Washington’s first charter schools to open in Seattle, Tacoma, Kent, Highline and Spokane; 3,565 children to be served, 4,900 children asked to wait

January 31, 2014

Yesterday, at West Seattle’s Bethaday Community Center, I attended an important meeting of the Washington State Charter School Commission.  At this historic meeting the Commission approved the first charter schools that will open their doors to students, since voters repealed the state’s charter school ban in 2012.

Out of the 19 applications considered, the Commissioners, led by Chair Steve Sundquist, approved seven schools to open in the Puget Sound area:  Two in Seattle, three in Tacoma, one in Highline and one in Kent.  Earlier, the Spokane School officials announced approval of PRIDE Prep charter school, meaning the maximum number of schools allowed in the first year under the law’s charter school cap have been approved.  Eight more schools are allowed every year for the next four years, up to a statewide limit of 40 charter schools.

Here are the seven charter schools approved yesterday.  Together these schools will serve 3,565 children.

First Place Scholars --- to open in Seattle this fall, 2014.  Our blog post here describes this school.

Excel Public Charter ---to open in Kent the fall of 2015. Our blog post here describes the outpouring of community support for this school.

Rainier Prep—to open in Highline the fall of 2015.  This video shows Maggie O’Sullivan’s presentation and this video of community testimony in support.

Green Dot ---to open in Tacoma the fall of 2015. See Washington Policy Center’s study “An Option for Learning: An Assessment of Student Achievement in Charter Public Schools,” January 2011, which identified Green Dot schools as an example of a high-quality charter school helping disadvantaged, poor students in Los Angeles and New York.

SOAR Academy—to open in Tacoma the fall of 2015.  See picture below of SOAR leaders, who have deep ties in the Tacoma community, and who will open a charter school designed to meet the needs of the disadvantaged students residing on the Hilltop area. 

Summit Schools -- to open Summit Sierra in Seattle and Summit Olympus in Tacoma the fall of 2015. This video shows the broad community support for these local charter school.

Commissioners turned down 12 charter school applications, meaning 4,900 children who would have been served have been asked to wait for a future opportunity.  They noted, however, the strength of many of these applications, and encouraged them to resubmit their plans next year.  It is likely the artificial cap imposed by the law prevented more applications from being approved.

Yesterday the Commissioners demonstrated their good-faith commitment to implementing the charter school law.  It was a good day for parents and kids, especially for families that will now have access to a good education at a local public charter school. For children who are not well served by the traditional public school in their area, a chance to attend a charter school can be a life-changing experience.

This report is part of WPC’s Initiative 1240 Follow-Up Project