Measuring Up

 



Washington

TOTAL SCORE:
162 out of 228

Rank: 6 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  2012
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  0
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  0

Washington did not pass any legislation in 2013 that affected its score and ranking.

Washington’s score increased from 161 points in 2013 to 162 points this year.  The score changed to account for a change in our methodology for Component #16 (Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access) in the 2013 report.

Its ranking went from #3 to #6.  This drop had more to do with aggressive changes made in other states than with any steps backward in Washington.

Washington’s relatively new law allows multiple authorizers (via local school districts and a new statewide authorizer), is well aligned with the model law’s four quality control components (Components #6 through #9), and provided operational autonomy to charter schools.  In addition, while it appears that the law has many of the model law provisions related to equitable operational funding, there is no evidence yet of the actual level of equity because the law just passed.

The two major weaknesses of the law include a cap of 40 charter schools during the initial five years that it is in effect and a relatively small number of provisions for supporting charters’ facilities needs.

Do Washington's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Washington's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Statute allows a total of 40 charter schools, of which no more than eight may be approved each year during the initial five years, with any unused slots rolling forward.

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1A. No limits are placed on the number of public charter schools or students (and no geographic limits).

1B. If caps exist, adequate room for growth.

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Washington law allows new start-ups, public school conversions, and virtual schools.

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2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Statute creates the Washington Charter School Commission, to which charter proposals for schools anywhere in the state can be directly submitted.

In addition, statute allows any local school board to seek approval to become an authorizer from the state board of education. There is some authorizing activity by the Washington Charter School Commission but little authorizing activity by local school boards.

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3A. The state allows two or more authorizing options (e.g., school districts and a state charter schools commission) for each applicant with direct application to each authorizer.

4. Authorizer & Overall Program Accountability System Required

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Statute requires local school boards to seek approval from the state board of education prior to becoming an authorizer.

State law requires authorizers to submit an annual report to the state board of education that summarizes their authorizing activities as well as the performance of their charter portfolio.

State law makes the state board of education responsible for overseeing the performance and effectiveness of all local school board authorizers via an approval and oversight process detailed in statute. It allows the state board of education to terminate a local school board’s contract to approve schools. The legislature and the governor can remove the ability of the Washington Charter School Commission to continue authorizing (the entities that gave it that authority).

The law requires the state board to submit an annual report that includes details such as the performance of charter schools compared to comparable groups of students in non-charter schools.

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4A. At least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state.

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities.

N/A

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report, which summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

4D. A regular review process by authorizer oversight body.

4E. Authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

4F. Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Statute requires the state board of education to establish a statewide formula for an authorizer oversight fee, which is to be calculated as a percentage of the state operating funding provided to charters. It provides that this amount may not be more than 4% and that it may involve a sliding scale that takes into consideration such factors as the number of schools per authorizer and the number of years that an authorizer has been operating. The law requires authorizers to separately account for such fees and report them annually to the state board of education.

Statute allows authorizers to provide separately contracted, fee-based services in addition to their oversight responsibilities, but such fees cannot cost more than market rates and cannot be required as a condition of being approved.

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5A. Adequate funding from authorizing fees (or other sources).

5B. Guaranteed funding from authorizing fees (or from sources not subject to annual legislative appropriations).

5C. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

5D. Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.

5E. Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

6. Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Statute requires application elements for all schools and additional elements for conversion schools, those using educational service providers, and replications. It does not include additional application elements specific to virtual schools.

Statute requires authorizers to issue requests for proposals and to conduct a thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and public meeting. It also requires authorizers to make all charter approval or denial decisions in a public meeting and to state reasons for denials in writing.

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6A. Application elements for all schools.

6B. Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

6C. Additional application elements specific to virtual schools.

6D. Additional application elements specific when using educational service providers.

6E. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6F. Authorizer-issued request for proposals (including application requirements and approval criteria).

6G. Thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6H. All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

7. Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Statute defines a charter contract to be a fixed term, renewable contract between a charter school board and an authorizer that outlines the roles, powers, responsibilities, and performance expectations for each party. It also requires such contracts to contain a performance framework that details the academic and operational performance indicators, including all those included in the model law.

The initial contract must be granted for a term of five years.

The law does not require charters to include requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools.

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7A. Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.

7B. Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. Defining academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged, based on a performance framework that includes measures and metrics for, at a minimum, student academic proficiency and growth, achievement gaps, attendance, recurrent enrollment, postsecondary readiness (high schools), financial performance, and board stewardship (including compliance).

7D. Providing an initial term of five operating years (or a longer term with periodic high-stakes reviews.

7E. Including requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools, if applicable.

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Statute requires that authorizers collect and analyze data to support ongoing evaluation according to the performance framework in the charter contract, including financial accountability.

State law provides authorizers with specific authority to conduct oversight activities needed to fulfill its responsibilities.

State law requires each authorizer to submit an annual report to the state board of education that includes the academic and financial performance of all their operating charter schools; however, they are not specifically required to produce an annual school performance report for each school.

Statute requires authorizers to notify their schools of any perceived problems and provide them with reasonable opportunity for the school to remedy the problem.

Statute allows authorizers to take appropriate corrective actions short of revocation as needed.

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8A. The collection and analysis of student outcome data at least annually by authorizers (consistent with performance framework outlined in the contract).

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct or require oversight activities.

8D. Annual school performance reports which are made public.

8E. Authorizer notification to their schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

8F. Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

9. Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal, and Revocation Decisions

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Statute requires authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports and requires schools seeking renewal to apply for it using renewal application guidance provided by the authorizer.

State law requires authorizers to have clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal decisions and to base decisions on evidence in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract. Statute notes that a given charter may not be renewed if, at the time of the renewal application, the school’s performance falls in the bottom quartile of schools on the state’s accountability index unless the school demonstrates exceptional circumstances that the authorizer finds justifiable.

Statute requires charter contract renewals to be for five-year terms, although it allows the authorizer to vary the terms based on the particular circumstances of a charter school.

State law requires authorizers to provide schools with timely notification of potential revocation and due process, including the requirement to conduct a public hearing. It requires all charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions be made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

Statute requires authorizers to develop a charter school termination protocol to ensure timely notification to parents, orderly transition of students and student records, and proper disposition of public funds, property, and assets.

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9A. Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

9B. Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.

9C. Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

9D. Clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9E. Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract (in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract).

9F. Authorizer authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9G. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

9H. Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).

9I. All charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

9J. Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

10. Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Washington statute allows for non-profit educational service providers (ESPs) to provide substantial educational services, management services, or both, but specifically states that these must be non-profit entities.

For those schools proposing to use such ESPs, state law requires them to include in their charter application evidence of the ESP’s success in serving student populations similar to their targeted population and evidence of past performance and their capacity for growth.

Within their application, statute requires them to provide a term sheet setting forth the proposed duration of the service contract, including things like the roles and responsibilities of the school board and the service provider, the scope of services, the performance evaluation measures and timelines, the compensation structure, the methods of contract oversight and performance, and the conditions for renewal and termination of the contract.

Statute provides that school governing boards operate as entities completely independent of any educational service provider.

Statute also requires applications to disclose and explain any existing or potential conflicts of interest between the charter school board and the proposed service provider.

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10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and non-profit) explicitly allowed to operate all or parts of schools.

10B. The charter application requires 1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, including documentation of academic achievement and (if applicable) school management success; and 2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.

10C. A performance contract is required between the independent public charter school board and the ESP, setting forth material terms including but not limited to: performance evaluation measures; methods of contract oversight and enforcement by the charter school board; compensation structure and all fees to be paid to the ESP; and conditions for contract renewal and termination.

10D. The material terms of the ESP performance contract must be approved by the authorizer prior to charter approval.

10E. School governing boards operating as entities completely independent of any educational service provider (e.g., must retain independent oversight authority of their charter schools, and cannot give away their authority via contract).

10F. Existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Public Charter School Boards

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Statute describes charter schools as independently managed public schools operated by qualified nonprofit organizations. It provides that such schools function as a local education agency and are governed by a board of directors appointed or selected under the terms of their charter application. It states that such boards have clear statutory authority to operate a fiscally and legally autonomous school, including things like receiving and disbursing funds and entering into contracts.

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11A. Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds, incur debt, and pledge, assign or encumber assets as collateral).

11B. Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).

11C. School governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Washington law provides that charter schools are open to all students and that students must be selected by lottery if more students apply than a school can accommodate.

It requires conversions schools to provide sufficient capacity to enroll all students who wish to remain in the school. In addition, it requires all charter schools to give enrollment preference to siblings of already enrolled students.

It does not require enrollment preferences for prior year students within chartered schools and does not provide optional enrollment for preferences for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees.

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12A. Open enrollment to any student in the state.

12B. Lottery requirements.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, siblings of enrolled students enrolled at a charter school.

12D. Optional enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.

13. Automatic Exemptions from Many State and District Laws and Regulations

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Statute indicates that charter schools must comply with all state statutes and rules made applicable to the charter school in the schools’ charter contract and are subject only to the specific state statutes and rules identified in the charter law. It states that such schools are not subject to and are exempt from all other state statutes and rules applicable to school districts and school district boards. It also provides that they are also exempt from all school district policies except those made applicable in the school’s charter contract.

Charter schools are not exempt from the state teacher certification requirements, except they may hire non-certificated instructional staff of unusual competence and in exceptional cases.

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13A. Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.

13B. Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

14. Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

State law provides that charter schools are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements. Statute indicates that any bargaining units established at a charter school must be limited to employees working in the school and must be separate from other bargaining units in school districts, educational service districts, or institutions of higher education.

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14A. Charter schools authorized by non-local board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.

14B. Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

15. Multischool Charter Contracts and/or Multicharter Contract Boards Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Statute provides that a single charter contract may govern one or more charter schools and that a single charter school board may hold one or more charter contracts. It also provides that each school must be separate and distinct from any others and must report its performance as separate schools, being held independently accountable for its performance.

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15A. Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

Statute notes that a charter school is eligible for state or district-sponsored interscholastic programs, awards, scholarships, or competitions to the same extent as other public schools.

No provision explicitly allows charter school students in schools no providing such activities to have access to them at non-charter public schools for a fee or by mutual agreement.

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16A. Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs available to non-charter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extra-curricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at non-charter public schools for a fee by a mutual agreement.

17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Statute notes that charter schools function as a local education agency and are responsible for meeting the requirements related to individuals with disabilities. There are no provisions regarding low-incident, high cost services.

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17A. Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.

17B. Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).

18. Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Statute provides that the state superintendent of education shall allocate funding for a charter school including general apportionment, special education, categorical, and other non-basic education monies, and such allocations are to be based on the statewide average staff mix ratio of all non-charter public schools from the prior school year and the school’s actual full-time equivalent enrollment.

It provides that categorical funding must be allocated based on the same funding criteria used for non-charter public schools. For charter schools authorized by a school board, it provides that allocations to the school are to be in the same manner as other public schools in the district.

It also states that conversion schools must be provided local levy monies approved by the voters both before and after the conversion start-up date. However, state law states that new charter schools are not eligible for local levy moneys approved before the start-up date of the school unless the local board is the authorizer, but after their start-up date, they must be included in the levy planning, budgets, and funding distribution in the same manner as other public schools in the district

Statute requires that allocation for pupil transportation is to be calculated on a per student basis based on the allocation for the previous school year to the school district in which the charter school is located.

While it appears that this law has many of the model law components related to equitable operational and categorical funding, there is no evidence yet of the actual level of equity once implementation of such elements occurs.

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18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

18B. Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding, and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Statute provides that charter schools are eligible for state matching funds for common school construction.

It also provides that charter schools have the right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed public school facility or property or any unused portions located in a school district from which it draws its students if the district decides to sell or lease such facility or property.

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19A. A per-pupil facilities allowance which annually reflects actual average district capital costs.

19B. A state grant program for charter school facilities.

19C. A state loan program for charter school facilities.

19D. Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allow charter schools to have their own bonding authority.

19E. A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for public charter school facilities.

19F. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to non-charter public schools.

19G. Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.

19H. Prohibition of facility-related requirements stricter than those applied to traditional public schools.

20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Statute includes charter schools as members of relevant state retirement and health care systems as long as the state department of retirement systems receives determinations from the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Labor that such participation does not jeopardize the status of the state’s retirement systems.

It is unclear if participation in such systems is an option for a charter school board or not.

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20A. Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.

20B. Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).