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January 8, 2013 at 4:55 PM
Randy Dorn, Washington State’s top schools official, is asking state legislative leaders to amend the state’s new charter school law so that his office supervises the new schools.
Dorn has repeatedly said he thinks the law, which voters passed in November, violates Washington’s constitution because it calls for the creation of a new, appointed charter school commission that would authorize and supervise charter schools.
Dorn, the state’s elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, says the constitution makes him responsible for supervising all public schools, including charters. Dorn has said repeatedly that he may challenge the new law in court as well as ask legislators to change the way charters will be governed.
In his letter to lawmakers, Dorn said he said he is not arguing for or against charters, just who oversees them.
The new law, which allows up to 40 charters to open in Washington state, gives school boards the chance to authorize charters, too, but also sets up the new commission. In his letter, Dorn said charter schools that are approved and overseen by the commission would not be directly accountable to the public.
“The Commission is the state level administrator, while the Charter School Boards provide local administration,” he wrote. “These unelected bodies will have the power to spend the peoples’ money without being accountable to the people.”
Because the initiative was passed just this fall, two-thirds of legislators in the House and the Senate would need to approve any changes.
January 2, 2013 at 8:01 PM
The state’s largest teachers union is exploring how it might help challenge the charter-school law that narrowly passed last November. The union’s board of directors has committed to help fund a lawsuit, although it is not yet clear who would file it, when it would be filed, or exactly what form the challenge would take.
Rich Wood, the union’s spokesman, said the union is talking to potential allies, which include many of the groups that campaigned against Initiative 1240 this fall, and is also looking at possible legal strategies.
Along with the union, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has talked about challenging the initiative on constitutional grounds, and a new parent group, called Protect Our Public Schools, has also formed to support any legal action.
As approved by the voters, Initiative 1240 will allow up to 40 charter schools to open in Washington in the next five years. Charter schools, which exist in most other states, are privately run but publicly funded schools that do not have to follow most of the rules and regulations that govern other public schools.
October 30, 2012 at 12:13 PM
As the election nears, the campaign to bring charter schools to Washington state reported another $1.5 million in donations from Paul Allen, founder of Vulcan, Inc. and co-founder of Microsoft. Allen has been a major supporter of past charter-school campaigns, too, along with his fellow Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
With $1.6 million in total in donations, Allen is now the third largest contributor to the Yes on 1240 campaign, behind Gates and Walmart heiress Alice Walton.
The second-largest contribution to the pro-charter group in the past week was $100,000 from Kemper Holdings, owned by Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman.
The total for the pro-charter campaign has now reached $10.8 million.
The anti-charter side has yet to hit $1 million. The bigger of the two anti-charter groups, People for Our Public Schools, has now raised $668,000. Recent large contributions included $10,000 from the Washington state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, and $5,000 from SEIU Local 925.
The other group, called No on 1240, has raised $20,000.
October 9, 2012 at 5:03 PM
The campaign to bring charter schools to Washington state received two big donations last week — $2 million from Bill Gates and $1.1 million from Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.
Another $500,000 came from two New York residents, one of whom is the managing director of De Shaw and Co., a global investment and technology development firm based in Manhattan.
The group in favor of Initiative 1240 has now raised $8.3 million, dwarfing the contributions to the two opposition groups, which together have raised $277,000. More than half of that amount came from the state’s largest teachers union, the Washington Education Association.
Charter schools are independently run public schools that are given the flexibility to innovate, but are supposed to face increased accountability as well. More than 6,000 charters exist in 41 states.
In November, Washington voters will be asked for the fourth time whether to allow them to come here.
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