Many checks and balances ensure public charter schools provide a quality education. Just like any public school, public charter schools are overseen by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. Public charter schools also have to comply with the same state and federal laws regarding health, safety, civil rights, and nondiscrimination as every other public school. Public charter schools must meet the same academic standards as any public school; their teachers have to meet the same certification requirements as any public school teacher; and students have to pass the same standardized tests.
To authorize a public charter school, a non-profit organization applies to a local school district or to the Washington State Charter School Commission. The application is rigorous and requires:
- A detailed curriculum
- A facility and financial plan
- Demonstration of parent and community support
- Plans for serving students with special needs
- A targeted plan for recruiting students in underserved communities
- Evidence that the proposed educational program is based on proven methods
The process also includes an opportunity for the community to provide input during a public forum.
After a public charter school’s application is approved, the school enters into a contractual relationship with the state or district level authorizer. The contract requires extensive oversight of financial and academic performance, and public charter schools must seek reauthorization every five years.
The boards that oversee public charter schools are subject to state and non-profit financial audits and have to answer to the community. Since families choose their public charter schools, those schools are directly accountable to parents and must ensure they are meeting parents’ standards and expectations.