Major Business Organizations Endorse I-1240 Initiative Would Authorize Public Charter Schools in Washington State

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Two of the state’s leading business organizations today announced that they are endorsing a YES vote on Initiative 1240, a measure on the November 2012 statewide ballot that will authorize a limited number of public charter schools in Washington State. The YES on 1240 endorsements from the Association of Washington Business (AWB) and the Washington Roundtable demonstrate that the measure has strong support from both large and small employers across the state, initiative backers said.

“We are extremely pleased that AWB and the Roundtable, which represent thousands of Washington employers, have expressed their support for a YES vote on I-1240 as a means of helping our K-12 education system better meet the diverse needs of today’s students,” said Representative Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle), a member of a bi-partisan coalition of legislators that sponsored public charter school legislation in the 2012 legislative session. “Public charter schools are an important public school option currently available to parents and students in 41 other states, and it’s time to make this option available to families here in Washington, too.”

AWB President Don Brunell said, “Across our state, employers are facing significant challenges finding qualified employees. We need to find new ways to prepare Washington students for the workplace, and public charter schools are an important tool for doing that.”

Like AWB, the Roundtable has been a consistent supporter of authorizing public charter schools in Washington State, said president Steve Mullin. “We recognize that our public schools are working well for hundreds of thousands of Washington students, but we also know that they aren’t working for every child. This initiative is based on more than two decades of public charter school experience in other states to help reach students that might otherwise fall through the cracks.”

Charter schools are independently-managed public schools operated by approved nonprofit organizations and overseen by a local school board or state commission with strict accountability and performance requirements. Public charter schools do not charge tuition, are open to all students and receive funding based on student enrollment just like traditional public schools.

Public charter schools are subject to the same academic standards as traditional public schools, and the teachers in them must meet the same certification requirements as teachers in other public schools. However, public charter schools are freed from many other regulatory requirements, so they have more flexibility to set curriculum and budgets, establish their teaching staff, and offer more customized learning experiences to meet the needs of their students.

Under the initiative, a maximum of 40 public charter schools could be authorized over a five-year period. These schools would be subject to strict oversight and public accountability, and their performance in improving student learning would be rigorously evaluated to determine whether they can continue operating and whether additional charter schools should be allowed.

A bi-partisan coalition of education advocates, teachers, parents, legislators and community leaders have already expressed support for the initiative. In addition to support from AWB and the Roundtable, the initiative has been endorsed by both Democrat and Republican legislators including State Sen. Rodney Tom (D), State Sen. Steve Litzow (R), and Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D). YES on 1240 has also been endorsed by the League of Education Voters, the Washington chapter of Stand For Children, Democrats for Education Reform, and the Partnership for Learning, among others.

Additional information can be found on the Washington Coalition for Public Charter Schools website, http://YESon1240.com/.

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