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WA CHARTERS, Thursday, April 19, 2001

Dear Friends,

Last night the Indiana Legislature completed passage of a bill authorizing charter public schools in Hoosier State. By a vote of 34-12, the Indiana Senate approved Senate Bill 165 and sent it to Governor Frank O'Bannon for his promised signature. Last week, the Indiana House passed the bill (with some amendments) by a vote of 81-15.

A press release from the Center for Education Reform is below with more details. An article from yesterday's Indianapolis Star is also included.

For a copy of the bill itself, go to the Indiana Legislative Web Page:

The Indiana bill is much stronger than ballot initiative 729, which Washington's voters narrowly defeated in last November's general election. For example, the Indiana bill authorizes unlimited numbers of new charter schools, as well as unlimited conversions of existing public schools to charter public schools as long as the teachers and parents at the school concur. While I-729 authorized school districts to convert an unlimited number of existing public schools to charter public schools, the initiative limited the number of new charter public schools to 20 per year for four years (a maximum of 80).

Like I-729, the Indiana bill authorizes public universities as well as school districts to approve applications for new charter schools. But the Indiana bill goes farther, also allowing the Mayor of Indianapolis to approve applications from teachers and parents who want to start charter schools in the city.

Only 13 states (including Washington) have yet to authorize charter schools. All of the "laggards" are lightly populated, rural states with the exception of Washington, Maryland, Tennessee & Alabama. Washington and Montana remain the only states in the West that have yet to authorize charter schools.

CONGRATULATIONS to our friends in Indiana on passage of their charter school law! Their success reinforces our belief that it will only be a few years until Washington State joins the rest of America in authorizing charter schools.

Hold the Vision!

Jim & Fawn Spady, co-directors,
Education Excellence Coalition
4426 - 2nd Avenue NE
Seattle, WA 98105-6191
Jim office phone: 206/634-0589
Jim & Fawn home phone: 425/434-7440
Jim e-mail address:
EEC Web page:

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Kayne Heinze (202) 822-9000

First Law to Pass in '01:
Law Expected to be Among Strongest in Nation

(Washington, DC 4/19/01) Indiana lawmakers delivered a strong charter school law to its citizens Wednesday, culminating the end of a seven-year effort led primarily by State Senator Teresa Lubbers, of Indianapolis (Dist-30) and a coalition of leading business, foundations and citizens.

"The Hoosier State will likely rank in the top dozen of states with strongest laws," said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform. "This is an outstanding victory for the parents and teachers who have been waiting a long time to affect their children's education."

The Indiana law is strong for the following reasons, according to CER's ranking criteria:

? Allows state university sponsorship statewide, and the Mayor of Indianapolis to charter schools

? Allows for the legal autonomy charters need in terms of hiring, district rules, and union contracts. This applies to new starts only.

? Allows for an unlimited number of charter schools to open in the state.

Showing that the trend is likely to continue in favor of charter schools, amendments to strengthen charter school laws are pending in Minnesota, Missouri, Connecticut, Florida, Nevada, Illinois and Alaska. In Iowa, for the first time, charter school legislation is currently moving through the legislature.

More information on charter schools can be found on CER's award-winning at website.

# # #

The Center for Education Reform is a national, independent, non-profit advocacy organization providing support and guidance to individuals, community and civic groups, policymakers and others who are working to bring fundamental reforms to their schools. For further information, please call (202) 822-9000 or visit our website at

Indianapolis Star, Wednesday, April 18, 2001 ne

Charter-school proponent praises lawmakers

Co-founder of first such school in Florida says competition will bring better teaching.

By Ed Fanselow

Days before Gov. Frank O'Bannon is expected to sign a bill allowing charter schools in Indiana, the man who led the fight for charter schools in Florida saluted Indiana lawmakers for passing the bill.

"Charter schools will do wonders to ensure the best opportunities for all students -- even those still in public schools," said T. Willard Fair, who co-founded Florida's first charter school.

Fair said charter schools will provide accountability and competition, which will fuel improvement everywhere.

"Nothing is wrong with our children," Fair said of failing schools. "Everything is wrong with the people in charge of these schools. When we started our (charter) schools in Florida, and made teachers and principals accountable, people began to work at schools for the first time. The same children with the same dysfunctional families and the same problems were still there, but the test scores had shot up."

Fair says that in their four years of existence, charter schools in South Florida have consistently outperformed existing public schools on standardized tests.

Charter schools are autonomous public schools that don't have to follow most state regulations. They design their own curriculums and control their spending.

Last week, the Indiana House voted 81-15 to pass Senate Bill 165. If the Senate also approves the bill, O'Bannon is expected to sign it into law by early next week, said sponsor Sen. Teresa Lubbers, R-Indianapolis.

Indiana would become the 37th state to permit charter schools.

Fair delivered his remarks to about 75 business and education leaders Tuesday at a breakfast sponsored by the Indianapolis Black Chamber of Commerce.

Fair, 62, has been the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami for more than 35 years.

Fair and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush toured Florida to drum up public support for charter school legislation. Today, the state has one of the nation's strongest charter laws, according to the Center for Education Reform.

Bipartisan support for the bill in the Indiana House proves "this is not a black or white issue," Fair said. "It's not about the unions or the school boards or the Democrats or the Republicans -- it's about our children and doing the right thing."

But while Fair extolled the virtues of charter schools, he warned that they are "not the panacea that will fix everything that is wrong with schools."

He also said that in order for charter schools to succeed, they cannot be the pawns of politicians. Fair stressed that grassroots efforts will be vital to make parents believe in the system.

"We need to make these folks understand that there is a new day in education," he said. "We also need to make them believe in the value of education."

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