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Audit: Teachers without licenses taught at some charters

March 8, 2022 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — Teachers who lacked proper accreditation taught at charter schools in Seattle and Tacoma, in violation of state rules, a Washington state audit has found.

The audit found that Summit Sierra and Summit Atlas, schools in Seattle, and Summit Olympus, a school in Tacoma, received almost $4 million in funding related to the positions, which may now need to be repaid, KUOW reported.

The Washington State Auditor’s Office made the discovery during routine 2019-2020 school year accountability audits of the schools, which are the Washington locations of a California-based charter school network.

As privately run, publicly funded institutions, charter schools can operate independently, but teachers must either have or be in the process of obtaining Washington teaching licenses.

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While teaching licenses lapse at times or are delayed, State Auditor Pat McCarthy said that was not the case for most of the Summit teachers in question.

“What’s unprecedented about this is the fact that it extended over the course of the full academic year,” McCarthy said.

Because of that, Summit schools received $3.89 million in state funding more than it should have, the auditor’s office estimated.

In a formal response, a lawyer for Summit Public Schools challenged all of the audit’s findings, and the state’s repayment calculations.

The auditors, attorney David Stearns wrote, failed “to recognize the explicit exception to the teacher certification requirement that applies to charter schools.”

But Jessica de Barros, interim executive director of the Washington State Charter School Commission, which authorizes and oversees Summit Public Schools, said all public charter schools are required to employ certificated teachers.

The commission supports full compliance with all of the audit recommendations, including repayment of inappropriately-granted state dollars, de Barros said.

“We have since strengthened our systems to ensure these inadvertent reporting issues will not happen again,” Kate Gottfredson, spokesperson for Summit Public Schools told the media outlet. “We will work with the (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) to develop an appropriate plan to address the findings.”

Spokesperson Katy Payne said the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s legal counsel is reviewing the findings.