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 Early Learning.
Educators have countless opportunities for professional learning – but WFIS provides professional learning programs 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 250+ member schools that include religious, nonsectarian, independent, accredited and non-accredited schools in rural and urban 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 DEL, Executive 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%
“As a former board president and current member of WFIS, I understand how vitally important it is for every private or independent school in the State of Washington to have a strong voice in shaping the future of education for our children. Having an advocate in Olympia like Suzie Hanson, who passionately and articulately represents the best interests of all private and independent schools in Washington is essential to insuring that all families have the freedom to choose the best schools for their children.” – Trish King, Head of School, The Island 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 programs for 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 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.firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
What forms do private schools need to submit to the State by particular deadlines?
Annual Reporting Requirements
Private schools are required to submit reports each year to comply with Washington state law.
- Annual Approval, through the State Board of Education, submit in March and April. The form takes about 45 minutes to complete, cannot be paused and will require specific information be gathered in advance. Download this Approval Applications Instructions document to guide you in gathering what is needed beforehand.
- Private school participation in Federal Programs, through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), submit January to March.
- Weapons report, through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) School Safety Center, submit May to July.
- Enrollment and staffing report, through EDS, submit by the end of October.
- Immunization reporting, through the Department of Health, submit by the end of October.
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
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.
How can I tell if a school is an approved Private School in WA?
What are the policies and compliance for student records retention in private schools?
Private Schools should follow WA Secretary of State guidelines.
When the guidelines indicate certain information should be archived, it is indicating the information we need to be sure to hold on to within our own schools. See Archival / Permanent Records and Essential Records on page 73 of the link below.
The only RCW about retention states: “Appropriate measures shall be taken to safeguard all permanent records against loss or damage.”
California is quite clear about what should be in a permanent record and many find there rules helpful. Immunization forms are good to keep because there has and will be need for adults to retrieve this information later in life.
Records the District must keep indefinitely:
• Information on the “Registration Information” form. This form includes the legal name of pupil, birthdate, sex, verification of birth date, place of birth, name and address of parents or guardians, phone, address if different from parents and family members.
• Information on the Cumulative Folder. Information kept directly 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 records.
What are the new mandatory rules for posting information regarding sexual abuse?
Effective this past July, be sure to follow the mandatory law requiring all schools in WA State to display the poster about Child Abuse. RCW 26.44.030 requires that schools must display the poster in a “common area” at the 8×11.5″ size, in English and Spanish.
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
Can private schools access Washington’s Immunization Information System (IIS)?
Private schools can gain access to 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.
The first step to becoming an IIS user is completing a user sharing agreement. The Immunization Information View Only Agreement allows authorized personnel to view immunization data stored within the WAIIS to assist in immunization verification and documentation. This includes public school districts, private schools, Head Start, and ECEAP Grantee Agencies with licensed healthcare providers on staff. A licensed healthcare provider would be a school nurse, child care health consultant, or other authorized healthcare provider responsible for the operation and management of the school nurse or healthcare services.*
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. Basically the signatory of the Information Sharing Agreement has to be a licensed healthcare provider and is ultimately responsible for the use and security of the data accessed by their organization. The person signing the ISA can delegate the authority to another, such as a staff person at the school tasked with student health services.
For additional information contact Julie.Tomaro@DOH.WA.GOV
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.Senator Christine Rolfes
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.Al Falkner
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction oversees all public schools in Washington. The agency also cares deeply about the private school students in the state. To that end, OSPI works closely with the Washington Federation of Independent Schools, and both organizations strive to provide solid leadership and advice to the member schools.Dan Newell