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Spokane Only School District Seeking Charter Authorizer Status

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Thirteen Washington districts formally expressed interest in being charter authorizers this spring, but only Spokane applied to the state by the July 1 deadline.

Under the charter school law voters approved last fall, a non-profit group that wants to start a charter can apply to either a new state agency, or to a local district that’s been granted charter authorizer status.

Spokane Schools Superintendent Shelley Redinger said she expects her city will have some of the state’s first charter schools, and the district wants to be allowed to choose which start up in Spokane. "We really wanted to get in the game early, rather than waiting," Redinger said.

Given her experience overseeing charters in Oregon and enthusiasm from the school board and parents, Redinger said her district is eager to be at the vanguard. "So it isn’t just, 'wow, charters came around and let’s get on board.' This was really something our community was asking for – different options and choices."

Redinger says parents are especially interested in more middle school options, and she sees opportunities for charters to partner with outside organizations and businesses to help students learn.

The 12 other districts that filed notices of intent to apply for charter authorizer status are more bearish, however. In Tacoma, for instance, although the district had originally expressed interest, the school board voted 4-0 against applying, citing a lack of clarity about how charters will operate and whether they’ll truly be able to target high-poverty, underserved students.

Spokane will learn by mid-September whether it has been selected to become the first district in the state allowed to consider charter school applications.

Nonprofit organizations that want to open charter schools will have until late November to apply.

The first charter schools could open in Washington in fall 2014.

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