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News / Northwest

Russell Wilson-backed charter school agrees to enforcement plan with Washington

By Dahlia Bazzaz, The Seattle Times
Published: April 23, 2024, 6:11pm

SEATTLE — Through June 2025, Why Not You Academy charter school will have to regularly show the state that it has the enrollment and recruitment chops to survive financially.

Under a corrective action plan finalized between the state and the South King County school last week, Why Not You must also commit to fundraising goals and demonstrate it is actively engaging its families.

The school saw enrollment drop by more than a third after a turbulent start to the school year. Dozens of families and staff members alleged the school culture was toxic and raised concerns about educational quality and safety, a February Seattle Times investigation reported. The school year began with 220 students enrolled. The latest data show the number at just above 140.

Financial stability is a requirement for all charter schools in Washington. Like traditional public schools, enrollment determines how much each school receives in funding from the state. The Washington State Charter School Commission, the main oversight and enforcement agency for most of the state’s charter schools, imposed the corrective plan because it determined the financial and enrollment status of the school was in violation of that requirement.

“We have a solid plan in place to address the enrollment and fundraising concerns as outlined in our Corrective Action Plan,” Why Not You Academy CEO Abigail O’Neal wrote in an emailed statement. “WNYA is working closely with OSPI [Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction] and our families, and we feel confident in our ability to meet or exceed our goals, while maintaining our focus on serving students well.”

Earlier this month, the school estimated it needed around 200 students to remain viable through the next school year.

Under the plan, the school must submit a weekly enrollment report through September and craft a budget that shows financial sustainability through the 2028-29 school year. Through June 2025, it must also send the commission monthly reports of its recruitment and fundraising efforts.

The school opened in 2021 with the help of a $1.65 million donation from ex-Seahawks player Russell Wilson through his charity organization, the Why Not You Foundation. He and Grammy Award-winning artist Ciara, his wife, appear on the school’s website as co-founders.

The school received its final installment of that money this school year.