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Tacoma School Board to ponder becoming a charter school authorizer

Post by Debbie Cafazzo / The News Tribune on March 14, 2013 at 8:58 pm with No Comments »
March 14, 2013 9:05 pm

During last fall’s campaign for charter schools, members of the Tacoma School Board voted to oppose the ballot initiative.

But now that voters have approved the measure, board members are preparing to talk about whether they should become a charter school authorizer.

Under Initiative 1240, the independent, publicly funded schools could be authorized to begin operations either by a local school board or by a recently appointed statewide commission. But school boards must apply to state officials for the privilege.

On Thursday, Tacoma board members agreed to discuss the possibility at their March 28 meeting. The school district has until April 1 to indicate its intent on whether it wants to become an authorizer.

Tacoma Superintendent Carla Santorno said the April cutoff is only a first step, not a commitment to become an authorizer. But she said she would recommend that the district take that step so that it can be prepared if it chooses to become one.

Santorno said that with passage of the initiative, charters will likely be coming to Washington.
If there are to be charters in Tacoma, she said, the district wants to ensure that they align with its strategic plan – particularly its goal of closing the achievement gap for minority students.

“We want to investigate whether we want to get into the business (of charters),” she said. “We are not committing to being a charter authorizer.”

Board President Debbie Winskill pointed out that if Tacoma Public Schools passes up the opportunity to authorize charters, the state commission could still approve charters in Tacoma.

The school board will meet March 28 at 3:30 p.m. in the Wilson High School auditorium, a change from its usual meeting time and location.

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