Education
5:58 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Charter School Countdown: What's Next

The charter school initiative appears to have passed. The first charter schools would likely open their doors in Washington next school year, at the earliest. Here's the countdown of what's next.

3. Enthusiasm

Chris Korsmo is CEO of the League of Education Voters, one of the groups that backed the charter initiative. Korsmo said her organization is getting flooded with email from people who want to know how they can get started. "You know, we’ve had people come out of the woodwork," Korsmo said. "Principals of schools here in Washington who are interested in starting schools, folks who ran charter schools in other states who would like to do that work here, and Washingtonians who live elsewhere that would like to come back home to run a charter school."

2. Bureaucracy

Under the initiative, there are two ways to start a charter. Private non-profits can apply to start a new school. And existing public schools can also be converted to charters via the so-called trigger method. That’s where parents or teachers in the school vote to turn it into a charter.

But first, the state needs to establish the commission that will authorize and oversee charters. The governor, president of the state Senate and president of the state House of Representatives each get to appoint three commission members. The state Board of Education also needs to create an application process for school boards that want to be authorizers.

The deadline for those bureaucratic steps is next March. So it may be five months before would-be charter organizers can apply to start a school. In the meantime, the coalition Korsmo co-founded to put the initiative on the ballot plans to serve as an advisory council to influence how the state draws up its charter school policies. "The major goal is to ensure that we have great authorizers who are paying attention to the criteria and also watching the outcomes," Korsmo said, "so that we do what other states don’t do, which is to ensure accountability on the part of the schools, so that we don’t allow schools that are not achieving to continue to operate."

1. Legal Challenges

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has said he’ll try to challenge the initiative in court. He has said the state constitution requires basic education to be governed by his office. Charter schools would be governed by a separate state agency.

Korsmo said charter backers always knew legal challenges were likely if the measure passed. She said she trusts any court decisions would favor the initiative.