Starting a Private or Independent School

The process to start a new private school in WA State takes 2-3 years on average.

Private School Requirements by WA State Law


Annual Approval by the WA State Board of Education

All private schools must be approved by the Washington State Board of Education before opening to serve students.  The first step is to review the State Board of Education’s Private Schools webpage outlining Becoming an Approved Private School.
The Washington State Legislature established that private schools should be subject only to those minimum state controls necessary to ensure the health and safety of students and that graduation requirements meet a sufficient basic education.  RCW 28A.195.010 outlines the minimum requirements and exemptions that all private K12 schools must follow.
The State Board of Education is tasked with tracking these requirements and provided clarification of the Teacher Certification Requirement for Private Schools in 2023.


Academic Year Requirements for Private Schools

Private schools are mandated to provide students in grades 1-12 with a minimum of 1000 school hours or 180 days. Private schools most often exceed these requirements.

Hours that count must include educational activities planned by and under the direction of school staff and available to all students, either as instructional time, school events, or teacher-parent conferences. Distance and online learning can count when directed by school staff.

Activities that don’t count include school meals, graduation-related events, activity or sports competitions, performances, and other elective gatherings. While important, these events are not considered part of the regular school schedule.

To learn more about how Washington defines a school day, visit  And the requirements for private schools

WA State Learning Standards & Instructional Materials

The OSPI website has all the standards, expectations, and open resources for grade-related curricula.

Learning standards define what all students need to know and be able to do at each grade level.
As required by state law (RCW 28A.655.070), OSPI develops the state’s learning standards and periodically revises them based on the student learning goals in RCW 28A.150.210. Click here to learn more about the process and click here for a timeline of review and implementation.



If you are running an all-day preK (over 4 hours), you will need a license from the Dept. of Children, Youth and Families:
If you are running a school program for K plus any grade, you will need approval from the State Board of Education:
Accreditation and approval are different processes in Washington. It is APPROVAL that is mandatory in WA State.

Private School Participation in Federal Programs


To be eligible to participate in federal programs, private schools must be state-approved and non-profit.

The students, parents/guardians, and educators of non-profit, private schools approved by the Washington State Board of Education may be eligible for services provided through some Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA) federal education programs. These services can provide a valuable supplement to the core programming and professional development of participating private schools.

Review OSPI’s Requirements for Private Schools to Participate in Federal Programs. Each year, private schools must notify districts and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) of their intent to participate, or not, in federal program services by completing and submitting the Private Participation in Federal Programs application in the Education Data System (EDS). See EDS Log-In Instructions. The application is due in April each year.

ESEA programs
  • Title I, Part A – Education for the Disadvantaged
  • Title I, Part C – Education of Migratory Children
  • Title I, Part D – Neglected & Delinquent
  • Title II, Part A – Supporting Effective Instruction
  • Title III, Part A – English Learners & Immigrant Education
  • Title IV, Part A – Student Support & Academic Enrichment
  • Title IV, Part B – 21st Century Community Learning Centers
  • Title V, Part B – Rural Education Initiative
  • Title VI, Part A – Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education
  • Title VII, Part B – McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Education for Homeless Children and Youth
  • IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Act (Special Education)