Washington to allow charter schools after billionaire-backed initiative squeaks through

Correction: An earlier version said that most of the wealthy donors to the charter effort lived outside Washington state. Some of them do.

Washington becomes the 42nd state to allow public charter schools to open now that  ballot Initiative 1240 has passed, apparently by about 1 percentage point — this after a group of billionaires, including Bill Gates, donated more than $10 million to get it pushed through.

Under the initiative, as many as 40 charter schools will be permitted to open across the state over the next five years.

Because Washington state voters had rejected  the idea of opening charter schools three times since 2004, supporters of the initiative did everything they could this year to make sure it passed, including raising gobs of money from a bunch of billionaires, some of whom didn’t even live in the state. Gates, who does live there, donated more than $3 million to the cause. Alice Walton of Walmart Stores Inc. fame, who, unlike Gates, doesn’t live in the state, gave a total of  $1.7 million.

Money doesn’t always get its way. But sometimes it does.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · November 13, 2012