what is a charter school?

Children on outdoor hike

Washington charters schools are tuition free, public schools, open to all students in Washington.  Charter schools provide innovative approaches to close gaps and personalize education to each student.

Washington charter schools:​

  • Non religious

  • Non sectarian

  • Tuition free

  • Open to all

  • Not for profit

WA Unique Charter Sector

WA charter schools leverage increased accountability for increased autonomy allowing schools to devise innovative personalized models to address the needs of students and families.

Charter schools are public schools thus operate on public funding that follows each student. 

How are we held accountable?

Learning from successes and mistakes made in other states, WA charter schools are held to high standards of accountability.

 

Wa Unique Charter Sector

Charter schools are public schools. Like all public schools, they do not charge tuition, are open to all students, and are publicly funded. However, Washington's charter public schools are held more accountable for showing improved student achievement compared to many other states sectors. In exchange for greater accountability, teachers and principals are given more flexibility in the way they operate. This flexibility gives them freedom to reimagine:

  • the school day,

  • how students are grouped,

  • how they transition throughout the day,

  • and how they interact with teachers and curriculum.

By having increased autonomy, charter schools are able to tailor their educational model to meet community needs and explore innovative educational approaches that ensure the success of their students.

Facts about Washington's unique charter sector

  1. Washington has incorporated lessons learned from other states charter sectors. Many other states don’t require as much accountability and oversight, which can lead to lower quality schools.

  2. Washington’s law is unique for its focus on prioritizing students who are systemically underserved.

  3. Washington’s law has been ranked third strongest in the nation for three years running by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

For more facts about Washington's unique charter sector please visit Washington State Charter School Association (WA Charters) website or view their Washington Charter School Accountability fact sheet. 

 

How Are We Funded?

Public educational funding in Washington state follows the student.  As a type of public school charter schools operate on this per pupil public funding.  This system enables families to vote with their feet if they are unsatisfied with the education their child is receiving.

Charter schools in the state of Washington are unable to run local levies and bonds like traditional district schools.  This means that public charter schools often have to pursue grants and philanthropic funding for startup and facility costs.  Washington's charter schools operate on a tight budget that is anywhere between 13 - 23% less compared to traditional district schools.

How Are We Held Accountable?

Many checks and balances ensure that charter public schools provide quality education. Just like any other Washington public school, charter schools are overseen by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. Public charter schools also have to comply with the same state and federal laws regarding health, safety, civil rights, and nondiscrimination as every other public school. Public charter schools must meet the same academic standards as any public school. Teachers have to meet the same certification requirements as other public school teachers, and students have to take the same standardized tests. Charter public school Boards must comply with the open public meetings act and public records act. The Boards that oversee charter public schools are subject to state and non-profit financial audits and have to answer to the community. Since families choose their charter schools, those schools are directly accountable to parents and must ensure they are meeting parents’ standards and expectations. Charter schools in Washington also receive oversight by their authorizing agency. Our authorizer is the Washington State Charter School Commission.

Oversight includes but is not limited to:
• Independent Financial Audit conducted annually
• Limited Scope Federal Consolidated Program Review
• Accountability Audit (State Auditor's Office (SAO))
• Quarterly School Reviews – (Commission)
• 3 Board Observations (Commission)
• Annual Compliance Calendar – (Commission)

WAshington State Charter School Commission

Established in April 2013, the Washington State Charter School Commission (Commission) is the state’s only non-district and statewide charter school authorizer.

Washington State Charter School Commission Logo

Their mission is to authorize high-quality charter public schools and provide effective oversight and transparent accountability to improve educational outcomes for at-risk students.

For more information about WA Charters, please visit the Washington State Charter School Commission website.

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)

OSPI logo

OSPI is the primary agency charged with overseeing public K–12 education in Washington state.

OSPI allocates funding and provides tools, resources, and technical assistance so every student in Washington is provided a high-quality public education.

 

For more information about WA Charters, please visit the Washington State Charter Schools Association website.

Wa Charters 

The Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) is a nonprofit organization that champions for better schools for the state's residents. They fight to protect existing public charters schools and advocate and support new public charter schools.

LOGO_MNT-01.jpg

SCHOOL LEADERSHIP AND DESIGN FELLOWSHIP (SLDF)

The School Leadership and Design Fellowship is a selective program created by WA Charters, that facilitates the design, authorization and opening of top-notch public charter schools that meet the needs of under-served students.

The program is founded on the six design principles for public charter schools. 

All Washington state public charter schools will:
  1. Contribute to the healthy growth of the public education sector

  2. Build on a firm foundation of exceptional teaching and strong leadership

  3. Prioritize and focus on students first, through personalization and restorative practices that meet the social-emotional and academic needs of the student as a whole

  4. Engage with their communities and its families to co-create solutions to ensure educational needs are being met

  5. Dedicate themselves to preparing ALL of their students for success in their post-secondary options, ie. college

  6. Be rooted in a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion on all levels of interaction (students, staff, families, aquaintances, teachers, board members, etc.

​The founding team was successfully accepted into the 2019-2020 School Leadership and Design Fellowship (SLDF) program.  Laylah Sullivan, our current Head of School, was recruited as the Fellow. 

For more information about WA Charters, please visit the Washington State Charter Schools Association website.

 
 
 
 

frequently asked questions

HOW DO CHARTER SCHOOLS DIFFER FROM TRADITIONAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS?

Charter schools have more autonomy and flexibility than traditional public schools in terms of scheduling, staffing and programming. This gives them the advantage over traditional public schools in that they are able to meet the needs of the under-served students in their community.

TO WHOM ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS HELD ACCOUNTABLE?

A charter school is provided some added freedom and flexibility to tailor their school to meet the needs of their community. With this freedom comes the need  for greater accountability. They are not only held accountable by the Office of Superintendent of Education, but the Charter School Commission as well. Additionally, they are held accountable by their students, the community they serve and parents.

If a charter school does not adhere to the terms and conditions of their charter, they face the grim state of losing their charter by the Commission. In turn, if parents are not satisfied with how the school is run or the education their child(ren) are receiving, they may move them to a new school

Washington’s charter school sector is set apart from many other states in that it is one of the more highly regulated in the country; learning from mistakes made earlier in the evolution of charter sectors across the United States.

WHO CAN START A CHARTER SCHOOL?

A “charter school applicant” must be a nonprofit corporation that is either a public benefit nonprofit corporation or a nonprofit corporation as defined in the Revised Washington Code (RCW) that has applied for tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. For the exact RCW, please refer to the Washington State Charter School Commission's Frequently Asked Questions and Answers booklet.

DO CHARTER SCHOOLS HAVE STATE CERTIFIED TEACHERS?

Another similarity to traditional public schools is that charter public schools must hire certified instructional staff, and in the case of Montessori, educators are also required to have Montessori certification.

HOW ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS RUN?

While charter schools have more autonomy and flexibility than traditional public schools in terms of scheduling, staffing, and programming, they must still meet the basic education and civil rights requirements that govern common schools.

HOW ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS FUNDED?

Charter public schools are funded based on student enrollment, just like traditional public schools. If a student transfers from another public school to a charter public school, the funding associated with that student follows that student to the charter school. 

Like any public school, charter public schools depend on a mix of federal and state funding. However, unlike local district schools, charter schools do not receive support from local levies.

In Washington, state funding for charter public schools comes from the state’s Opportunity Pathways Account, which contains lottery revenues.

ARE ALL CHARTER SCHOOLS THE SAME?

Charter schools are NOT all the same. Each school submits their own charter to the Charter School Commission, that details out their performance goals, how they will operate and what educational approach they will take based on their community needs.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO ATTEND A CHARTER SCHOOL?

Charter schools are public schools. They are TUITION FREE and OPEN TO ALL.

For more detailed information about charter schools, please visit the Washington State Charter School Commission's website or view their Frequently Asked Questions and Answers booklet.