WFIS established a working relationship with Senator Dhingra, although we had serious reservations about her bill, SB5515. This bill allows CPS to investigate complaints of abuse on school campuses and mandates that boarding schools get licensed for the residential portion of their program through DCYF.

The good news is that WFIS, early on, changed the bill significantly in favor of schools. With the help of an advisory group of boarding schools who offered feedback and contacted legislators, the bill stipulates that DCYF will tour and talk with school leaders about current safety protocols before writing the rules. Also, schools will participate in the negotiated rule-making, meaning they will be at the table when licensing laws are written. These changes were agreed upon by DCYF even though they cost the state more money. Also added: If a school is accredited, there is the potential that it will be exempt from licensing. This was agreed upon after WFIS testified that DCYF licensing is unnecessary and redundant.

The less good news is that there is a “private schools need more oversight” tone in the legislature and State agencies. The rough times of COVID and the loss of students in public schools have made policymakers feel they need to tighten belts and expand legislation.

In response, WFIS is fighting in Olympia daily for independence from state oversight by getting in front of the narrative and meeting with State officials. WFIS must consistently redirect conversations with State Board of Education staff, the OSPI, and the Professional Educators Standards Board away from an over-interest in governance. Private schools do this work well and should be free of extra attention from the state agency staff or legislators.