Group behind charter school initiative goes after McAuliffe

Stand for Children is a national organization out to reshape how students are taught and how public schools are run in this country.

It’s also trying to remake state legislatures in their philosophical image.

This fall the increasingly prominent nonprofit is looking to make history in Washington on both fronts.

Stand for Children is the driving force behind Initiative 1240, which aims to lift the state’s ban on charter schools and allow 40 publicly funded, privately managed campuses to open in the next few years.

The Yes on 1240 campaign is steered by Shannon Campion, the executive director of the Washington chapter of Stand for Children, and bankrolled largely by elite names of the business world who’ve become impassioned education reformers including Microsoft founder Bill Gates ($3 million), Netflix CEO Reed Hastings ($100,000), venture capitalist Nick Hanauer ($1 million) and Alice Walton, whose father Sam, founded Walmart ($1.7 million).

But SFC doesn’t just want to erase the prohibition voters have defended several times before. Their leaders endorsed 24 candidates — 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans — for seats in the state Legislature.

And they also have set out to topple one of the powers in the state Senate — Democrat Rosemary McAuliffe, of Bothell.

McAuliffe, who is in her fifth term, is chairwoman of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, making her one of the most influential voices in education policy in the Legislature.

This year McAuliffe stood her ground against adopting pure versions of several Stand for Children initiatives. She kept a charter school bill bottled up in her committee and worked to tone down the degree to which a public school teacher’s salary is tied to his or her students’ test scores.

McAuliffe’s performance earned her a failing grade from the chapter and made her its target this election.

As of Wednesday, the Stand for Children Political Action Committee had spent $147,981.80 to oust McAuliffe and elect Republican Dawn McCravey of Bothell in her stead. That’s more money than either McAuliffe or McCravey has raised in the campaign thus far.

The group first attacked the incumbent in a cable television ad. This week, they hit her in postcards mailed to tens of thousands of voters in the 1st Legislative District labeling her “Roadblock Rosemary.”

“Our kids can’t wait any longer,” SFC communications director Anne Martens said in an email. “As head of the education committee, Rosemary makes decisions that affect every student in Washington, but her record shows that she’s more concerned with the adults than with the students.”

McAuliffe said Wednesday she’s insulted by the line of attack. She said she’s worked to improve the plight of students in public schools in 14 years on the Northshore School Board and in her time in the Senate.

It’s the national organization’s motives that should be examined, she said.

“Stand for Children does not stand for children. It is a national organization that stands to hurt our students,” she said Wednesday. “They want charter schools. They want to get rid of tenure. It stands to break the unions. That’s what they’re after.”

It’s a safe bet the group will keep its conversation with voters going right up to Election Day.

McAuliffe will certainly be stepping up her response as she plans on upsetting their plans for making history.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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