The federal stimulus bill has had one notable effect in Washington. It'ês revived the hopes of charter school advocates. In an email that went out September 28, long-time charter advocate Jim Spady has called for help in setting up a new organization, Kids First Washington, to lobby the legislature for charter legislation in 2010. Spady'ês wife, Fawn, will head the new group and lobbying effort, according to the email.
What'ês breathed life into charter school advocates is the $4.3 billion for education grants in the stimulus bill. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the 'êRace for the Top'ê grants will favor states making what he calls common sense reforms, including laws permitting charter schools. Forty states allow them. Washington doesn'êt.
Spady'ês email says a new charter law would unlock $200 million to $400 million in 'êRace for the Top'ê funds that the state won'êt otherwise get. Gov. Chris Gregoire admits the state won'êt get top dollar from the feds without a charter law, according to an editorial in The Olympian, a couple weeks ago.
The Spadys were leaders in the 1990s and first half of this decade trying to get a charter law passed here. They were successful with the 2004 legislature but the law was turned back by voters who rejected Referendum 55. That was the third defeat at the polls in Washington for proposed charter school laws. Charter initiatives were beaten back in 1996 and 2000.
The Referendum 55 campaign was a mighty clash. Charter advocates spent nearly $4 million, including about $3 million from Bill Gates; Don Fisher, a co-founder of the Gap, Inc.; and John Walton, of the family that started Wal-Mart, according to a Seattle Times report by Linda Shaw. The victorious opponents, led by the Washington Education Association (WEA), the state teachers union, and backed by the National Education Association (NEA), the union'ês parent, spent about $1.3 million.
It seems the Spadys have set out to see if times have changed, thanks to that big carrot from the Obama administration.