YAKIMA, Wash. — The Washington State Board of Education unanimously approved Spokane Public Schools as the first district in the state with the power to authorize charter schools.
Spokane is the second-largest district in the state behind Seattle and the first to apply to be a charter school authorizer.
State voters approved the creation of charter schools through authorized providers last year. The Washington Charter School Commission is the only other authorizer.
Under the state charter school law, an authorizer oversees any schools under its jurisdiction. It also has the power to review, approve or reject charter school applications from interested groups. Finally, it can renew, revoke or enter into contracts with nonprofits looking to operate one of these schools.
Jack Archer, the board’s director of basic education oversight, characterized the Spokane plan as a “highly developed vision” that complied with the new rules.
“Spokane is to help serve as a catalyst for school improvement, provide new techniques and strategies to reach at-risk students and to add to the portfolio of options available in Spokane Public Schools,” he said.
General consensus among the board members was positive. Yakima resident and board member Phyllis “Bunker” Frank said Spokane came prepared, having “crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s.”
Board member Cindy McMullen, who represents Spokane, expressed her approval in a statement following the meeting.
“Today is a very historic day for the board,” she said. “We have approved Spokane as the first school district charter authorizer. The board conducted a rigorous review process and found Spokane’s application to be of very high quality.”
Under current law, no more than 40 charter schools can be established during a five-year timeframe. According to the state board, school districts interested in becoming authorizers for next year must submit a notice of intent by Oct. 1 and submit an application by the end of the year.
This was the second of three days the state education board was in Yakima at Educational Service District 105 offices. Today, members will tour some Yakima schools, including the new Eisenhower High School.