Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Big money initiative . . .

Interesting article in today’s Seattle Times about big donors to the charter school initiative.  The headline tells much of the story.

Well-funded charter-school initiative has nearly enough signatures to make ballot

Supporters of allowing charter schools in Washington state have raised nearly $2 million from a handful of high-profile donors and say they are poised to submit the needed 241,153 valid signatures by the Friday deadline.

You can probably guess who some of these donors are.  So far seven donors have contributed with the smallest donation being $25,000.  The money was used to hire professional signature-gatherers through a California firm.

Jason Dominguez, a self-described ballot initiative professional from California, said he was getting paid $4 for each signature he obtained. The 31-year-old said he was among about 400 signature-gatherers who came from out of state to work for the initiative.

Supporters are confident that the outcome will be different than the previous three tries that failed in 1996, 2000, and 2004.

"A lot of people — parents, teachers, a lot of us — share the frustration that the status quo is working for some kids but not for enough," said Campion, executive director of the Washington chapter of Stand for Children, one of several education advocacy groups supporting the initiative. "I think Washington voters share that sense."

The article shares how those behind this initiative are using similar strategies to those used in the successful liquor business initiative that easily passed with a 59% yes vote.  Another similarity is the large amount of money raised by supporters.  The group formed to oppose the initiative, People for Public Schools, has yet to raise any money, choosing to wait and see if enough signatures were gathered.

The short time frame is one of several similarities between Initiative 1240 and Initiative 1183, last year's successful effort to get the state out of the liquor business.

Both initiatives used the same signature-gathering consulting firm, California-based Winner & Mandabach Campaigns, raised a lot of money before getting on the ballot, and worked with spokesman Mark Funk.

Will the fourth time result in success?  I believe that it has a much better chance now than it did in any of the previous attempts.  Charters are more common across the country, for the most part they get positive play in the media, people are disillusioned with the lack of success they read about in public schools, and there will be large sums of money donated to support a yes.  These changes may be difficult to overcome.  All of these to support 40 charters over five years.  What do you think, will the initiative pass?

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