The Gates Foundation Invests in Charter Schools in Washington

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Seattle, Washington
(206) 709-3100

In 2012, the State of Washington announced the narrow passage of a voter initiative authorizing the creation of the state’s first charter schools. In 2013, with support from The Gates Foundation, the Washington State Charter Schools Association was created to support the start-up of high-quality public charter schools.

With the opening of the first public charter schools likely to happen in the Fall of 2015, The Gates Foundation has again made significant contributions during the beginning of 2014 to support the endeavor.

The foundation awarded another grant to the Washington State Charter Schools Association. This time, it is a $4.2 million grant to expand the association’s support for local leaders looking to open charter schools. The association has created a school leadership fellowship program, which supports fellows interested in opening up new Charter Schools with design, training and implementation guidance, while receiving a stipend. This grant will allow the association to expand their fellowship program.

Summit Public Schools and Green Dot Public Schools – both of which are out-of-state charter management organizations that are working to expand into Washington – received $4 million and $4.2 million respectively. The grants will help the organizations efforts to open schools in the state for the 2015 school year.

Summitt Public Schools manages six charter high schools in the Bay Area of California. It recently earned the state’s first charters to open two high schools before the 2015-16 school year in Seattle and Tacoma.

Green Dot Public Schools, operates 14 small high schools and five small middle schools in the Los Angeles area. They are slated to open a small middle school in 2015 in Tacoma, and hope to open up to five additional schools in Washington.

Gates has also awarded Spokane Public Schools $500,000, the first district to approve the creation of a charter school, Pride Prep, to open in the Fall 2015. The grant will help the district put support structures in place to ensure that the charter schools it authorizes meet the highest standards.  It will also help the district in their collaborative efforts between traditional district schools and public charter schools.

The relationship between these two entities can be strained due to issues around recruitment, admission and space. The grants will be used to create a ”universal enrollment” system for both public schools and public charter schools. The grant will also be used to create joint professional development opportunities, and common evaluation measures of the schools. .

For more information on the Gates Foundation’s work in Washington State, click here.

Judith Fenlon is a the Money and Business Editor

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