WA Charters Newsletter

Virtually Every Newspaper in Washington Supports R-55

Friday Afternoon, October 29, 2004

Dear Friends,

100 hours from now, over 2.5 million WA voters will have made their choices in the November 2004 General Election.

There are many important choices on the 2004 ballot.  One of them is Referendum 55:  whether to authorize the CHOICE of charter public schools in WA.

If the majority of voters choose to APPROVE R-55, the choice of charter public schools will finally come to WA, and WA will be the 41st state in the nation to authorize charter public schools.

But if the majority of voters choose to REJECT R-55, WA will remain one of only 10 states in the nation, and the only state west of the Rocky Mountains, where families and educators do not enjoy the choice of charter public schools.

In the November 2000 General Election, the initiative to authorize charter public schools in WA lost by 86,000 votes out of almost 2.5 million cast (48% to 52%).  The election was even closer than that.  Over 150,000 citizens went to the polls and cast ballots in the Presidential Election, but did not vote on I-729.  That's why I-729 could have won in 2000 without changing a single "no" vote to "yes."  I-729 could have won by simply persuading the undecided voters to vote "yes."

Next Tuesday's vote could be even closer. 

So please READ your voters pamphlet, make your CHOICE, and VOTE.

If the outcome of Referendum 55 is important to you, TELL your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues how you feel.  There is nothing more powerful than a personal recommendation from a family member, friend, or neighbor.

One fact you might want to share with them is this:
    from the East (Spokesman-Review),
    to the West (Seattle Times; Seattle P-I; Seattle Weekly),
    from the North (Everett Herald; Bellingham Herald),
    to the South (Vancouver Columbian; Longview Daily News).

Here is the list of the 15 newspapers which support R-55:
    Seattle Times
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer
    Tacoma News Tribune
    Spokane Spokesman-Review
    Vancouver Columbian
    Everett Herald
    King County Journal
    Olympia Olympian
    Bellingham Herald
    Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
    Yakima Herald Republic
    Longview Daily News
    Centralia Chronicle
    Aberdeen Daily World
    Seattle Weekly

To the best of my knowledge, only 2 mid-size newspapers oppose R-55:
    The Kitsap Sun
    The Tri-City Herald

All of the editorials are worth reading, but I've attached some of my favorite excerpts below.

THANK YOU for everything you're doing to educate your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues about charter public schools!


Jim Spady, President & Executive Director
Washington Charter School Resource Center (WCSRC)
4426 - 2nd Avenue NE
Seattle, WA 98105-6191
Jim's office phone: 206/634-0589
Jim's cell phone: 206/949-8484
Jim's e-mail address: JimSpady@WAcharterschools.org
Jim & Fawn's home phone: 206/275-2089
Web page: www.WAcharterschools.org

From The Olympian, October 21, 2004
The most compelling case for charter schools can be found in this state's high school dropout rate. About 30 percent of Washington's students are not receiving a high school diploma. The dropout rate jumps to 50 percent among some minority populations. Clearly, today's public education system is not meeting the needs of those students.

As Rogelio Riojas, executive director of the Sea Mar Community Health Center, points out, public schools have had decades to put a dent in the 50 percent dropout rate for Hispanics and other minorities. The public school system has failed those children and their parents. It's time to give charter school organizers a chance to succeed and help those students achieve academic success.

From The Tacoma News Tribune, October 20, 2004
The way opponents talk about charter schools, you’d think they were educational King Kongs, threatening to stomp and destroy our beloved public schools. The only thing charter schools truly threaten is the status quo – and the power and influence of teacher unions.

It is true that voters have twice rejected initiatives that would have added Washington to the 40 states that allow charter schools. But those rejections have more to do with the education establishment’s ability to portray charter schools as malignant, money-sucking monsters than with their actual merits. Unfortunately, that scare tactic is at work again in the fight against Referendum 55, an almost pitifully modest charter-school law approved by the 2004 Legislature.

Across the country, many charter schools have been spectacularly successful, especially in inner-city locations. They tend to attract idealistic principals and teachers with a passion to make a difference. The beneficiaries are kids – kids who need help. Why should children in some of Washington’s poorest neighborhoods be deprived of such an opportunity? Vote yes on Referendum 55.

From The Everett Herald, October 29, 2004:
Innovation is at the heart of moving our schools forward, and must be encouraged whenever possible. That's why Referendum 55, which would make Washington the 41st state to allow charter public schools, should be approved by voters on Tuesday.

A charter school is a public school that operates on a contract, or charter, that spells out guidelines the school must follow. Outside of those guidelines, which deal with issues such as fiscal requirements, student progress and non-discrimination, the school is free to innovate in ways traditional public schools cannot. In effect, they become laboratories for new ways of learning, spawning ideas other public schools can follow.

Voters have twice rejected charter-school initiatives, but this measure is more modest. It would create a maximum of 45 charter schools statewide over six years, and its cost would be minimal - some $14 million, or about 0.3 percent of the current state education budget. Most of the increase would pay for students expected to rejoin the public-school system after attending private school or being home-schooled.

Charter schools have long been debated in Washington. We believe that they hold enough promise to be tried in a modest way, and recommend approval of R-55.

From The Spokane Spokesman-Review, October 20, 2004
The Washington Education Association would have you believe that charter schools will severely damage public education. The teachers union claims erroneously that the approval of Referendum 55, which would legalize charter schools, will drain $100 million from state education coffers. If that doesn't scare voters enough, the WEA will use words like "vouchers" and "boot camps" to denigrate an innovative movement that has become mainstream, embraced by 40 other states.

The success of the charter school movement in most of the country undercuts the claims leveled by opponents to turn Washington voters against a proposal for change — one which had bipartisan approval of the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Gary Locke. Charter schools give parents and students another educational choice and provide valuable competition for traditional schools. That would be good for Washingtonians.

The referendum is a more modest version of the 1996 and 2000 initiatives for charter schools, the second of which came close to winning a majority. If the measure passes, it would allow failing or struggling public schools to be transformed into charter schools.

Across the border, in Idaho, the Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy has achieved a regional reputation for excellence with its focus on academics – without harming the thriving Coeur d'Alene School District.

From The Longview Daily News, October 20, 2004
Referendum 55 on the Nov. 2 ballot asks Washington voters to allow the creation of up to 45 publicly funded charter schools in the state over the next six years. The Daily News recommends approval of this referendum.

Voters shouldn't be misled by opponents of charter schools, who would use R-55 to repeal the modest charter school bill approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Gary Locke last spring. Charter schools would take nothing from traditional public schools. They, in fact, would be part of the public education system.

Charter schools are formed by groups of parents and teachers who petition local school boards or the state superintendent of public instruction for a charter. The schools are subject to all existing health and safety regulations. They are held strictly accountable for the student performance goals established in their contracts.

Charter schools differ from traditional public schools in that they have more say in the hiring and firing of teachers, and charter school teachers and parents have more freedom to design innovative curriculum and teaching strategies.

Charter schools are not an untested innovation. Washington is among a relatively few states that do not allow charter schools. There are hundreds of charter schools around the nation serving tens of thousands of students. Charter schools would compliment Washington's public education system at little additional cost to the state. A "yes" vote on R-55 will give school districts the ability to exercise this option.

From The Centralia Chronicle, October 27, 2004
The Washington Education Association (WEA), the state teachers’ union, is again opposing competition from charter schools within the public school system. The WEA sees charters as a threat to its teacher dues-supported power base.

But what’s important is the best education of all students through high school, not the welfare of the union. Referendum 55, by providing for up to 45 charter schools over six years, would offer an alternative especially for parents of minority and disadvantaged children concentrated in urban areas to improve their youngsters’ education.

The innovation charter schools allow in curriculum, structure, discipline, instruction and operation could well help to reduce the frightful 30 percent average dropout rate in our public high schools, which is more than 50 percent for African-American, Latino and Native American children.

We strongly recommend passage of R-55 for the charters to provide for more choice, competition and better performance of our publicly funded schools.

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