Charter school bill passes state House

charter schools OLYMPIA--The House passed by a vote of 65-32 a bill which would allow parents, teachers, or organizations to start charter schools. If approved by the Senate, the bill would go to the voters as an alternative to Initiative 177, which has already qualified for the ballot.
   The bill provides for charter school applications to be made to the local school board, though the school would operate independently of the school district. The legislation also adopts an appeals process should an application be rejected by a school board.
   Rep. Ian Elliot, R-Bothell, said he sees the appeals process as a vital part of the legislation. "The bill passed gives three years of absolute local control of the charter school process before any higher appeals could be made," Elliot said.
   Rep. Dave Schmidt, R-Bothell, also supported the bill, indicating that it encourages innovation and competition. "I want parents to have choices," Schmidt said. "Maybe they have a child who specializes in science, and the local schools don't offer anything but basic science courses. Or maybe they want to emphasize fine arts. The point is, a charter school can specialize in these or other subjects and provide another option."
   Under the proposal, charter schools would be publicly funded, and those charter schools approved by a school district board would get the same per-pupil allotment of state education funds as all public schools, based on the number of students enrolled.
   Charter schools would also be eligible to apply for education grants and special education safety net funding, and could receive funds from other governmental and private sources, excluding sectarian organizations. The schools would have to be non-sectarian in programs, admission policies, employment practices and all other functions.
   Eighteen other states have passed charter school legislation since Minnesota adopted the first such bill in 1991, and approximately 230 such schools now operate.