Frequently Asked Questions

What are charter schools?

Charter schools are:
--Public schools, open to all children.
--Created & run by concerned parents & certified teachers.
--Distinguished by high levels of autonomy and accountability.
--Successfully educating almost 2,000,000 students
      in over 5,000 charter schools across the country.

42 states have charter school laws and WASHINGTON STATE is now one of them!
Although the Washington Legislature passed a charter school law in March 2004, labor unions and other charter school opponents persuaded a majority of voters to overturn the law in a referendum that was decided in the November 2004 election. As a result, bringing the CHOICE of charter public schools to WA required the passage of new legislation authorizing charter schools, either by the Legislature or, through the initiative process, by the People. This took place during the 2012 General Elections when Charter schools narrowly won approval in Washington!
USA map showing the 40 states that allow charter schools

Why do we need charter schools 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.
And yet, by 2018, close to 70 percent of jobs in 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.

How are charter schools authorized and approved?
In Washington state, charter schools may be authorized through local school boards or through the new Washington State Charter School Commission, an independent state agency. The Washington State Board of Education approves the local school boards that can authorize charters.
A board of directors will govern each public charter school. The school must create a performance framework that addresses student achievement, financial performance, and board performance. An authorizer may revoke a school’s charter if the school does not meet its performance contract.

What is the timeline for charter school rules and implementation?
The State Board of Education has adopted rules for charter school authorizers, which can be found at www.sbe.wa.gov/charters.php. The Spokane School District was the first to apply to be a charter school authorizer by the July 1 deadline. By September 12, the State Board of Education will announce whether Spokane will be an authorizer for 2014-15. Nonprofits interested in opening a charter school must submit applications to an approved authorizer by November 22. View additional details at www.wacharters.org/get-the-facts.

How are public charter schools funded?
Public charter schools are funded based on student enrollment, just like other public schools. Students that attend charter schools will receive the same state and federal funding as their peers in traditional public schools.

Credit: Washington State Charter Schools Association