Washington News

March 28, 2013

Community will have charter school questions answered March 27 at Breidablik

by Kipp Robertson

POULSBO — When the Breidablik community found out they would not have an elementary for the 2013-14 school year, some parents began weighing their options.

One of those options is a charter school, which will be the topic of a community meeting at Breidablik Elementary March 27. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.

Jim Spady, president of the Washington Charter School Resource Center, will discuss charter schools in Washington and explain the laws. Spady was contacted by Breidablik parent Robin Francom.

Francom, whose children will attend Vinland Elementary following the attendance boundary changes, said charter schools are "definitely talked about amongst Breidablik parents." Though Vinland is a nice, friendly school, Francom said Vinland looked full when she toured it. Though Vinland has capacity for more than 150 more students, Francom worries students being transferred to Vinland will be placed in portables.

Charter schools must be authorized by an existing local school board or the Washington Charter School Commission. In order for a local school board to become an authorizer, the board must have approval from the state board of education. The deadline for school boards to submit a letter of intent to become an authorizer is April 1, Spady said.

There are five districts that have authorized charter schools, including Spokane, Eastmont, Sunnyside, Highline and Battleground, Spady said. The Tacoma School Board is planning to make a decision to become an authorizer, or not, March 28, he said.

According to Initiation 1240which passed in Kitsap County with 51.97 of the vote, a charter school applicant must be a nonprofit corporation that has submitted an application to an authorizer. The corporation must be either a public benefit nonprofit corporation, or a nonprofit corporation that has applied for tax exempt status. The nonprofit cannot be a sectarian or religious organization and must meet all requirements for a public benefit nonprofit corporation before receiving any funding.

The initiative allows up to 40 charter schools created over a five-year period in Washington, or an average of eight per year.

There are no limits on how many students a school may have.

All schools will be defined as public, common schools under state law.

The schools must provide basic education and participate in statewide student assessment.

Funding for charter schools is the same as other public schools, which includes reporting enrollment to receive state and federal funding.

If an existing public school converts to a charter school, it would continue to receive the same share of local levy funding, but not be required to pay rent to the local school district, according to initiative documentation. A new public school opening as a charter would not receive current local levy funding.

The North Kitsap School Board officially opposed Initiative 1240 during the Oct. 25 board meeting.

Representatives Sherry Appleton and Drew Hanson, and Senator Christine Rolfes were all opposed to charter schools.

In general, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, supports charter schools, said Natahn Olson, spokesman for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Born did not, however, support I-1240 because it cuts OSPI out of the loop. Because charter schools will be funded like current public schools, it could make it more difficult to fully fund schools, as stated by the McCleary decision, Olson said.

Though the meeting March 27 is for information, Francom said she is interested in having a charter school being able to focus more on specific areas of study, arts or science, for example. She feels a charter school would allow teachers to have more freedom in how they teach.

Those that Francom expects to attend the meeting just want to learn more about charter schools. Some have experience, others not. Some may be asking about the possibility of turning Breidablik into a charter school.

Frnacom said she expects North Kitsap School District Superintendent Patty Page, and a school board representative, to attend.

If the meeting is "positive," Francom said more meetings could be scheduled for the future.

Contact North Kitsap Herald Education/Sports Reporter Kipp Robertson atkrobertson@northkitsapherald.com or (360) 779-4464.

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