Board to work on charter school rules

Application process, timelines, evaluation criteria to be set



TUMWATER — The Washington State Board of Education prepared Wednesday to take the next step toward opening the state’s first charter schools.

The board planned to discuss draft rules for authorizing and establishing charter schools during its monthly meeting. The rules will establish an annual application and approval process and timelines for local school boards that want to authorize charter schools.

The rules also will set criteria for evaluating groups that want to open charter schools and tracking their progress once they open.

In November, voters approved adding charter schools to the mix of public schools in Washington. The state board has been given some oversight over the system. The charter initiative also established a Charter School Commission to manage other parts of the process.

Before discussing its draft rules, the board heard an outside expert on charter school authorizing.

Set for success

Alex Medler, vice president of policy and advocacy for the National Association of Charter Schools, said Washington’s new charter law sets the state up for success because of its language around authorization and oversight.

“We look forward to seeing what you do in this work,” Medler said. He offered to continue to help the state and to connect Washington officials with people experienced at working with charter schools from other states.

There are about 6,000 charter schools across the nation, overseen by about 1,000 authorizers, the majority of which are school districts.

Among other suggestions, Medler advised the board to write its regulations with failures in mind, so the state will efficiently and painlessly close schools that are not meeting their goals.

The state board will be responsible for deciding whether to allow local school boards to approve charter contracts.

“You should never think you have to start from scratch,” Medler said.