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New Investments Build on Efforts to Give Public Charter Schools in Washington State a Strong Start

State’s First Charter Announced; Grants from the Gates Foundation will help ensure Washington families have access to high-quality charter schools

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

SEATTLE (January 29, 2014) – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is making more than $13 million in grants to help Washington state’s new public charter schools get off to a strong start and to ensure families have access to high-quality public schools that meet their needs. These grants build on Washington’s commitment to bring only the strongest charter schools to communities.

The investments announced today include:

  • $4.2 million to the Washington State Charter Schools Association to expand its support for local leaders looking to open charter schools and for outreach to families and communities.
  • $525,000 to Spokane Public Schools to support collaboration between district and charter schools in Spokane.
  • $500,000 to Charter Board Partners, a nonprofit that will work with charter schools in Washington to build strong, strategic boards that help schools and students succeed.
  • $200,000 to Seneca Family of Agencies to develop integrated systems of support for special education and at-risk students in Washington state charter schools.
  • $4 million to Summit Public Schools, a high-quality charter management organization that is working to expand into Washington state.
  • $4.2 million to Green Dot Public Schools, a high-quality charter management organization that is working to expand into Washington state.

“There are many great schools in Washington state that get great results for students. With the addition of public charter schools, we are working to help build collaborations and partnerships that give parents access to a variety of high-quality public school options to find the right fit for their child. Our goal is to ensure every child in Washington has the opportunity to receive a great education,” said David Bley, director of the Pacific Northwest program, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The foundation’s grant to Spokane Public Schools—the first school district approved to authorize charter schools—will help the district put support structures in place to ensure that the charter schools it authorizes meet the highest standards. On Jan. 22, Spokane approved the state’s first charter school application from PRIDE Prep Schools.

“The move to open charter schools in Washington state presents parents with exciting additional choices in their child's education. I am proud to be the superintendent of a district that authorized the first charter in our state and look forward to seeing what the future holds for our students, our parents, and our community,” said Shelley Redinger, superintendent of Spokane Public Schools.

With support from the Gates Foundation, the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) was launched in 2013 to support the start-up of high-quality public charter schools. As part of its work with families, education leaders, and communities, WA Charters created a fellowship program to support educators interested in opening charter schools. One of its Senior Fellows is Brenda McDonald, founder of Washington's first authorized charter school, PRIDE Prep. With new funding from the foundation, WA Charters will build on these efforts.

The foundation’s new investments will also help bring models from other states that have a proven track record with strong student success. Summit Public Schools and Green Dot Public Schools have excelled in supporting students from economically disadvantaged communities in California and Tennessee. Both charter management organizations have spent time engaging with communities in Western Washington, where they hope to open public charter schools and adapt their successful models to meet the local needs of each community. The foundation is providing grants to each of these charter management organizations to assist efforts to open schools here in Washington.

Nearly 100 percent of graduates from Summit Public Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area have been accepted to four-year colleges. Green Dot Public Schools are located in some of Los Angeles’ highest need communities, yet research has shown that their students are nearly four times more likely to graduate and be ready for college than similar students at neighboring schools.

Charter schools are public schools that will be open to all students in Washington state. Voters approved charter schools in November 2012. Through a foundation grant, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers has also provided technical assistance to Spokane Public Schools and the Washington State Charter School Commission to establish a high-quality charter school program in Washington state. The Charter School Commission plans to approve or deny its 19 applications by Jan. 30.

The Gates Foundation sees charter schools as just one tool in the broader public education system. Across the country, the foundation funds projects that bring district schools, charter schools, parents, and the larger community together in the interest of student success. The foundation’s District-Charter Collaboration Compacts support 19 cities implementing plans for collaboration between public charter and district schools.

In Washington state, the foundation also supports high-quality early learning programs, better feedback and professional support for teachers and principals, community-driven and comprehensive efforts to address education, and other strategies that personalize learning for students at every step in their education journey. To learn more about the Gates Foundation’s work in Washington state, visit Washington State.  

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.


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