Thursday, June 14, 2012

WEA Files Challenge to 1240 Charter Initiative

The Washington Education Association has filed a challenge to the ballot title and summary for 1240, the charter school initiative. A hearing is set for tomorrow morning in Thurston County Superior Court. I don't know that the judge will actually rule on it tomorrow (Friday is the day the judge hears all motions so I don't know if there will be time.) The judge must rule within five days (and undoubtedly will be asked to hurry it as they need as much time as possible to get signatures). I will gently point out that if time was the issue, the supporters should have made the decision to get this filed much, much sooner. They have no one to blame for themselves for this short window of time.

From the News Tribune comes their coverage.

This is a funny story for me as yesterday, I traveled to Olympia to file a challenge as well. I was not successful. It is a Kafkaesque tale to be sure and a reminder that while we have laws, we may not always be able to access them as regular citizens.

 I had good reasons to challenge the ballot "description" and "summary" (two different things). One the "description" violated the RCW restriction of 30 words by 3 extra words.

Two, "the summary" says a non-profit will "operate" the charter school but the initiative makes clear a FOR-PROFIT can be contract with for both operations and management. What the charter board has final say on is "oversight authority." Oversight authority and operations are not the same things and, to my mind, would have been false advertising to voters.

So, armed with these facts (and believing it was a form to file out and a fee to pay), I went down to Olympia. Turns out that at the Superior Court, almost no one knew what to do and would not tell me anything as that would be "legal advice." When I first said, no, no, I just need to know the procedure, I was given a sheet to file the challenge but there was nowhere to write what the challenge was about. I gave up there and called the Sec'y of State's office (because the RCW referenced them).

 Turns out everyone working in the Elections department was out on training...for the next three days (which would be the last period to file). I went to the SS's office and there was told nothing could be done (and made to feel like a terrible person because the woman who had been left behind went home to tend ill children). I absolutely have sympathy but I also was wondering what the deal was with leaving an entire state office unmanned but for a volunteer. The woman in the SS's office - not so helpful and she believed the info was on the website and why didn't I file it there?

We went to the website and lo and behold, no way to file. In fact, ZERO information on the ability to for a citizen to be able to do this challenge to a ballot measure. You'd think this would be info citizens might like to have. We called the Attorney General's office to see if someone there could help but couldn't reach anyone.

 I tried the Superior Court one more time but was told to go to a computer and look up a case for comparison. They did not give me the right case so, naturally, I was confused. I gave up and went home. I DID end up getting good info from the ACLU and the League of Women Voters (and thank you and kudos for them for being able and willing to help.) Turns out I needed to write the challenge in a legal form that pretty much necessitated a lawyer. I saw a sample and yes, I believe I could write it but I thought if I missed a step or legal factor, it would get tossed in court.

 I am glad someone else stepped forward. I will say there is still one more legal issue that I might bring up but I want to continue to look into that before I file any papers.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Darn iPad won't take formatting. I will correct this when I am at home. Sorry.

Kathy said...

WEA Ballot Challenge can be found within this article. Definately worth reading.


If these folks can't file a ballot measure in time..how can we expect them to be responsible for tax=payer dollars?

Anonymous said...

Thank for all your efforts, Melissa, I greatly appreciate it.


mirmac1 said...

Yes, thanks Melissa for going beyond the call of duty. I'm glad an organization with the resources (lawyers) and vested interests (their membership) stood up and did their job.

Kathy said...

I- 1240 to move forward: