OLYMPIA, Wash. – Supporters of Initiative 1240, a measure that will allow a limited number of public charter schools in Washington state, today submitted more than 350,000 voter signatures to the Secretary of State – over a 100,000 more signatures than needed to place the measure on the November 2012 statewide ballot.
“Today we’re submitting over 100,000 more signatures than required to place Initiative 1240 on the November ballot,” said Shannon Campion, executive director of the Washington chapter of Stand for Children, one of the groups supporting the initiative. “The fact that so many voters across the state stepped forward and signed our petitions in record time clearly shows that Washingtonians want another opportunity to vote on allowing public charter schools in our state.”
“Public charter schools provide an important educational option that is available to students and parents in 41 other states, and it’s time to make this opportunity available to families here in Washington, too,” said Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle), who supports the initiative and is a member of the YES on 1240 Coalition. “Voters have clearly shown they want another chance to consider this issue, and we believe the majority will join us in voting YES in November – to finally allow public charter schools here in Washington.”
Charter schools are public schools, open to all students and do not charge tuition. Public charter schools are independently-managed by nonprofit organizations and overseen by a local school board or by a state charter school commission. Public charter schools receive funding based on student enrollment just like traditional public schools, and are subject to the same academic standards as traditional public schools. In addition, teachers in public charter schools must meet the same certification requirements as teachers in traditional public schools. However, public charter schools are free from many other regulations, so they have more flexibility to set curriculum and budgets, hire and fire teachers and staff, and offer more customized learning experiences for students.
Under the initiative, a maximum of 40 public charter schools could be authorized over a five-year period. These schools will be subject to strict oversight and public accountability, and the initiative requires an evaluation of their performance in improving academic achievement and outcomes for Washington public school students before additional public charter schools would be allowed.
“This measure is a modest and reasonable approach to improving educational opportunities for all students in Washington,” said State Sen. Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island), also a member of the YES on 1240 Coalition. “Washington is one of the few states that doesn’t allow public charter schools as an educational option. We believe that once Washington voters have a chance to study the facts about I-1240, the overwhelming majority will join with us to support this initiative to provide additional educational options for Washington students who need them.”
“While our public schools are working well for many students, far too many children are falling through the cracks,” said Campion. “Initiative 1240 draws on the most successful practices in other states to be sure we can establish excellent public charter schools here in Washington, especially to serve those students who aren’t succeeding in traditional public schools now.”
Initiative 1240 is supported by a broad bi-partisan coalition of education advocates, teachers, parents, Democrat and Republican legislators and community leaders across the state including State Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D), State Sen. Rodney Tom (D), State Sen. Steve Litzow (R), the League of Education Voters, the Washington Chapter of Stand For Children, Democrats for Education Reform, Washington Roundtable, and the Association of Washington Business.