We sent the following question to OSPI State Superintendent candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal:

“Given the legal uncertainty of charter schools in our state, as head of the OSPI, would you distribute the Federal money to the existing charter schools and provide funding to set up new charter schools?”

The post Our question to OSPI candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal about the recent charter school grant to Washington State provides more information on the $245M Federal charter school grant.

Both candidates responded and to follow is the response provided by Erin Jones:

I have said throughout this campaign that I do not believe charter schools are THE answer to closing the opportunity gap. I voted against charter schools in 2012, because I believed we had an obligation to focus resources and attention on the schools that currently exist. In addition, what many are seeking in the few charter schools – less regulation, opportunities for innovation, greater curricular freedom, a focus on equity – is what I want for every school, not just a few in select communities. As the state leader, I believe it must be my first priority to ensure every student has access to quality options in a system that is accountable to the public.

I am concerned by this temporary infusion of cash to our legally-challenged current network of charter schools. I have worked in and with many schools that were recipients of federal school improvement grants in similar amounts. These schools were able to hire additional staff and purchase special programs and supports for 3 years. When the money went away, too many of these schools ended up right back where they began – struggling. After a conversation with community members in Walla Walla (where one of the financial grants for a new charter school has been promised) this past week, they have similar concerns about sustainability.

Infusing schools up front with resources is great, but who will ensure funding beyond that? Will the state be required to pick up the tab? What will happen to students and staff should there not be enough resources?

The handful of charter schools currently operating in our state are under Constitutional review and funded through a narrow revenue source that may not be sustainable.  I would not recommend distribution of these funds until we know with certainty whether these schools can legally remain in operation.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of maintaining charter schools, then I would release the funds– but only as an offset to state funding; we need EVERY available dollar to meet our McCleary needs. If charter schools are required to cease operations due to lack of public oversight and accountability, I would inquire about using those funds as a bridge to help ease the impacted kids and families transition into other learning environments.

Erin Jones
Candidate for Washington State Superintendent, 2016