Tacoma School Board defers charter onus

Staff writerNovember 26, 2013 

The Tacoma School Board decided Monday to put off taking an active role in developing charter schools.

Under the charter school law approved by Washington voters last year, the schools can be authorized and overseen either by a newly created statewide charter commission or by local school districts. Charters are publicly funded but operated by private nonprofit groups rather than local school boards.

Four proposals for charter schools that want to open in Tacoma have already been filed with the state charter commission. Another seeks to operate in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area and one more wants to locate in the “Seattle-Tacoma metroplex.” The law allows for the construction of 40 charter schools statewide over five years.

Tacoma’s school board had considered applying for authorizer status earlier this year, but then opted out. Then this fall, board members revived the possibility.

But on Monday, it appeared their enthusiasm had once again waned.

Board members criticized what they termed a faulty and constantly changing process.

“I can’t see us supporting this flawed process until we get answers to the questions we have posed,” said board member Scott Heinze.

He also noted the lawsuit that has been filed in King County by a coalition of parents, educators and community groups, challenging the constitutionality of the charter law.

“There are too many uncertainties,” said board member Debbie Winskill. She said Tacoma should let others pave the way.

But board member Kurt Miller said he doesn’t want to sit back and observe.

“We have to be proactive and work with the state commission, and share our concerns,” he said.

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