Uncredited Educators Caught Teaching In Schools

A state already troubled in the search for credited educators caught allowing unlicensed teachers in classrooms.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

National Teacher Unions Have Lost 200,000 Members

credited educators

Auditors in Washington state say that three charter schools allowed two dozen unlicensed teachers to instruct students during the 2019-2020 school year, a major violation of state law. These violations amounted to the schools receiving combined “unallowable” funds of nearly $4 million from the state. The violations also underscore the difficulty the state (seen across the nation as well) is having to fetch credited educators in to teach.

State Auditor Pat McCarthy commented via the Seattle Times on the routine state audits that produced these credited educators’ infractions. “Our audits revealed an unprecedented disregard for Washington teacher certification requirements in these schools,” he wrote in three separate reports. “They are public schools and they must follow the law.” The schools in question are Washington locations of a California-based charter school network. They are Summit Atlas and Summit Sierra charter schools in Seattle, and Summit Olympus in Tacoma. Charter schools are privately run but they also use public funds. They operate independently from public schools but the teachers they employ must be credited educators and have a Washington state teaching license or they must be in the process of obtaining one.

McCarthy acknowledges that at times, teaching licenses lapse or are delayed, but noted that this was not the case for the majority of the Summit charter schoolteachers with uncredited educators. “What’s unprecedented about this is the fact that it extended over the course of the full academic year,” McCarthy said via AP News. This full year of academic violations cost the state $3.89 million in total. The exact infractions can be seen in the table below.

But Summit Public Schools lawyer, David Stearns, is challenging each violation surrounding credited educators as well as the state’s calculation of the repayment numbers. In his formal response, Stearns notes that the state auditors failed “to recognize the explicit exception to the teacher certification requirement that applies to charter schools.” Stearns also expressed Summit’s discontent surrounding certified educators by saying via KUOW News, “It is simply not the case that a person is only qualified to teach under Washington law if he or she has a state-issued teacher certificate.”

While employing credited educators within the state has been a major issue and concern, Jessica de Barros disagrees with Stearns. De Barros is the interim executive director of the Washington State Charter School Commission. The Commission is in charge of authorizing and overseeing the Summit Public Schools. “All public charter schools are required to employ certificated teachers,” de Barros said. “The Commission supports full compliance with all of the audit recommendations.” The support from the Commission includes how the totals were established by the auditors and the full repayment of the ill-gained state dollars.

Stearns also pointed out a provision in state law in his formal response saying that unlicensed teachers with exceptional qualifications could be supervised by credited educators. But Summit never presented any evidence that this was the case nor that it was their intention. “There was no documentation that this occurred,” noted DeBarros.

credited educators

During the school year in which the audit was being performed, nearly 1,000 students attended all three Summit schools combined. Washington State Charter School Commission spokesperson Maggie Meyers said, “By law, charter public schools in WA are required to be staffed by certified teachers with the same limited exception that applies to all public schools.” Meyers also says most of the teachers were credited educators from out of state and that they were also in the process of obtaining the appropriate state certification to teach legally in Washington.

But Meyers also admitted the teachers in question missed a very important step of “obtaining a temporary, emergency or substitute certificate.” Summit’s governing board consists of three members and they are responsible for making sure that all teachers are certified credited educators. Whether it was intentional or not, they missed a dozen and these violations are going to cost a pretty penny.