Wellman supports state auditor’s review of Summit Charter Schools 


Olympia – Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island) today lauded a state audit that uncovered 24 teachers who were teaching without a current Washington state teacher certification in charter schools run by Summit Schools. Wellman praised the effective leadership that unearthed unprecedented results in the annual look-back into the performance of Washington Schools.

“Audits are a good and necessary tool for maintaining the highest integrity of our schools’ performance,” said Wellman, who chairs the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. “While we are alarmed by the problems identified for the 2019-2020 school year in Summit Schools, we are grateful that this rigorous audit will ensure the same accountability in the charter school system that we require of our public schools.

“Let’s be clear — this audit, while statewide, unearthed major concerns regarding a single charter school system, Summit Schools, that oversees three schools in Washington state. It’s disappointing and distressing to learn that students who attended the three Summit schools, Atlas, Sierra, and Olympus, unknowingly attended courses led by uncertified teachers.

“To teach in Washington state, teachers are required to have valid Washington State teaching certificate. While some waivers and emergency teaching certifications exist, Summit pursued neither option. This impacted numerous students who were enrolled in more than 50 courses taught by teachers without the necessary credentials and without proper oversight by the Summit Schools’ executive board. Our public schools have the oversight of locally elected school boards. The Summit Schools in Washington have boards appointed by an executive board based in California. It is incredibly disconcerting that the audit revealed Summit boards were meeting quarterly and failing time and again to provide this critical oversight.”

The Summit Charter Schools’ Executive Board, based in California, is responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of credentialed staff. The audit released by the State Auditor’s Office documented that the board did not meet monthly, as per state requirements, and did not take remedial steps to address concerns over uncertified teachers.

The audit notes that Washington schools receive funding based on their independent claims of certified, or eligible, teachers. The state paid some $12.3 million in taxpayer dollars to Summit based on its internally reported number of certified teachers on staff. Due to these wrongly reported numbers, it is estimated that Summit schools could have received up to $3,890,855 more in apportionment funds than it should have per state law.

While issues of delayed credentials sometimes occur, for up to a week or even a month, nothing of this magnitude has ever been found in audits of the state’s public school system. No disregarding of credentials to this extent has ever been found in a state audit of a public school system.