Impact Public Schools, the largest charter school chain in Washington state, promised its students a world-class education. In a six-month KUOW investigation, dozens of parents and staff said the reality fell far short. By Ann Dornfeld.
The state’s charter school oversight agency said Impact Public Schools improperly received approximately $790,000 in state funds when it enrolled more than 60 four-year-olds in kindergarten. The agency referred the matter to the State Auditor’s Office for possible repayment.
State Rep. Gerry Pollet has called for fraud and performance audits of Impact Public Schools, Washington’s largest charter school chain, following a KUOW investigation that found scant services for students learning English and a lack of support for students with disabilities.
Although Washington state's charter schools are granted more flexibility and freedom than other public schools, charter school backers have pledged to keep the schools subject to strict oversight, including annual performance reviews. But that accountability is lacking for the state’s largest charter school chain, Impact Public Schools, staff and parents told KUOW, and the students most affected are also the schools’ most vulnerable.
This is the second story in Broken Promises, a series about Impact Public Schools, the largest charter school chain in Washington state. Art Wheeler’s daughter and son were thriving in the fall of their second year at Impact Puget Sound Elementary, a charter school in Tukwila, Washington. Their grades were high, Wheeler said, and they got glowing reports from their teachers. “Your kids are standouts,” he recalled teachers saying. “They’re a pleasure to have in class.” But two months into the school year, in November, 2019, Wheeler said letters arrived from Impact saying his children were failing, and may have to repeat the year — the year that had just begun. Wheeler was confused. “They messed up,” he thought. “This is for somebody else’s kids.”
A charter school chain promised a world-class education. Instead, they billed the state and let kids ‘sit there quietly’
Impact Public Schools has become the state's largest charter school chain by promising families an alternative to what it calls "the factory model" of education. Every student would receive a personalized education plan, Impact told