|Putting Children First||
WA LEGISLATURE PASSES CHARTER SCHOOL LAW!!!!
The Washington Legislature yesterday did what no previous Washington Legislature had been able to do before: pass identical charter school bills in both the House and the Senate during the Legislative Session.
Charter bills had passed the House in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998, but in the Senate, none of the bills ever reached the Senate floor.
Charter bills passed the Senate in 2003 in both the regular and special sessions, but neither bill ever reached the House floor.
Yesterday, March 10, 2004 was a very special day in the long struggle to bring the CHOICE of charter public schools to the children, families and educators of Washington state.
Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 2295 (E2SHB 2295) passed the state House of Representatives in the early afternoon on a vote of 51-46. About five hours later, the state Senate passed the identical bill on a vote of 27-22.
Although charter opponents threatened to bury the bill with an avalanche of amendments on the House floor, only 13 amendments were actually offered, and all but one of these were withdrawn or defeated. The only amendment that passed was acceptable to charter supporters – an amendment allowing school districts that approve charter schools to appoint an “ex-officio” (non-voting) member to the charter schools’ board of directors.
For all the details, including copies of the amendments, the exact text of bill as passed, and roll call votes, go the Legislature’s web page:
Every major newspaper in the state should have a story about the charter school bill’s passage in today’s newspapers. Please buy a copy. If you prefer electronic copies, please click the link on the left side of this page to go to the WASHINGTON NEWS page of this web site.
A copy of the Governor’s Press Release is below. The Governor plans to sign the bill in the next 20 days. Under Washington law, the bill will take effect on June 10 (90 days after the end of the legislative session in which it was passed). The bill authorizes charter applications to be filed as soon as the bill becomes law, but if you’re interested in starting a new charter school in the next two years, you should begin working on your application now and begin informal discussions with your individual members of your local school board in the next month.
Federal funding may soon be available to help you. Last year, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (“SPI”) prepared an application for $5,000,000 in federal start-up funding for charter schools. The application was denied because the Legislature was unable to pass a bill last year. However, we expect that the SPI will quickly re-apply and secure federal funding later this year.
In Oregon, which authorized charter schools in 1999, qualified charter applicants typically receive a grant of $50,000. Applicants whose charter applications are eventually approved typically receive start-up grants of $150,000 per year for two years.
We plan to hold a weekend conference in Seattle in late April (probably April 17-18 or April 24-25) for people interested in learning more about charter schools. Charter starters and experts from around the country will attend and make presentation. We hope you’ll be able to join us for the event and networking opportunities.
If you would like to receive the latest information about the upcoming Seattle Charter School Conference, please sign up for our newsletter by clicking on the SIGN ME UP button on the left.
For those who can’t wait until April to learn as much as possible about charter schools, the nation’s biggest and best charter school conference will take place in Sacramento California on March 29-31. California has over 500 charter schools and the annual conference of the California Charter School Association is an excellent opportunity to learn from educators, parents and community leaders who have “been there and done that.” Although nothing has been finalized, attendees from Washington State may qualify for a special discount even though everyone will be registering after the usual deadline. For more information, go to the California Charter Schools Association web site: http://www.charterconference2004.org/
Office of Governor Gary Locke
Gov. Gary Locke Praises Passage of Education Legislation
The first of the four bills in the package was passed Monday. The remaining three were passed today.
“I commend the Legislature for its action. With these four bills, we are taking a giant step forward in education reform,” Locke said.
“Working together, we are improving education for Washington students. We are also further improving our state’s business climate by ensuring that our children graduate with the skills they need to successfully compete in this global, high-tech 21st century economy,” he said.
The education legislation package included:
WASL Changes – Third Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2195, requested by Locke and passed Monday, refines and clarifies the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). The legislation reduces the number of subjects to be tested and passed for high school graduation to reading, writing and mathematics starting in 2008, adding science in 2010. The legislation also allows for multiple retakes and the development of alternative assessments. Locke first proposed these changes to the WASL nearly two years ago.
“The refined WASL will reinforce our state’s high academic standards, help better prepare students to meet or exceed those standards, and provide teachers and parents with a roadmap of exactly what will be expected of students and when,” Locke said.
LAP Reform – Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5877, requested by Locke and passed today, reforms and strengthens the state’s Learning Assistance Program (LAP). The legislation focuses on best practices to support struggling students, provides greater program accountability and stabilizes allocations to school districts that need the most help.
“This legislation will help get LAP funding to schools that need it the most, and keep it there,” Locke said.
Levy Base Adjustments – SSB 6211, passed today, authorizes the collection of the full amount of voter-approved school levies. The maximum amount school districts can collect through local levies is limited to a percentage of their state and federal revenues. When the state K-12 budget is reduced, the amount that school districts can collect is reduced, even when local voters have approved collections beyond this limit. This legislation was needed to authorize the collection of the full amount of voter-approved levies to avoid a compounding reduction to district budgets as a result of recent state budget reductions.
“We should give school districts every tool possible to help their schools grow, expand and improve. Districts must be able to collect the full amount of levies that voters have approved,” Locke said.
Charter Schools – E2SHB 2295, passed today, authorizes the development of charter schools within the public school system by allowing school districts to convert some schools to charters or to provide for the development of new schools. The focus is on helping struggling students meet state standards.
“I have always been interested in innovation directed toward improving student performance,” Locke said. “This legislation promotes the ‘outside-the-box’ thinking that is sometimes needed to help struggling students meet our high academic standards.”
Once the governor receives the four education bills, he has 20 days in which to take action. No bill action date has been set.
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