By REBECCA COOK
SEATTLE – Grass-roots appeal, not well-financed campaigns, seemed to be the key to success for education initiatives in Tuesday’s election. Teacher pay and school funding measures passed, while prospects looked dim for the charter schools initiative backed with $3 million from Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen.
Initiative 729, charter schools, appeared to have an early lead, but with 53 percent of the precincts reporting it was losing with 47 percent of the vote.
“I had always expected this would be close, because it is a new idea for the state of Washington,” said I-729 co-chair Judith Billings, a former state schools superintendent. She said she hoped that late returns from absentee ballots would swing the election in I-729’s favor. Hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots remained to be counted.
The two other education initiatives won by large margins. Initiative 728 was at the top of the class – it had 71 percent, with 53 percent of the 7,357 precincts reporting. The measure rearranges school funding to make more money available for smaller class sizes, before- and after-school programs and teacher training.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Lisa Macfarlane, co-chair of the I-728 campaign. “We’re delighted, but none of us think the job is done. We’re going to have to stay vigilant and make sure the Legislature honors not only the spirit of this thing but the letter.”
I-732 will give all public school employees, from teachers to cafeteria workers, an automatic cost-of-living raise each year. It had 62 percent of the vote with 53 percent of precincts reporting.
“We are so thankful to the voters of Washington who gave a tremendous vote of respect to our teachers and school employees,” said Nicole McGowan, co-chair of the I-732 campaign. She pointed out that I-732 ran no TV ads and relied on volunteer signature gatherers. “It was really a grass-roots effort,” she said.
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