By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
SEATTLE — Several state lawmakers plan to introduce a bill later this week that would allow for public charter schools in the state.
Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said charter schools have proven to be effective in nearly every other state. In many cases, a stampede of parents have tried to get their kids into charter schools, he said.
“That should be the attitude we have at every school,” Tom said. “Why would you want to prevent schools that people are clamoring in other states to get into.”
Washington voters have twice rejected the idea of charter schools.
Sixty-four percent of Washington voters voted against an initiative to the Legislature calling for charter schools in 1996. Over the next seven years, five charter bills were proposed and then rejected by the Legislature. Then in 2004, a charter bill narrowly passed the Legislature and was signed by the governor, but that November voters rejected the idea again.
Washington is one of eight states that do not allow charter schools, according to the Center for Education Reform. The other states without charter school laws are Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia.
Maine passed a charter school law in 2011 and the issue has been back on the agenda in many of these other states, including bills introduced but not passed in four, while some of the 42 states with charter school laws have voted to expand their use, according to the Center for Education Reform.
Now that most other states are successfully using these alternative public schools to raise student achievement, Tom said it should be a safe topic for Washington again. He said he expected a bill to be introduced on Thursday.
Last fall, the Washington PTA also added charter schools to its legislative agenda. Other groups support the idea, but the state’s largest teachers union says now isn’t a good time to talk about putting public money into experimental schools.