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