In a move to halt the growth of charter schools, the Seattle School Board may vote to oppose giving them the same freedom from zoning rules that district programs enjoy.
Seattle’s board of education has been resolute in its opposition to charter schools, and next month will try a new approach to thwart their growth.
The Green Dot network, which runs 28 charters in California, Tennessee and Washington, needs a zoning variance to build a three-story high school on a plot of vacant land in South Seattle.
Currently, only traditional public schools may request that kind of special permission from the city, and at its Jan. 3 meeting, the Seattle School Board will consider a resolution opposing the extension of those allowances to any charter.
“The rationale is, we’ve got three schools in the Southeast area that are making really great gains,” said board President Leslie Harris, referring to the Rainier Beach, Franklin and Cleveland high schools, two of which have struggled to attract students. Losing them to Green Dot or any other charter would siphon money away from the school district and potentially harm existing programs, Harris added.
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Charter schools are funded with public education dollars, but run by private organizations. So each child enrolled at Green Dot, for instance, means less state money for Seattle Public Schools.
Typically, Green Dot sites its programs in low-income neighborhoods, drawing kids who have struggled academically. Its first Seattle school, the Rainier Valley Leadership Academy, opened last fall off South Holly Park Drive, with about 100 sixth-graders, at least 70 percent of whom arrived several grade levels behind in math and reading, according to Principal Walter Chen.
More are signing up each week, he added.
In addition to Green Dot, the California-based Summit Public Schools network runs a charter high school, Summit Sierra, in Seattle, serving ninth- through 11th-graders in the Chinatown International District, with plans to include 12th-graders in September.
Harris said she understands frustrated parents who feel that Seattle’s public schools have not met their children’s needs. But her mandate is to “protect the entire school district,” she said, “not just one school or one student.”
This story, originally published on Dec. 13, 2017, has been corrected. It originally gave an incorrect name for the Summit charter network.