Washington State Lawmakers Deadlocked Over Charters

Charter schools are back on the agenda in Olympia, Washington.

When it comes to improving public education, Republicans generally call for reforms and Democrats generally call for more money. This means charter schools, which are basically a reform, are more often something that Republicans push.

However, three Democrats have now joined Republicans in Washington in getting behind the idea of charter school reform, recognizing that something needs to be done about the failing state of public education. One of the crossovers is Rodney Tom, who has joined in the call for charter schools to be part of the final budget package. Charter school reform was already a sticking point in passing a budget, and with some Democrats now defecting from the party line. Now there is less chance of the Republicans conceding the issue, and other Democrats look equally unlikely to give ground.

"They have mixed results around the country," said Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. "I think it's a distraction, and putting a new bill on the table in a special session doesn't make sense to me."

The charter school movement is gaining ground nationally as they put emphasis on student achievement, and the public is increasingly looking at alternatives to a public education system where more and more children are being left behind. Labor unions continue to criticize charters, considering them a means of bypassing tenure and circumventing the unions' influence because they hire mainly non-union teachers.

Democrat Governor Chris Gregoire is incensed over the defections and attempted to head off the moves last week by making it clear that such discussion was a waste of time while she was in office.

"Suddenly putting charter schools into this budget and not funding bills that they passed is a waste of time, and just so they know, I promise to veto it, so get over it, get on with it," said Gregoire. "Get me a budget."

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