FOLLOWUP: Despite funding ruling, West Seattle charter school moving ahead

3:28 PM: West Seattle’s first charter school is still moving toward opening in Arbor Heights next fall, despite the state Supreme Court ruling saying public funding for charter schools is unconstitutional.

That’s according to Jen Wickens, regional director for California-based Summit Public Schools, which plans to open Summit Atlas, a charter middle/high school, at 9601 35th SW. Washington Charter School Development bought the site from Freedom Church in June for $4,750,000, initially with a large-scale remodeling/addition project that has now been changed to two phases, the first to get the building ready to host the founding 6th- and 9th-grade classes next fall. City files show its permit is still pending.

Wickens tells WSB that the Washington Charter School Commission “unanimously approved the Atlas contract” earlier this month. She says that while Summit is “deeply disappointed” with the state Supreme Court ruling, they’re moving ahead because “we remain hopeful that we will find a solution to serve the students and families of West Seattle.”

Summit opened its first two schools in Washington this fall and took interested West Seattle families on a tour of one earlier today, Summit Sierra in the International District. Wickens says the Summit Atlas principal, Greg Ponikvar, “has been meeting with families and students and we know there is deep interest from the West Seattle community.” The Charter School Commission approved Summit’s application in August, less than a month after a hearing held at the building the school intends to use. First word of the charter-school plan emerged in January, when we found out about it via a building-permit application that popped up in city files.

Meantime, 10 state legislators – none from our area – are asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider its decision. The ruling has not been finalized, which is why, as explained in this month’s report by the Charter Commission’s executive director, the schools that are open have continued to receive state funding.

ADDED 4:09 PM: And there’s word a short time ago of another filing asking the Supreme Court to reconsider – this one is a “friend of the court” brief from four former state Attorneys General – Ken Eikenberry, Slade Gorton, Christine Gregoire, and Rob McKenna. Here’s the document.

3 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Despite funding ruling, West Seattle charter school moving ahead"

  • Melissa Westbrook October 28, 2015 (9:30 pm)

    And good luck with that.

    There are a couple of things that could happen:

    1) the first is that the Court reconsiders (or not). I believe all parties will wait to see this outcome first.

    1A) the Court says, “Nah, we got it right” (And if you’ve read what the 10 legislators’ brief says, you might see how they might feel that way.)

    1B) the Court says, “We got it right and will not reconsider but we will ask the Legislature to fund the open schools for the rest of the year to allow the kids to finish their school year.”

    That’s kind of the “grace and save face” outcome.

    2) the Court says, ” Charters can stay open but the Legislature must figure out the funding.”

    Indeed, the dissenters said that charters are not “common schools” but that doesn’t stop the Legislature from funding them from the General Fund. BUT that means, in the absence of new revenue, taking the money from another dept/program. That’s sure to be a fight.

    3) the Court says, “You know, we got it wrong. Never mind.”

    I just don’t believe this will happen.

    There is this on-going talk that this ruling will mean that other ed programs, like Running Start, will be found to not be funded property. (Rep. Gerry Pollet has effectively shown how Running Start IS properly funded but there may be other programs.)

    Even if other programs are found to be improperly funded, two wrongs don’t make a right. Meaning, those programs are separate from charters and charters will have to find that funding as a separate issue.

    Lastly, the majority opinion explained that they had considered ONLY the funding issue (believing, that if the funding was not there, the charters could not exist). But there are still OTHER constitutional issues with 1240 that can (and likely will) be brought forth.

    This was a poorly written law and probably will not stand.

    If charters want to fund themselves, that’s fine but unless there is a state law to guide them as charter schools, then they are just another private school.

  • Edna K Westerman October 30, 2015 (11:07 am)

    Need I say more? Check out this review from many who have worked for this chain:

    And this . . .from Seattle Education, . . . a local blog.

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