Today a passel of organizations and lawmakers filed an initiative that would create 40 charter schools for five years, raising the possibility of taking a well-worn controversy to Washington State voters yet again. (The state posted the text of the measure in this Word document.)
With only six and a half weeks to finalize ballot language, print petitions, and gather more than 241,000 valid signatures, the initial question seemed to be whether this yet-unnamed group was serious. Secretary of State's office spokesman David Ammons said it is "virtually unheard of to start this late."
But while Mark Funk, a campaign operative brought in to handle media for the initiative's roll-out, was short of details this evening—he was confident that there was money in the wings. "We have, how would I phrase this, there are pledges that have been made to this," Funk said. "We will be a position to undertake a robust paid signature gathering campaign."
Charter schools, which use state money to fund private schools, have traditionally been heralded by conservatives as a panacea for government's ineptitude at education—despite data that shows they aren't terribly effective. However, charter schools picked up the support earlier this year of Democratic state representative Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle). He introduced a bill, which failed after the governor threatened to veto it.
Hoping to find more support from the electorate at large (though voters in Washington have repeatedly opposed charter schools), the initiative campaign includes: Stand for Children, the League of Education Voters, Democrats for Education Reform, Pettigrew, and Republican state senator Steve Litzow.