Charter school debate heats up in Washington

By | October 24, 2012 | Comments

Washington voters will get a chance — once again — to decide if they want to allow charter schools in the state with Initiative 1240, a measure that would allow 40 charter schools to open over five years.

Voters have rejected charter school ballot measures three times before, in 1996, 2000 and 2004. But a new Elway poll released today shows voters may be changing their mind, with Initiative 1240 leading 48 percent “yes” to 35 percent “no.”

Washington is one of nine states that doesn’t allow charter schools. Supporters who want to end that ban have raised $9.3 million dollars, boosted by big-dollar contributions from Bill Gates and Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton.

Shannon Campion with the “Yes on 1240 Coalition” said that charter schools are public schools that are free and open to all students, and have been “working for kids in 41 other states.” She said the initiative starts with a “modest” 40 schools, and will provide parents with another enrollment option, similar to alternative schools.

Opponents have raised about $658,000 with contributions from a number of unions, including the state’s largest teacher’s union, the Washington Education Association, according to the Public Disclosure Commission.

Former Tacoma mayor and school board member Karen Vialle is opposed to the initiative. She says charter schools would drain money from current public schools at a time when the Washington Supreme Court has ruled that the state isn’t doing its duty to fully fund basic education.

“Is it fair to establish more schools for a select few when the majority of our kids will have reduced funding in their schools?” Vialle said.

Campion and Vialle are both guests on this week’s edition of “The Impact,” which takes a closer look at the issue. Host Anita Kissee visted two schools: One private school that supporters tout as a example of what charter schools could be like in Washington, and an innovative public school that opponents say demonstrate that the system is already working.

To read more from both sides, here’s information from Yes on 1240 and No on 1240.

Watch the full edition of “The Impact” below:

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