It is not uncommon for opponents of initiative proposals to contest the ballot language used to describe the measure. Those few words, after all, might be all a voter sees before deciding. At least they will be the last words they see.
So the Washington Education Association today asked the Thurston County Superior Court to rewrite the ballot language for Initiative 1240 which seeks to create charter schools in Washington state.
The ballot language consists of three parts: The ballot title statement of the subject of the measure not to exceed 10 words, the ballot title concise description of the measure not to exceed 30 words and the ballot measure summary not to exceed 75 words.
The attorney general’s office prepares all three and each is subject to challenge in the Thurston court. Signature gathering must await a ruling and backers of the measure are already on a tight schedule, perhaps impossibly tight – 241,153 voter signatures by July 5.
Here is what the AG wrote for the 10-wordstatement of subject:
“Initiative Measure No. 1240 concerns public charter schools.”
Here is what the WEA wants it to say:
“Initiative Measure No. 1240 concerns creating taxpayer financed, privately operated experimental charter schools.
Here is what the attorney general’s office has prepared for as the concise statement of the measure:
“This measure would authorize up to forty publicly-funded charter schools open to all students, operated through approved, nonreligious, nonprofit organizations, with government oversight: and modify certain laws applicable to them as public schools.”
Here is what the WEA wants the ballot description to say:
“The measure would divert existing public school funding to up to forty experimental charter schools open to all students and allow unelected, non-profit organizations to operate such schools.”
Here is what the AG wrote as the 75-word ballot measure summary:
“This measure would allow a newly-created state commission of approved local school boards to authorize certain nonreligious, nonprofit organizations to operate public charters schools, limited to forty over five years. Public charter schools would receive standard per-student public school funding and be open to all students without tuition. Public charter schools would be subject to teacher certification requirements, government oversight, and performance reporting requirements, but exempt from certain state laws and school district policies.”
And here is what the WEA thinks it should say:
“The measure would allow taxpayer financed, experimental charter schools, limited to forty over five years, operated by private, nonreligious, nonprofit corporations and governed by unelected charter school boards. Such school would be tuition free. A new state agency comprised of appointed, partisan political charter school proponents would authorize charter schools created outside of existing school districts. Charter schools would be exempt from existing state laws and school district policies, except to the extent reserved in this Act.”