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Governor pledges to veto charter schools bill

Friday - 3/16/2012, 12:22am  ET

By JONATHAN KAMINSKY
Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Gov. Chris Gregoire on Thursday vowed to veto a measure to bring charter schools to Washington state.

A charter schools bill died in the Legislature during the session that ended last week. The issue was revived by Senate Republicans and a handful of Democrats who announced it as part of their new budget plan at a Thursday news conference.

"I have told them I will veto it. I will veto it," said Gregoire. "Get over it. Stop wasting time. Let's get to work. Let's get a budget."

Charters are public schools that are independent from districts and are governed instead by performance contracts requiring proof that they are improving student achievement. Teachers' unions tend to oppose charters, largely because many hire non-union staff.

Washington is one of eight states without charter schools. Voters have three times rejected allowing them to operate in the state, in 1996, 2000 and 2004. The Legislature rejected charter school bills on several other occasions before they reached the ballot.

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, a charter schools proponent and one of three Democrats who voted to pass a Republican budget in the Senate, said he was disappointed with Gregoire's position.

"She's the governor and she sits in the chair, but I also know that she cares about education," Tom said. "Some of it could be her frustration from the lack of progress" in the budget negotiations.

Tom noted that the current proposal is pared down from the version he introduced in January, allowing for a maximum of 10 charter schools instead of 50.

Tom said he was firm in supporting Senate Republican budget negotiators regardless of whether their plan includes funding for charter schools.

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AP Writer Mike Baker contributed to this report. Follow Jonathan Kaminsky at http://www.twitter.com/jekaminsky

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(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)