Judge Lisa Sutton gave approval after a hearing with parties on opposite sides of the issue. Both supporters and critics of Initiative 1240 had challenged the ballot title and description written by the attorney general’s office.
The Washington Education Association, which opposes charters, wanted to insert language into the ballot description calling charter schools “experimental.” WEA’s staff lawyer Michael Gawley, who argued in court, described Washington students as “lab rats” in the experiment.
Sutton pushed aside most of WEA’s suggestions, while also dismissing one from attorney Harry Korrell, who appeared on behalf of the I-1240 campaign.
Korrell argued for ballot language that said the measure would “allow” rather than “authorize” up to 40 charter schools. Sutton said she believed “authorize” was a term that better described what the measure does.
She did allow one change suggested by I-1240 backers, editing the description of what kind of nonreligious, nonprofit organizations can operate public charter schools from “certain” to “qualifying.”
Sutton also answered a WEA complaint, revising the ballot title to say the initiative concerns “creation” of a charter school system and convey that the proposal would allow something new.
Shannon Campion, executive director for reform-advocacy group Stand for Children, said she was pleased with the outcome. The campaign faces a July 6 deadline for securing 241,153 valid voter signatures to get on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“We look forward to getting on the streets gathering signatures as soon as we can,” Campion said. “It will be a combination of paid and volunteer signature gathering.’’
WEA spokesman Rich Wood said it is not certain how the teachers union might seek to counter the signature drive. He said he hopes voters are alerted to what the measure would do – “siphoning” scarce resources from public school classrooms on an experimental form of education that a Stanford University study showed would benefit 17 percent of students participating, while serving others less effectively than existing schools.
Peter Gonick, the deputy solicitor general who prepared the draft ballot title, defended his office’s wording. “We thought we wrote a fair and impartial description and it is mostly retained.’’
The judge’s decision is final under state law governing ballot email@example.com 360-753-1688 www.theolympian.com/politicsblog