In a close election, Washington voters approve first charter schools

It has taken nearly a week to tally votes, but citizens in the state of Washington appear to have approved charter schools by a narrow margin. (The state of Washington allows mail-in ballots to be postmarked through election day and then apparently counts them very carefully and slowly.)

The measure won 50.8 percent of the 90 percent of votes counted thus far.

Initiative 1240 will permit up to 40 charter schools over the next five years in the state. There are now 42 states that allow charter schools.

According to the Seattle Times: (This is an excerpt. Please read entire piece before commenting.)

Opponents have not conceded, saying they will wait until all votes are counted. To prevail, they would need about 57 percent of the remaining 300,000 votes to go their way. Roughly 90 percent of ballots already have been tallied.

Supporters hope the first charter schools will open as early as next fall, although that might be optimistic. The new state commission that will review and approve charter-school applications doesn’t have to be appointed until March 6. The state Board of Education also has until then to decide how it will handle applications from school boards that might want to authorize charters.

The measure also may still face a legal challenge. Randy Dorn, the elected head of the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, believes that the state Constitution requires all public schools to be under his department’s jurisdiction. Charter supporters say they’re confident he is wrong, but Dorn has asked the state attorney general’s office what his legal options might be.

Some charter-school groups have already expressed interest in coming here, and the superintendent of Spokane Public Schools is interested in having a charter in her district, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Tuesday’s election marked the fourth time since 1996 that Washington voters have been asked to approve charters, publicly financed but privately run schools that are supposed to live or die on how well their students perform.

In the past, a majority of voters have sided with charter opponents, who have argued charters haven’t proved to be better than other public schools, would drain money from them and leave them with the harder-to-educate kids.

Opponents had less money than in the past for their campaign, with the state teachers union focusing more attention on the governor’s race than on charter schools. Supporters raised more than ever before, mostly from a handful of wealthy individuals, and had a 10:1 financial edge. Given all that money, opponents have said they are happy the vote was close.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

13 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly D

November 13th, 2012
3:19 pm

Whatever the people of Washington want to do with their schools is fine with me. It’s their business and not mine.

bootney farnsworth

November 13th, 2012
3:39 pm

obviously, this is an issue which has a measure of traction with the US population.
I’m hopeful their bill was clearer and less smoke and mirrors than ours was.

Maureen, any chance you can link to the bill so we can compare/contrast it our own?

HS Public Teacher

November 13th, 2012
3:45 pm

EVENTUALLY – People will wake up and smell the coffee.

Charter schools have no magic powder for education. In some States, Charter schools are not chained by the laws and rules applied to public schools. My question here is – then why does the State want to chain the public schools?

Whenever Charter schools are forced to show their goods – the test scores of their students – history and the data are CLEAR: Charter schools are no better than public schools. This is true for every year in Georgia and in every other State that has them.

Sure, parental involvement may be higher. Maybe some Charter schools REQUIRE parents to log a certain number of volunteer hours.

Sure, Charter schools may require a more strict dress code of their students…. maybe even a uniform.

Sure, Charter schools may do other things – again, things that public schools are NOT allowed to do by law.

However, there is one thing for absolute CERTAIN! Charter schools run by private companys need to make a profit. Public schools do not. This means that some of your tax dollars allocated to public education ends up in the pockets of private companys and maybe even share holders of that company. And, that I totally disagree with!

When will people wake up and smell the coffee?

Pride and Joy

November 13th, 2012
4:28 pm

HS Public Teacher,
I am for charter schools because the teachers in my childrens’ public school cannot speak nor write common, standard English even though they were born and raised right here in Georgia. The Spanish teachers at the same school, who were born and raise outside the United States, speak and write English much better than our own homegrown APS teachers.
So, Hs Public Teacher, when you write “companys” instead of “companies,” you are demonstrating the kind of ignorance that I want my children to get away from.
I can’t hire fire teachers at my child’s public school but at a charter school, parents have that kind of input.
That’s what is lacking in public schools — accountability to the taxpayers.
In a traditional public school, when a teacher doesn’t know how to spell the plural form of a noun, she or he can jsut keep on pickking up a paycheck and just keep on “teaching” the children incorrectly.
The time of no accountabililty is ending. 42 out of 50 states have charters. The trend is growing. Schools need to shape up or ship out.

Pride and Joy

November 13th, 2012
4:30 pm

Obviously there are not two ks in picking and obviously jsut is just.
I get so frustrated when some teachers on this blog complain about the parents and charters, yet they show their own ignorance.

Pride and Joy

November 13th, 2012
4:37 pm

This is a frequent comment on this blog “This means that some of your tax dollars allocated to public education ends up in the pockets of private companys and maybe even share holders of that company.”
What the commenters don’t understand is that parent taxpayers like me are HAPPY that for-profit companies will make a profit on charter schools. I will GLADLY pay my taxes for a good education and will be delighted that some other employees are making a profit.
It just proves my point — traditional public schools are wasteful. Many aren’t even teaching adequately and yet they are still charging 14k per year per kid (Atlanta Public Schools) AND claiming they are underfunded and need more money!
When a charter succeeds in teaching the children for LESS than 14K and STILL MAKES a profit — they just proved that traditional public schools are wasting tons of money.
We parents DON’T CARE or like me, even welcome for-profit companies making money as long as they teach the kids!
When will HS Public Teacher wake up out of her self-induced coma? I don’t need any caffeine to smell to know that APS is a crooked bureaucracy that only cares about keeping bureaucrats in power and rolling in the dough?
Good public school teachers will always have jobs. Charter schools need good teachers. They will come recruiting the good teachers.
Only bad teachers and bloated bureaucrats need to worry.


November 13th, 2012
7:14 pm

lol pride and joy, silly of hs teacher to think that corporations…CORPARATIONS will want more money=tax dollars as time goes on or haven’t ya paid attention to our nations issues currently. though i agree parents should have more power and influence in public schools, but that’s the voters problem, perhaps PARENTS should vote and take a stance for their children,like assist with home work,or vote or attend PTA meetings,and if those forms don’t work then parents should assist in reforming them to a workable program,be involved. you may be involved with your children- but many are not. our society has become so fast passed time isn’t allowed,money must to be earned to purchase all those goods corporations tell us we need..our minds are always under attack by add after add-air time purchased by CORPARATIONS, so who owns the mother corporation that runs your charter school’s? And whats their agenda?


November 13th, 2012
7:14 pm

The Washington initiative text is available here:

Pride and Joy

November 13th, 2012
7:30 pm

Maureen, Any chance you can offer some blogs that would be helpful to parents?
One commenter posted about a “maymester,” a brief study abroad.
does the Get Schooled blog always have to be about something that might be controversial or can you post something helpful and informative?
Ideas — Maymesters — Move on When Ready, other things that would be helpful to we parents to help us plan for our children.


November 13th, 2012
8:29 pm

Wake up people! The whole “this means some of your tax dollars are going to FOR PROFIT companies” complaint holds NO water. Your tax dollars have been going to FOR PROFIT companies for YEARS….TESTING companies, TEXTBOOK companies, health insurance companies, office and school supply companies, and the list goes ON and ON and ON. We live in a capitalist society. Schools as entities are consumers just like yourselves and get goods and services from the private sector. The private sector companies turn a profit, pay their employees and shareholders (if they have shareholders), and all those entities and people PAY taxes (well, most of them anyway). And the cycle continues. Guess you skipped HS econ.

Private Citizen

November 14th, 2012
6:29 am

The real news is that Washington state and Colorado just voted to legalize and tax / regulate marijuana. As far as state law, marijuana is now legal in the state of Washington. If the fed does not obstruct they are going to have a river of new funds to pay for their education due to less incarceration and more tax income.

DeKalb Inside Out

November 14th, 2012
8:54 am

Corporations will want more money just like traditional schools – Yes, but the difference is how they get it. If a school district wants more money they sit down and decide to raise taxes and it’s done. If an EMO, Education Management Organization, wants more money it must provide a superior service at a competitive price compared to the other EMOs. By doing so, they can try to grow their business. Any extra money from taxes goes to the charter board. The board could give them more money, or they could cut that EMO loose and get a cheaper EMO.

I wish we could cut our local school administration.


November 14th, 2012
11:32 am

@ P&J. Maymesters are offered at the college level, and they’re well-publicized to the students. They aren’t usually used for studies abroad, but as a way for students to get a necessary but disliked course out of the way fast.

Now, back to the Washington vote on charters. (Of course, their vote was not about having a state-wide commission approve charters when there are two other available avenues for charter school approval……….)