State voters passing charter schools, tax majority measure

SEATTLE — Washington voters have decided to continue to require the Legislature to get a two-thirds majority vote to raise taxes.

But early vote counts show a less decisive picture on an initiative that would allow charter schools in the state.

Early returns Tuesday night showed the charter schools measure, Initiative 1240, was passing narrowly statewide. But it’s behind in voter-rich King County.

The supermajority proposal, Initiative 1185, has passed decisively statewide. Anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman is calling on the Legislature to amend the constitution to make the two-thirds requirement permanent.

Voters have considered both ideas before. They have repeatedly approved initiatives requiring a supermajority for tax increases, but have rejected the idea of charter schools three times — in 1995, 2000 and 2004.

Supporters have said the charter school proposal, Initiative 1240, would open as many as 40 of the independent schools over five years and offer hope for struggling kids and their families. Opponents say charter schools have a mixed track record in other states and they would take away money from regular public schools.

Proponents of charter schools raised more than $10 million to promote the idea, including $3 million from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Opponents raised considerably less, but had the vocal strength of teachers represented by the Washington Education Association behind them.

Washington is one of just nine states that do not allow the independent schools.

Eyman’s initiative to renew the two-thirds legislative majority, Initiative 1185, was somewhat overshadowed this election season by a state Supreme Court case to decide the voting requirement’s constitutionality. The court has yet to rule on that case.

Since the 1990s, voters have approved the two-thirds restriction four times. Eyman took over sponsoring the initiative in 2007. Since then, he has filed it every other year to deter lawmakers from suspending the rule, which they can do with a simple majority vote after two years.

The supermajority initiative was last approved in 2010 with 64 percent of the vote.

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