Seattle School Board members Wednesday evening decided against applying to the state for the authority to approve charter schools.
Seattle School Board members mostly voiced displeasure Wednesday at the notion of approving charter schools to operate within their district.
Many members stressed that trying to green-light and oversee the publicly funded but independently run schools would demand significant staff time, and that being an authorizer may not be a foolproof way to control which charters open in Seattle. A charter school denied by the board can still seek approval from the state charter commission.
“Let the state authorizers handle it,” board member Sharon Peaslee said at a work session Wednesday evening. “We’re not going to have a whole lot of control anyway.”
The Seattle School Board openly opposed charter schools during the 2012 election, when state voters narrowly passed a law allowing them to open here. Charters receive roughly the same amount of money per student as public schools do, but aren’t subject to many of the same regulations.
Most Read Local Stories
So far, one charter school, First Place Scholars in Seattle’s Central District, is operating in Washington and has been beset with leadership turnover and financial problems. The state commission has approved two more charters in Seattle. One will open this fall, another in 2016.
A few board members, however, expressed openness to the idea, saying that being an authorizer may allow the district to influence how much impact the charter schools have on the district.
“Charter schools are a reality,” said board member Harium Martin-Morris. “There’s nothing we can do to make them go away.”
The question, he said, is how the district should behave toward the schools, which will enroll some Seattle Public Schools students. State dollars will follow students away from Seattle Public Schools and into charter schools.
So far, only one district — Spokane Public Schools — can approve charters. Two other districts — Tacoma and Highline — expressed interest in becoming authorizers, but ultimately opted not to.
Board President Sherry Carr said the board may eventually want to consider becoming a charter authorizer, but not yet.
“I find myself thinking a lot about the fact that (charters) will impact us whether we’re an authorizer or not,” she said.
No action was taken at Wednesday’s work session. If the board decides to seek permission to begin authorizing charters, the district would need to send the state Board of Education a letter by June 15.