About the Charter Public School Investigation Process

In Washington, charter public schools are  part of a multi-level system of accountability and oversight. One part of the Commission’s specific role is ensuring charter public schools adhere to the commitments of their contracts (their charters) and to the myriad of expectations codified in each school’s Performance Framework (learn more about Commission oversight here).

When potential issues arise during routine oversight that indicate the School may have violated its contract or the law, the Commission can initiate a process that evaluates, invites due process from the school, and ultimately issues direction on what must be remedied to maintain compliance with charter public school rules and regulations. This level of oversight is rigorous and goes beyond what is required at traditional public schools. In exchange for greater accountability, charter public schools have additional flexibility to create a learning environment that best fits the needs of its students.

It is not unusual for the Commission to investigate a charter public school, as issues can be addressed and remedied. However, a school that has fallen irreparably short of the commitments of its charter can be closed.

General sequence of investigation process:

 

EXAMPLES ONLY Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  Can a school under investigation fix problems and continue operating?

A:  Yes, the Corrective Action Plan process is designed to help the school get back into compliance.

Q:  Why would a School’s contract be revoked?

A:  The Commission has the authority to revoke or refuse to renew a School’s contract. Grounds for revocation of a contract include:  not complying with the terms and conditions of Washington’s charter school law or other state and federal laws; not complying with the terms of the charter contract; failure to make sufficient progress towards the performance goals stated in the contract; falling in the bottom quartile of Washington schools (unless the school demonstrates it has encountered exceptional circumstances); or poor fiscal management of the school.

Q:  What happens to students if a charter public school contract is revoked, not renewed, or closes for another reason?

A:  The School’s Board and the Commission follow an established termination protocol. This includes establishing a transition team, notifying parents of the closure, and assisting parents in the reassignment process.

Q:  Who decides if a school is closed or not?

A:  The School’s Board may decide to close the school. The State Charter School Commissioners decide whether to revoke a school’s contract.

Q:  What do I do if my school is closed? What resources are available to me to minimize disruptions for my student(s)?

A:  The School’s Board and the Commission follow an established termination protocol. This includes establishing a transition team, notifying parents of the closure, and assisting parents in the reassignment process.

Q:  Can a school that has been closed, be re-opened?

A:  A charter public school that is closed cannot be reopened, because the Charter School Act no longer allows new schools to be authorized.

Q:  I’d like to file a complaint about my school, who do I talk to?

A:  All charter public schools have their own complaint processes which should be followed first before filing a complaint with the Commission. Please visit your school’s website to access the school complaint process. Students or parents and guardians of charter public school students who have already attempted to file a complaint directly with the school and have not received a resolution or who are unsatisfied with the resolution, may file a complaint with the Commission here.

Q:  My student attends a traditional public school. What is the process to handle complaints/concerns at my school?

A:  All schools have their own complaint processes which should be followed. Please visit your school’s website and/or your school district’s website for more information.

Glossary:

Inquiry/Investigation:  The process the Commission uses to gather information when potential issues arise that indicate the School may have violated its contract or the law. Inquiries/investigations may include access to facilities, data, information, and staff in the manner and time frame requested by the Commission.

Charter Contract:  A voluntary agreement between a charter public school’s Board and the State Charter School Commissioners. The contract is enforceable by law as a binding agreement. The School Board is a party to the contract. All contracts are posted on the Commission’s website.

Notice of Perceived Problem:  The notice the Commission sends to the School Board when the Commission has reason to believe that a charter school’s performance or legal compliance is unsatisfactory. The School must respond in writing to the perceived problem. The Commission will consider the response and other evidence and information available and determine whether to take corrective action and/or impose sanctions as necessary.

Corrective Action:  If the Commission finds deficiencies in a charter public school’s performance or legal compliance, the Commission requires the school to develop and comply with an approved Corrective Action Plan (CAP). The goal of corrective action is to help the school get back into compliance. The CAP must identify the date by which the deficiency will be corrected, how it will be corrected, measures to prevent future deficiencies, how the CAP will be monitored, and the person(s) responsible for monitoring and sustaining change. Not complying with or satisfying the CAP is considered grounds for revocation of the contract.