History of Charter Schools

Learn > History


Washington Charter School Movement

In November 1996, the first charter school ballot initiative in the state of Washington won the support of only 36% of voters statewide. In November 2000, another charter school ballot initiative won the approval of 48% of voters statewide, with majority support in several populous western Washington counties, including Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap. Although the initiative lost in King County (the state’s largest), the vote was very close: 49-51%.

In addition to these ballot initiatives, the Washington State House of Representatives has passed charter school legislation five times: in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2004. Although the house approved the bills by wide margins every time, they died in committee in the senate the first four times. In March 2004, after a change in senate leadership, a modest charter school bill was finally approved by both houses and signed into law by the governor.

Unfortunately, opponents of charter public schools led by WEA, the state’s powerful teachers’ union, successfully petitioned to have the new law put on the ballot for approval by Washington’s voters. This suspended the implementation of the law until after the November 2004 election.

If a majority of voters approve of the legislature’s choice, the charter school law will take effect immediately after the election, and Washington’s first charter public schools could open as early as Spring 2005. If voters do not approve the legislation, the charter school law will be nullified. If this happens, there will have to be either a new bill passed in the legislature or a new initiative approved by the voters, before charter public schools can operate in Washington.

If Washington’s voters come out in favor of charter public schools in November, Washington will join forty other states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico, which have had this educational choice for their children since as early as 1991. There are currently about 3,000 charter public schools serving about 750,000 students across America. The majority of these schools are focused on meeting the needs of at-risk, disadvantaged, and/or minority students.

In November 1996, the first charter school ballot initiative in the state of Washington won the support of only 36% of voters statewide. In November 2000, another charter school ballot initiative won the approval of 48% of voters statewide, with majority support in several populous western Washington counties, including Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap. Although the initiative lost in King County (the state’s largest), the vote was very close: 49-51%.

In addition to these ballot initiatives, the Washington State House of Representatives has passed charter school legislation five times: in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2004. Although the house approved the bills by wide margins every time, they died in committee in the senate the first four times. In March 2004, after a change in senate leadership, a modest charter school bill was finally approved by both houses and signed into law by the governor.

Unfortunately, opponents of charter public schools led by WEA, the state’s powerful teachers’ union, successfully petitioned to have the new law put on the ballot for approval by Washington’s voters. This suspended the implementation of the law until after the November 2004 election.

If a majority of voters approve of the legislature’s choice, the charter school law will take effect immediately after the election, and Washington’s first charter public schools could open as early as Spring 2005. If voters do not approve the legislation, the charter school law will be nullified. If this happens, there will have to be either a new bill passed in the legislature or a new initiative approved by the voters, before charter public schools can operate in Washington.

If Washington’s voters come out in favor of charter public schools in November, Washington will join forty other states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico, which have had this educational choice for their children since as early as 1991. There are currently about 3,000 charter public schools serving about 750,000 students across America. The majority of these schools are focused on meeting the needs of at-risk, disadvantaged, and/or minority students.

[Return to Top]


Home :: News & Editorials :: Learn About Charter Schools :: Get Involved :: About WCSRC :: Contact Us