Charter schools backers still want vote in Wash. Legislature

Feb 13, 2012
Originally published on February 10, 2012 3:16 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Forty one states allow charter schools. But not Washington. Opponents in the legislature recently killed a bipartisan proposal to allow a limited number of under-performing schools to convert. But supporters of the idea haven't given up.

For the legislature it was high drama. A stand-off in the Senate Education Committee. A coalition of five Republicans and two Democrats had the votes to advance the charter school bill.

But longtime chairwoman Senator Rosemary McAuliffe, a Democrat, wouldn't allow a vote. She explained her opposition to charter schools on TVW's "Inside Olympia" program.

"It's a failed idea," McAuliffe said. "It would implode the Senate. We would have a big debate on this where there is far more important things to talk about such as the funding of education."

Sponsors counter that their proposal is limited to ten charter schools a year and no more than 50 statewide. No for-profit charter operators allowed.

In the House, the prime sponsor is Democrat Eric Pettigrew, an African-American. He's alarmed over the persistent achievement gap between white and non-white students. He says, "People saying let's keep doing what we've been doing all along, don't try anything new sounds pretty ridiculous to me when kids today are failing."

Pettigrew's stance on charter schools has put him at odds with members of his own party. It also pits a business-backed coalition against the teachers' union.

In the Washington House the charter schools idea is dead. But backers in the Senate aren't giving up and may try to force a floor debate if they can muster the votes.

On the web:

Wash. Senate charter school bill:

Inside Olympia:

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