|Putting Children First||
BAD NEWS! The Washington Education Association (WEA) said today that it has enough referendum petition signatures to qualify Referendum 55 (R-55) for the November ballot. An article published this afternoon on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's web page is below, FYI.
We won't know for sure until the WEA actually files its referendum petitions with the Secretary of State and we get an official estimate of the number of signatures on the filed petitions. Under the Washington State Constitution, the WEA has until 5:00 PM on Wednesday, June 9 to submit its R-55 petitions.
At least 99,000 valid voter signatures are required to qualify a referendum. Because 15-25% of petition signatures are typically invalid, the WEA will need to file over 125,000 signatures to be certain of qualifying R-55.
If R-55 qualifies for the November ballot, the charter school law passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in March will be suspended until the People have the opportunity to render their verdict on November 2 (Presidential Election Day).
If the People vote YES on R-55, the charter school law will take effect when the election results are certified and WA's first charter schools could open as early as July 2005.
If the People vote NO on R-55, the charter law will terminate, and there will be no CHOICE of charter public schools in WA for years to come, possibly decades.
The WEA thinks they can defeat charter schools on the statewide ballot because they did so in 1996 and 2000. However, what the WEA ignores is that the support for charter schools has been growing over the last eight years.
In 1996, a strong charter school proposal only earned 36% of the vote statewide, and did not win a majority in any county.
In 2000, however, a moderate charter school proposal earned over 48% of the vote statewide, and won majority support in several counties, including Snohomish County (where Everett is located), Pierce County (where Tacoma is located) and Kitsap County (where Bremerton is located). Although charter schools lost in King County (where Seattle is located), the vote was very close: 49-51.
The support for charter schools increased by 12 points (from 36% to 48%) in the four years between 1996 and 2000. If we can increase the support for charter schools by another 12 points between 2000 and 2004, R-55 will pass easily in November with 60% of the vote.
But we don't need to increase the support for charter schools by 12 points; we only need to increase it by 2 points. That's just 2 voters out of every 100.
2% more is all we need. The voters we need to reach are your friends, family and coworkers.
So don't be shy! Tell everyone you know the following three things about charter schools:
-- Charter public schools are public schools.
Here's the details:
1. Charter public schools are public schools. They're just a new kind of public school with more choice for parents, more freedom for educators, and more accountability for delivering results. Unlike conventional public schools, charter public schools that don't improve student achievement in objective ways (higher test scores, higher graduation rates, etc.) are shut down, and all the adults who work there lose their jobs.
2. Charter public schools are good for kids, parents and teachers (but not unions) because they create more high-quality public school choices. One size doesn't fit all. The more public school choices families have, the more likely each child will get a good fit.
3. The teachers' union bosses hate charter public schools because charter schools will eventually reduce the $55 MILLION/YEAR in mandatory union dues that the union collects from WA educators (skimming 1% of all taxpayer dollars spent on public education!).
In WA, teachers at conventional public schools do not have a choice when it comes to paying union dues. Every teacher must pay an average of more than $700 in union dues as a condition of employment. However, because teachers at charter public schools get more freedom to be creative in exchange for promising to deliver better student achievement and putting their jobs on the line, charter school teachers do not have to pay union dues and rarely do.
Accordingly, for the union bosses, the issue is not what's best for kids, or even what's best for teachers; the only thing that matters to them is protecting their $55 MILLION/YEAR in union dues. So whenever the WEA says something terrible about charter schools, remember this: the WEA has the same incentive to lie about charter schools that cigarette companies have to lie about the dangers of smoking.
THANK YOU for everything you're doing to bring the CHOICE of charter public schools to the children, families and educators of WA.
The children are counting on us. We can't give up. We won't give up. We'll do whatever it takes. So let's get to work!
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Monday, June 7, 2004
Charter foes say they'll have signatures to force public vote
By PAUL QUEARY, ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Opponents of Washington's new charter school law said Monday that they'll have enough signatures to force a public vote this fall on whether the small, independent schools run with public money should be allowed in the state.
If Referendum 55 qualifies for the ballot, it would put the law on hold, blocking any new charter schools from starting up this year and preventing the state from collecting federal grant money earmarked for such schools. Washington voters have been hostile to the idea in the past.
Referendum petitions are due to the secretary of state on Wednesday, the day before most laws passed by the Legislature this year take effect. Forcing a referendum takes about 100,000 valid signatures of registered voters.
A few weeks ago, it looked like the anti-charter campaign spearheaded by the Washington Education Association wouldn't meet that threshold. But the campaign put on a late push, including hiring paid signature-gatherers, said Kelly Evans, manager for Protect Our Public Schools, a coalition that includes the 76,000-member teachers union, other labor groups and the League of Women Voters.
"We had a short amount of time for a campaign," Evans said. "But the last few weeks have been amazing."
Evans couldn't provide exact figures, but expects that about a quarter of the campaign's signatures will come from paid signature-gatherers.
"The vast majority of our signatures are coming in from volunteers," Evans said. "We wanted some insurance. We bought an insurance policy."
The signatures must be validated by the secretary of state's office. Typically, a quarter or more of the signatures in such campaigns are invalid for one reason or another, so getting on the ballot requires far more than 100,000 raw signatures.
Opponents of charter schools argue they would divert precious education money from regular public schools and erode workplace protections for teachers and other school workers.
"The voters want investments made in our public schools, not money siphoned off to some experiment," Evans said.
Charter school advocates denounced the use of paid petitioners to force the delay and the vote.
"We're going to lose millions of dollars that otherwise would have gone to help kids, and we're going to lose time," said Jim Spady, head of the Education Excellence Coalition. "For the WEA, it's about union dues. They're the ones that are skimming the taxpayer dollars that are meant to help kids."
The new law adopted by the Legislature would allow 45 new charter schools over the next six years. It would also allow school districts to convert an unlimited number of failing public schools into charter schools or - in cases of severely failing schools - authorize the state superintendent of public instruction to force public schools to convert.
The law's focus on helping failing schools won favor with the U.S. Department of Education, which had planned to award a $2.75 million grant this year to help start the program, said Brian Jones, the department's general counsel. That money will go elsewhere if the referendum goes to the ballot, Jones said.
"There has to be an effective charter law in place," Jones said. The state could likely qualify for money next year if voters uphold the charter law.
Washington voters have twice rejected charter school initiatives in recent years.
Washington Education Association: http://www.wa.nea.org/
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