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Questions remain after I-1240, charter schools, passes

OLYMPIA — The initiative to allow charter schools in Washington has been approved by state voters. But questions about how it will affect public schools remain, even for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“There are just a lot of questions,” OSPI spokesman Nathan Olson said Wednesday.

Olson could not say how charter schools will affect the current public schools. That, he said, will be worked out in the next Legislative session. The initiative allows charter schools to be funded by the state, but run by nonprofits outside school districts. Charter schools receive the same amount of money per student as other school districts — about $5,800.

The initiative allows 40 public charter schools to open over a five-year period, eight schools max each year.

In Kitsap, the initiative passed with 38,976 votes (52.16 percent) to 35,751 (47.84 percent) against.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn supports charter schools, Olson said. He did not, however, support this initiative because it cuts OSPI out of the loop.

“The Constitution is clear: K-12 falls under OSPI authority,” Olson said.

Olson did not know of any potential charter schools in the works.

Because charter schools will be funded like public schools, it could make it more difficult to fully fund schools as required by the court in McCleary vs. Washington. Olson said he does not know how funding proportionment will work.

Patty Page, superintendent of the North Kitsap School District, does not see charter schools playing a factor in the work currently being done.

“We just continue the work based on the info we have,” she said. “We can’t let that weigh in.”

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.

Forty-two states and the District of Columbia allow charter schools.

During the Legislative Roundtable Nov. 13 at the North Kitsap School District administrative building, Rep. Sherry Appleton said she was disappointed with the “yes” vote for charter schools. It would be a surprise if the initiative was not taken to court, she said.

Rep. Drew Hansen and Sen. Christine Rolfes said they had opposed I-1240, but Rolfes said she will “do her best to support the 40 [charter] schools.”

 

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