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No Bill Authorizing Charter Schools Will Be Introduced in the 2002 Legislature

WA CHARTERS, Thursday, January 24, 2002

Dear Friends,

As expected, charter school supporters at the state capitol have decided NOT to introduce any legislation in the 2002 Legislative Session that would authorize charter schools in Washington state.

Washington is the only state west of the Rockies that does NOT authorize charter schools. Since 1991, 38 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia have all authorized charter schools. Except for Washington, Tennessee, Alabama and Maryland, every large and medium-sized state in America authorizes the creation of charter schools.

As of September 2001, 2,400 charter schools were serving 576,000 children and their families across America.

The Education Excellence Coalition been working since 1994 to bring charters to WA. Although the state House of Reps has passed a bill four times (in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998, the bill has never made it to the floor of the state Senate for a vote.

The reason? State Senator & Chair of the Senate Education Committee Rosemary McAuliffe (D-1st Leg District). She remains totally opposed to charter schools and Senate Majority Leader Sid Snyder (D-19th Leg District) won't steer the bill around the Senate Education Committee.

Twice we've tried to go directly to the people with a ballot initiative, but lost both times. In 1996, the margin was 64-36. In 2000, the margin was 52-48. We should have won in 2000, but the campaign managers hired by the primary funder (Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen) made a number of key mistakes in the campaign that cost us the election. The trend definitely favors charter school supporters, however, and our side won a majority of the votes in 2000 in five counties bordering Puget Sound: Pierce, Jefferson, Island, Kitsap & Snohomish.

Because voters in these five counties want charter schools in their communities, there is an opening for a future legislative compromise that would authorize charter schools in those areas, including such major cities as Tacoma, Everett and Bremerton.

It is extremely unlikely that the Legislature will pass or even consider a charter school bill as long as McAuliffe remains chair of the Senate Education Committee. However, McAuliffe would be replaced by a Republican chair in January 2003 IF Republicans can pick up one or more seats in the November 2002 election.

Democrats currently control the state senate by one vote: 25 to 24. If Republicans can take control with 25 votes or more, we will have an excellent chance of passing a bill in early 2003. If so, the first WA charter schools would open in the fall of 2003.

Please contact your local legislators (each legislative district has 2 representatives and one senator) and inform them of your strong support for bringing charter schools to Washington state. This is easy to do. Simply call the toll-free Legislative Hotline at 800-562-6000 and ask the operator to leave the same message for each of your local legislators. Although there is no charter school bill "in play" in the current legislative session, your phone call will help set the stage for the November 2002 elections.

THANK YOU for everything you're doing to bring these innovative, independent public schools to children, families and educators of Washington state. HOLD THE VISION!

Jim
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: JimSpady@WAcharterschools.org

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