Rules for charter schools approved

EVERETT — An independent panel Thursday approved the rules it will follow in authorizing Washington’s first charter schools early next year.

Meeting at Everett Community College, the Washington Charter School Commission spelled out what potential operators must put in their application and what criteria will be used to evaluate the performance of their publicly funded, independently run schools.

The rules, which fill 30 pages, detail information that applicants must provide about the facilities, financing and people who will oversee the proposed school.

On the subject of curriculum, commissioners adopted language they said would encourage innovative approaches to improve student achievement and deter experimentation of untested and unproven methods of instruction.

Washington voters legalized charter schools in 2012 with passage of Initiative 1240.

Under the law, no more than 40 can be approved over a five-year period. Charter schools can be authorized by either the commission, a panel of nine political appointees or individual public school districts which receive approval to do so from the state Board of Education.

With the rules approved, the next step for the commission is to issue a request for proposals on Sept. 22. Those intending to apply must notify the commission no later than Oct. 22 and turn in their applications by Nov. 22.

Commissioners will conduct public hearings on the applications and have until early February to make decisions. The first charter schools could open by the fall of 2014

A team of education and business professionals will be hired to review the charter school applications and provide recommendations to the panel. Commissioners added language making clear they are not bound to follow those suggestions.

Also Thursday, they worked on language for the contract that would be signed by selected charter school operators. They intend to approve the final wording at their September meeting in Spokane.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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