WA Charter Schools Initiative Passing Narrowly

Nov 7, 2012

The initiative to allow charter schools in Washington state is narrowly passing with 51 percent of the vote.

This was the fourth time the state’s voters considered charter schools.

Supporters said charters would expand students’ educational options because charters aren't bound by district or union rules.

Chris Korsmo is the head of the League of Education Voters, which backed the campaign.

Korsmo: “I’m really proud that we kept it positive and factual. It was a statewide campaign and we made a lot of contact with voters in a variety of ways.”

The charter school campaign was able to reach voters in so many ways in part by outspending the opposition 17 to one, at last count.

Nearly all of the money behind I-1240 came from just a handful donors, including Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton.

Opposition campaign manager Sue Tupper says even those deep pockets couldn't guarantee a landslide.

Tupper: “I’m very encouraged by the fact that 11 million dollars didn't do it. They couldn't buy it. And that speaks volumes about the people of this state, their common sense, and where there heart’s really with regard to education, and what they’re committed to.”

Opponents said the main problem with public education in Washington is lack of funding, not lack of options.

But teachers unions didn't mount as strong a defense against charters as they had in elections past.

Union officials said they were financially outgunned this year.

So they decided to focus money on the governor’s race.

If I-1240 passes, it would allow 40 charter schools over five years.

The first eight charters could open next year.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio