that the charter schools can provide minority and low-income students with an improved learning environment that can help close the achievement gap.
Last year’s initiative campaign for charter schools got large support from leaders in the state’s tech industry, including $3 million from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and $1.5 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
With the vote, Washington became the 42nd state to allow charter schools.