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Dear ECS parents, 

 

The ECS Board has decided to seek approval from the Washington State Board of Education as a private school. Here are some of the reasons why and what it means. 

 

On July 7th we received a letter from the Washington State Board of Education giving us “Notice of Possible Non-Compliance with Washington State Law.” Private schools operating in the state are required to submit a statement every year certifying compliance with minimum state standards, and we have not done so. The letter gave us ten business days to reply and three options: 1) let them know that we are not a school, 2) complete the compliance application, or 3) ignore them and risk being turned over to the “Washington State Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protections Division to alert them of possible fraud.”  

 

We did reply within the time limit to confirm that we had received their letter and communicated that we would get back to them with a further response when possible. 

 

In principle we believe that the state should not have the authority to require parents (along with their churches, whether homeschooling or private schooling) to seek approval for educating their own kids. This principle is why we’ve not previously been concerned about state approval. The problem, however, is that the state currently does exercise such authority according to the law. It also seems that we’ve irritated a neighbor of the school, who contacted the Board of Education, and has put us on the Board of Education’s radar. 

 

Throughout the last month we’ve investigated our options and sought counsel from multiple sources. 

 

We talked with Darren Jones, Senior Counsel and Director of Group Services for the Home School Legal Defense Association. He clarified that even though our parents have been filling out intent-to-homeschool forms and awarding credit for graduation/transcripts, because our parents drop off students and leave campus, we do not count as a homeschool in Washington. The Washington law is clear that homeschooling means "instructing only your child." Mr. Jones recommended that we set up as a private school and that we do the minimum necessary to get state approval. In his opinion, refusal to submit is a "loser of a battle." 

 

This fits with our conversations with Ryan Tucker, Senior Counsel, Director of the Center for Christian Ministries of the Alliance Defending Freedom. Mr. Tucker also recommended that we seek state approval, knowing that we will require a number of exemptions. To identify as a school and (successfully) refuse to submit to the Board of Education would require changing the Washington law to say that the state has no authority over any private school. According to Mr. Tucker, even if we won on a local level, it would be tough, if not impossible, at higher state courts. The challenge of overturning state law for all private schools would be so significant that he's not sure the ADF would take the case.

 

The ECS Board also sought input from Tom Spencer, the Director of Accreditation and Member Services for ACCS. We’ve talked to two different headmasters of ACCS schools in WA, neither of whom recommend that we refuse to comply, and one of whom said he believes there are numerous benefits of approval, even for all the hassles involved. In fact, we’ve learned that all of our sister ACCS schools in Western WA are on the approved private school list. 

 

In all the conversations we’ve had, we only talked to one attorney who recommended that we make the state come after us. However this was an attorney who practices outside of Washington and who couldn't say what a future fight would look like or what it would cost.

 

Added to the above, the Washington Board of Education sent the same letter to the City of Marysville, and the City has notified us that they need a green light from the BoE before they will issue us our Conditional Use Permit for educational occupancy. 

 

There are 10 standards of compliance on the Minimum standards and certificate form. They concern what could be classified as outward facing and physical (even objectively measurable) standards, things such as number of school days, safeguarding permanent records, compliance with fire safety requirements, and refusal to discriminate. We will seek exemptions for a few of the standards, including the need for state certified teachers, especially since our teachers have responsibilities for teaching Bible classes and supervising other religious activities core to our mission. Though curriculum must include certain categories (i.e., science, math, language, etc.) the state cannot require us to use certain books, nor can the state require us to teach Critical Race Theory or Sex Ed., including LGBTQ+ issues. 

 

The questions for the ECS Board were: Are we most wise (in attempting) to change this law by resisting the principle of it altogether? Or are we most wise to submit until such a point where we are clearly prohibited from our mission to carry and advance Christ-honoring culture, and attempt to change the law through long term, legislative efforts? 

 

The benefits of seeking state approval as a private school include:

  • The WA Board of Education 
    no longer threatens action against us for fraud, which removes doubts about the legal status of children for sake of state truancy laws, and gives us authority to award our own graduation credits/diplomas.
  • It positions us for receiving the Conditional Use Permit from Marysville.
  • And though this is not a thing we’ve been pursuing, it would open up the opportunity to join the WIAA for sports participation at a future point if we desired to do so.

We do not plan on taking any money from the state.

The concerns include: submitting to an authority we believe is inappropriate (let alone incompetent), which opens us to a greater measure of external scrutiny (e.g. from the Health District), and which could result in additional expenses to fix certain requirements (i.e., classroom lighting?). We’ll have to see. 

 

ECS has already joined as members of the Alliance Defending Freedom, and will be conducting an audit of relevant documents for the sake of defining our beliefs and protecting the liberty of our internal governance.

 

So, all that to say, we have begun the process to seek state approval and request the necessary exemptions.  We welcome your prayers for wisdom and patience as we do so. 

 

We love you and your students, and we love our work of carrying and advancing Christ-honoring culture. The first day of school is still scheduled for September 6, and Lord willing our eleventh year will be the best yet. 

Risus est bellum!

The ECS Board:
Chuck Weinberg (Chairman)
Sean Higgins
Jim Martin
Jonathan Sarr

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