We work with legislators and policy makers to ensure that legislation in Olympia affecting schools and education is crafted with the particular needs of private and independent schools in mind.
WFIS represents the interests of private schools on agency boards and working groups, and serves as the official liaison organization for independent schools with OSPI and the Department of Children Youth & Families.
Educators have countless opportunities for professional learning – but WFIS provides professional learning events that are carefully tailored to the specific needs of private schools.
WFIS is a membership organization started in 1970 for private, independent State-approved schools in Washington. We have 260+ member schools that include religious, nonsectarian, independent, accredited and non-accredited schools in urban, suburban and rural settings. Schools range in size from over 2,000 to under 10 students.
WFIS brings together school Superintendents, Principals, Teachers, education advocacy organizations, State agency leadership from OSPI and DCYF, Directors of Accreditation Organizations, and Legislators to discuss and protect the required independence for private schools.
Private schools in Washington State educate close to 83,000 students. It would cost close to a billion dollars to provide instruction for these children in the public school system. Private schools successfully help teach the public, support communities, and graduate young adults who contribute positively to society.
Through discussion, consensus building and action, WFIS has had amazing success at stopping damaging and crafting supportive legislation. WFIS also provides excellent professional development, bringing together staff from all of the different kinds of schools around topics of interest for all.
The Washington Federation of Independent Schools exists to strengthen education for the students of Washington State as the advocate for and voice of independent schools.
Educational Freedom and Independence – WFIS values the freedom of families to choose how their children will be educated and upholds the independence of educational institutions to deliver the curricula that most effectively supports the mission of its school.
Diversity – WFIS honors the diversity of families, students and educational institutions in Washington State. We celebrate the many unique educational missions of our member schools and recognize that diversity in our membership makes us a stronger voice for independent schools.
Cooperation and Collaboration – WFIS values working with its partners in a cooperative and collaborative spirit to support all students in its member schools.
Private schools support the needs of their communities. Not all students do well in one type of school environment; not all parents share the same moral values. WFIS is the framework for bringing the voices of private school leadership together. One voice, one purpose: Keep private schools viable and protected in Washington.
- Average private school acceptance rate 83% 83%
- Private schools that are religiously affiliated 53% 53%
- Washington schools that are private/independent 22% 22%
“Thank you for all you have done to support private schools, especially during these trying times! I have sure appreciated your wisdom and support through the many Zoom meetings you have made available–COVID & EANS–to name just a couple! It has been a huge help and comfort to me as I navigated our small Christian school, rather independently. After 32 years in education, I am putting away my lesson plan book and am retiring. I am praying for your continued work on behalf of all of us – it is not easy!“
– Tammie Lenz, Ellensburg Christian School
Benefits of Membership
Legislative and Policy Advocacy
We work with legislators and policy makers to stop damaging bills, and craft supportive legislation that protects and supports the unique needs of our member schools throughout the state.
Agencies and Accrediting Organizations
WFIS brings together school teams, education advocacy organizations, agency leadership from OSPI and DEL, Executive Directors of Accreditation Organizations, and Legislators to discuss and protect the required independence for our member schools.
Professional Learning Resources
WFIS provides professional development for members and non-members that bring together staff from diverse schools around topics of interest that are relevant to private schools.
Frequently Asked Questions
We regularly get questions about requirements, government policies and legislative actions, funding opportunities and a variety of other issues of interest to private schools. Our FAQs provide answers to many of the questions we hear frequently.
Wherever possible, we also provide links to appropriate resources.
If you have a question that is not answered here, please contact us directly, and we’ll do our best to get you an accurate answer.
How can I tell if a school is an approved Private School in WA?
The State Board of Education lists approvals of private schools as they occur starting in May. View the May 14, 2020 SBE meeting Approval Certificates, and know that additional schools will be approved at the July State Board meeting.
Review the SBE sortable list of schools approved for the 2019-2020 school year. Approved private schools from years prior to 2010-20 are listed in private school enrollment reports available on the OSPI Data and Reports webpage.
What are the minimum annual instructional days / hours required for a private school in WA State?
Current law that states that the minimum school year for instructional purposes for private schools is at least a school-wide annual average of 1,000 instructional hours for students enrolled in grades 1-12 and 450 hours in kindergarten, or 180 school days. Meeting either the hours requirement or the days requirement is acceptable.
Due to COVID, again for 2021-2022 academic year:
What are the Annual Reporting requirements and deadlines that private schools need to submit to the State?
Private schools are required to submit reports each year to comply with Washington state law.
- Annual approval is through the State Board of Education each spring, typically in March. The form takes about 45 minutes to complete and will require specific information be gathered in advance. It includes Staff Reporting questions to confirm all educators are certificated, or the school must list the reason for each un-certificated educator as well as the certificated individual responsible for their oversight. Complete details on the SBE Private Schools webpage.
- The Behavior and Weapons report, is filed through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) School Safety Center using OSPI’s application via the Education Data System (EDS). Again this year, the requirement has been WAIVED and discussion underway about whether it will be required next October. Contact Mike Donlin at Mike.firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
- Annual Private School Enrollment Report, is required by state & federal law. Data on student enrollment as of October 1 is submitted between October 15 – November 15.
- Private school participation in Federal Programs, through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), occurs each spring around March. Review OSPI’s Brief Description of Private School Equitable Services and contact the Title Funds Ombuds Julie Chace or MaryJo Johnson with questions.
- Immunization reporting through the Department of Health must be submitted by every public & private K-12 school, typically around November 1st. Instructions for preschool and child care reporting are available on the Child Care and Early Learning Immunization Reporting webpage.
How to Change Private School Information
A private school may change the Head of School, the Head of School contact information, the school address, and/or the school contact information by completing this form: Private School Change of Information Form. You CAN NOT change the name of your school using this form. Schools whose name changes should apply as a new school during the private school approval application period
In order to fulfill the reporting requirements, private schools will need to use the Educational Data System (EDS). For instructions on how to gain access or receive a particular user role, please visit the EDS access page.
How many Washington certificated teachers do schools need on staff?
Schools are required to have at least one Washington State certificated teacher, administrator or Superintendent per building. Any non-certificated educator at a school must be overseen by a certificated educator whose name is provided to the Sate Board of Education as responsible for their oversight.
Can private schools access Washington’s Immunization Information System (IIS)?
Private schools can establish a view account to access the data maintained in Washington’s Immunization Information System (IIS), a lifetime registry that keeps track of immunization records for people of all ages. The system is a secure, web-based tool for healthcare providers and schools. With a view account you can instantly look up student immunization records and print CIS forms. NEW this year, DOH is offering the School Module, a portal into the Immunization Information System that gives users some added functionality beyond the typical view accounts.
The first step to becoming an IIS user is completing a user sharing agreement. Either the View Only Agreement which allows authorized personnel to view immunization data stored within the WAIIS to assist in immunization verification and documentation or the Exchange Agreement which provides access to the School Module that allows schools to add missing immunization records to the IIS, run reports on your student population, and generate parent letters.
Hard copies of the sharing agreements with original signatures must be mailed to:
Washington State Department of Health
Office of Immunization and Child Profile
PO Box 47843
Olympia, WA 98504-7843
**The “authorized healthcare provider” needs to be a person who is licensed, certified, registered, or otherwise authorized by the law of this state to provide health care in the ordinary course of business or practice of a profession (RCW 70.02). This person must be willing to take on the responsibilities outlined within the IIS Information Sharing Agreement. This doesn’t have to be an employee with the private school, but can also be a volunteer.
For additional information contact Julie.Tomaro@DOH.WA.GOV
Is it possible for private school students to participate in Running Start?
What are the policies and compliance for student records retention in private schools?
Private schools must take measures to safeguard all permanent records against loss or damage through either the storage of records in fire-resistant containers or facilities, or the retention of duplicates in a separate and distinct area. It is recommended that private schools follow the public School Districts and Educational Service Districts Records Retention Schedule, which states that student records (including high school and middle school transcripts, as well as elementary enrollment history and grade progression) be retained for 100 years after the student graduates or withdraws.
The following records should be kept indefinitely:
- Information on the “Registration Information” form. This form typically includes the legal name of pupil, birthdate, gender, verification of birth date, place of birth, name and address of parents or guardians, phone, address if different from parents and family members.
- Information kept on the “Cumulative Folder” includes entering and leaving date of each school year, name of teacher, verification of the name and address of the parent and residence of the pupil.
- All report cards and standardized testing results.
- Immunization compliance verification.
Private Schools leaders are required by state law to ensure student records are accessible long-term should the school permanently close. A school that no longer is in operation still has a responsibility to account for official student records. A sister school, accreditation organization, associated church or records firm such as https://www.parchment.com/ are examples of relationships private schools have established to fulfill this obligation.
How do I find out about Federal Title Funds for support of students and teachers?
Title Fund Questions should go to the Private School Ombuds at 360-725-6100
Mary Jo Johnson: Maryjo.Johnson@k12.wa.us
Julie Chace: Julie.email@example.com
Please go directly to the OSPI webpage for Private Schools & Non-profits to review updated Equitable Services information, current programs for which your school is eligible, and procedures.
Private Schools let OSPI know in February whether they plan to utilize their equitable share of Title Funds. They then should be in contact with their Public School District to begin to build a relationship with the Title Funds Team to be included in consultation on best use for Title Funds.
How many fire, earthquake and safety drills are independent schools required to have each year??
Schools are required to have at least one drill per month, including summer sessions with students. Drills must practice four basic functional threat or hazard responses:
- Shelter-in-Place—To limit the exposure of students and staff to hazardous materials, such as chemical, biological, or radiological contaminants, released into the environment by isolating the inside environment from the outside
- Lockdown—To isolate students and staff from threats of violence, such as suspicious trespassers or armed intruders, that may occur in a school or in the vicinity of a school; and
- Evacuation—To move students and staff away from threats, such as fires, oil train spills, or tsunamis
- In addition, a pedestrian evacuation drill must be included for schools in either a mapped tsunami or lahar hazard zone
- Earthquake—To practice the “drop, cover, and hold” protocol
Details and additional information on the OSPI School Safety webpage
What are the new mandatory rules for posting information regarding sexual abuse?
Effective July 2019, RCW 26.44.030 requires that schools in WA State must display the poster about Child Abuse in a “common area” at the 8×11.5″ size. Here is the English version pdf.
The poster provides specific information about:
- Who is required to report child abuse and neglect
- The standard of knowledge to justify reporting
- The definition of reportable crimes
- Where to report
- What should be included in a report with appropriate timing
It’s important for legislators to understand the perspective of the state’s private schools while making key decisions related to educating future generations… WFIS helps to bridge knowledge gaps and make sure that the experiences of all of the state’s students are considered.
Educational choice, private or public, is an important part of American life. The Washington Federation of Independent Schools provides incredible expertise, strong advocacy, and a unique forum that help makes a choice possible, fair, and able to meet the needs of the diversity of students in our many uniquely different and wonderful private schools.
WFIS has been a lifeline for me as a director and for my early learning director…it has been invaluable to hear what is going on in the greater private school community! Please know your work is very appreciated!
PO Box 31019
Seattle, WA 98103
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We’re happy to answer any questions you have or provide you with the right resources.