State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn– a very vocal charter schools opponent – is again out to hurt charter schools. He made his intention perfectly clear when, prior to the Memorial Day weekend, he issued 119 pages of administrative rules on public charter schools and the families that support them. Dorn posted the notice on an obscure website and scheduled a hearing the day after Memorial Day weekend in hopes of drawing as little attention as possible.
Dorn’s rules threatened families with children at the nine new charter schools set to open this fall in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Highline, and Kent. The rules also threatened to hurt families currently relying on charter schools and those that will eventually attend up to 31 other charter schools in the future.
Thankfully, after Dorn received significant negative attention that he was not expecting, he backed off from the deal. But, now he is at it again.
The Washington Policy Center reports that Dorn has scheduled a hearing for a revised version of the rules on Thursday, August 6. If his timetable escapes much notice this time around, he plans to impose the rules on August 11.
Dorn has agreed to scratch a handful of controversial rules including,
“A rule to impose hiring quotas on charter schools;
“A rule to force charter schools to buy their supplies from the state’s Educational Service Districts.”
But, he has kept plenty of unneeded rules that pose significant threats to the future of charter schools. They include (via the Washington Policy Center),
“A rule which could cut charter school funding. The rules have conflicting language over how charter schools are funded. WAC 392-121-299 says charter schools are funded based on enrollment and local teacher pay, yet WAC 392-121-400(3) would fund charter schools based on enrollment and statewide teacher pay, as required by the charter school law;
“A rule requiring charter schools to fill out burdensome S-275 personnel reports and LEAP salary scale forms, used for calculating local teacher pay for traditional schools. Though not needed for charter school funding, these pointless forms are designed to drain charter school resources and weaken their ability to serve families;
“A rule to limit spending on special education, transitional bilingual and other categorical program funds. Charter schools should be allowed flexibility to use these funds in ways that work best for students;
“A rule to limit the bonuses charter school teachers can receive, so the best teachers will receive a lower salary;
“A rule to limit access by charter school students to online learning;
“A rule requiring charter schools to send their budgets to Superintendent Dorn for approval. Other public schools are not required to seek such approval, and charter schools are already subject to fiscal oversight by the state auditor, the Charter School Commission, the State Board of Education and authorizing school districts. “
Dorn worked to defeat the voter-approved charter school initiative two years ago. Since that did not go his way, he now appears to be taking a different strategy to delivering a blow to charter schools. And, he may be overreaching his authority to do so. The Washington Policy Center,
“State law limits Superintendent Dorn’s role to a few, very narrow functions, such as delivering state and federal funds to schools and overseeing high-stakes testing. He does not have the authority to approve or review public school budgets, and he is targeting his efforts only against charter schools and their families.
“Charter schools are already subject to close oversight from the Charter School Commission and the State Board of Education, as well as the state auditor and legislative committees. Superintendent Dorn’s regulatory overreach appears designed to make it harder for charter schools and their families to succeed, perhaps in the hope of forcing these families back into the closed monopoly on education that school administrators maintain in so many communities.”
Dorn isn’t alone in his incessant opposition to charter schools. The Washington Education Association (WEA) filed a lawsuit in attempt to overturn the voter-approved initiative. The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments of the case last October. A decision has yet to be made.