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Thursday, November 21, 2002

Dear Friends,

The November 2002 election results are now final, and there is good news for folks who want to bring the benefits of charter public schools to the children, parents, and educators of Washington state!

By about 400 votes in the key race, Republicans were able to take majority control in the state senate. In the Legislative Session that begins on January 13, Republicans will have a 25-24 edge in the state senate. Democrats will continue to control the House and Governor's office.

It's only a change of one seat in one legislative chamber, but for charter school supporters it will be like night and day! For more details, please see the end of this email.

Charter schools are authorized in 39 states, and more than 2,000 charter schools already serve more than 500,000 students and their families across America. California has hundreds of charter schools. Other nearby states that authorize charter schools include Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Will Washington state be next? Not without your help! The roadblock in the state senate education committee has been removed, but that only means that passing a charter school bill is possible in 2003. Turning that possibility into a reality will require everyone's help.

I'll use this newsletter to keep you informed of the latest news about charter schools legislation in Washington, but I'll need lots of help from you to communicate how you feel about charter schools to key legislators.

When I need you to do something, like make a phone call, or send an email, I'll put it in all capital letters like this:

ACTION REQUESTED: Call the Legislative Hotline (1-800-562-6000) and leave a message for your two representatives and your state senator. Tell them that you support bringing the CHOICE of charter schools to Washington, and that you want to know whether they will support charter schools in the 2003 Legislature.

Until the Legislature convenes in January, the Legislative Hotline will only be available during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, so many of you will need to call from work.

THANK YOU! If we work hard, and work smart, 2003 should be the year that the CHOICE of charter schools is finally authorized in Washington state.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jim & Fawn Spady, co-directors,
Education Excellence Coalition
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:
Jim & Fawn's home phone: 206/275-2089


As you know, efforts to pass a charter school bill in the state Legislature have been stymied for years by the chair of the Senate Education Commission: Senator Rosemary McAuliffe (D-Bothell). Although the state House of Representatives has passed a charter school bill four times with majority support from both parties (and stood ready to pass a fifth bill in 2000), no charter school bill has ever reached the floor of the state Senate.

The reason: Senator McAuliffe has repeatedly refused to give any charter school bill a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.

The result: most of the charter school bills passed by the state House have been "dead on arrival" in the state Senate.

Although Senator McAuliffe was not up for re-election this year, her status as Chair of the Senate Education Committee depended on the Democrats maintaining their precarious 1-vote control of the state Senate. Because Republicans will take control of the state Senate in January, Republicans get to appoint a new Chair.

Republicans will likely appoint Senator Steve Johnson (R-Kent) to chair Senate Education. As most of you know, Senator Johnson is probably the strongest charter school supporter in the state Senate.

So, on January 13, when Republicans take control of the state Senate, the chair of Senate Education will probably be the senate's strongest charter school supporter, rather than its strongest opponent. What a change that will be!

If we can get a bill through the state Senate, it is very likely that we will be able to get it through the state House as well. In the House, bills have passed four times with majority support from both Republicans and Democrats. The Democratic chair of the House Education Committee (Dave Quall) and the Speaker of the House (Frank Chopp) both supported the bi-partisan charter school bill that passed the House Education Committee in 2000. That bill was heading for a floor vote in the House until Senator McAuliffe said the bill would be "dead on arrival" when it got to the Senate. As a result, the bill never even got a floor vote in the House.

Governor Locke has repeatedly stated that he supports charter schools. In 1998 and 2000 the Governor said that he would sign the bills that were moving through the Legislature at that time. Governor Locke also publicly supported the Charter School Ballot Initiative that lost narrowly (52%-48%) in the November 2000 General Election. Any bill that makes it through the 2003 Legislature will probably be a somewhat modified version of the November 2000 Charter School Ballot Initiative.

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