Three times the voters of Washington state have rejected charter schools — in 1996, 2000 and 2004 — but a new bid to win approval has big money behind it.

Today is the deadline to turn in petitions to get a charter initiative on the November ballot, and the people behind the effort have had plenty of money to use — donated to the cause by, among others, Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

The effort — called “Yes on 1240: Washington Coalition for Public Charter Schools” — began in earnest in May, according to the Seattle Times and had to rush to collect nearly 250,000 valid signatures to force a vote in November.

Dave Ammons, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, told the Seattle Times that the late filing was highly unusual. But with all of the money behind them, sponsors of the initiative had a lot to work with.

How much?

Well, Gates donated $1.05 million to the cause, according to a document filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission, the Associated Press reported.

Nearly $500,000 came from Mike and Jackie Bezos, parents of Jeff Bezos, founder of And, the AP reported, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen donated $100,000, as did Katherine Binder, chairwoman of EMFCO Holdings.

The campaign to push charters on the ballot received a total $1.8 million in donations, the AP said.

We’ll know soon if Gates & Co. threw enough money out there to get their way.

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