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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Emotional Pleas Then Vote To Keep Washington Charter Schools Open

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The Washington Supreme Court ruled voter-approved charter schools unconstitutional last fall. Now it appears they will get a second chance after the Washington House voted Wednesday night to fund charters with lottery proceeds, not general funds.

The vote came after a lengthy and, at times, emotional floor debate. Democrat Eric Pettigrew of south Seattle argued that charter schools can give African American children a better chance at a good education.

“And if it’s one kid or 800 kids it doesn’t matter,” Pettigrew said. “It’s what we need to do. I urge your support.”

Pettigrew’s fellow Democrat Mike Sells argued against reauthorizing charter schools. He was booed and gaveled down when he suggested the bill was the work of special interests.

“Now this isn’t about kids, I’m sorry,” Sells said. “What this is about, if you’ll take a look at it, were those 22 high-priced lobbyists out there the last few days.”

Sells and other critics also question whether changing the funding source is enough to make charter schools pass constitutional muster.

In the end, the measure passed with strong support from minority Republicans and a handful of Democrats. The charter school measure now goes back to the state Senate where final passage is expected. After that it would go to the governor.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."