- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 13, 2016

SEATTLE (AP) - The Washington State Charter School Commission got back to work on Wednesday.

The board, which was reconstituted in the state’s new charter school law, held a virtual meeting and set requirements and new deadlines for approving charter school contracts for next school year. The seven schools previously authorized by the commission to be charter schools will have until May 6 to meet certain financial and other filing deadlines, if they want to get a new charter school contract for the 2016-17 school year.

Two other schools were authorized by the Spokane school district and will need to follow a similar process to be reauthorized by June 2. So will three other schools authorized for future openings.

It is not clear if all 12 schools will go through the process again. One thing they will need to consider is the fact that under the new law they will not have access to local tax levy dollars, which is a source of money many had figured into their budgets for future years.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled last fall that the state’s charter school law was unconstitutional, because of the way the schools were paid for and governed. The Legislature passed a new charter law this year in response, but the underlying lawsuit remains in court for possible further action and a coalition including the statewide teachers’ union has said it will be filing another lawsuit.

The state’s first charter school - First Place Scholars in Seattle - turned back into a tuition-free private school after the Supreme Court decision. Most of the rest joined the Mary Walker School District in Stevens County school district under state guidelines for Alternative Learning Experiences and continued to receive state dollars. One remained an independent school supported with donations.

Voters decided in 2012 to start a charter school system for up to 40 schools in Washington state. In addition to reviving most of the previous schools it has authorized, the commission plans to begin the next round of applications in January 2017.

The new charter school law also includes more financial reporting, regular state audits and some optional enrollment changes. The commission will also be getting some new members: a representative of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and one from the State Board of Education.

One part of the new law requires schools to post online and share with parents in other ways a warning that the charter school system is still involved in fighting a lawsuit that could result someday in the system being shut down again.

The commission is scheduled to meet again on May 19 in Tacoma to discuss the proposed new charter contracts and the information provided by the schools.

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