Spokane OKs first charter school in Washington

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SPOKANE — The first charter school in Washington has been approved for a fall 2015 opening in Spokane.

The Spokane Public Schools board approved the application Wednesday for Pride Prep.

Pride Prep is led by former Spokane middle school principal Brenda McDonald who says it will take middle and high school students who are in danger of failing and prepare them for college.

It plans to open in the fall 2015 with sixth- and seventh-graders and add another grade level every year. The location is yet to be determined.

"This marks a significant day in expanding public educational options for our community, as well as the state," said Jeff Bierman, school board president, in a statement.

State voters in 2012 approved a charter school measure that allows up to 40 independent public schools to open over five years.

Spokane Public Schools is the first to decide on a charter school since voters approved the law.

The Washington State Charter Schools Commission, which is running a parallel process involving many more applicants and public hearings, is expected to announce its decision about its first charters at a Jan. 30 meeting in Seattle.

The statewide process is in the midst of public hearings around the state for the 19 other organizations that have expressed interest in opening a charter school in Washington state.

The Spokane School District was the only other organization other than the state commission approved for authorizing charter schools in this first round.

No other school districts have applied to become authorizers since Spokane applied. The State Board of Education runs this part of the charter system.

The next deadline for school districts would be Oct. 1, when they would need to file a letter of intent to apply to become an authorizer.

Although many of the first charter applications note a desire to open schools in fall 2015, the first charters in Washington state could open as early as fall 2014.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit on the constitutionality of charter schools is working its way through Washington state courts. In December, a King County Superior Court Judge found that part of the new charter law violates the state Constitution.

Proponents of the schools do not expect that decision to affect the implementation of the schools, although it may prevent them from accessing some state public school dollars.

Both proponents and opponents of the new public schools expect the state Supreme Court to rule on this case eventually.