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Reformer Star of the Week: People Of Washington

• Jess Langhaim


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.


– Margaret Mead


Reform, and more specifically education reform, is often discussed in terms of reform community or reform group. Because to reform, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “to improve (someone or something) by removing or correcting faults, problems, etc.,” and that can be a big job.

When discussing reforms you may hear the term reform movement as well, because oftentimes it takes that  “small group of thoughtful, committed citizens” several stages, multiple passes, and some elbow grease to bring about change.

The people of Washington state showed they were up for such an incredible task and became their own reform community striving toward their own reform movement when in 2012 they legalized charter schools with the passage of Initiative 1240, which allows up to 40 total charter schools to be opened in the next 5 years.

Prior to 2012,  three previous ballot measures to bring charters to Washington were defeated (1996, 2000 and 2004). But the believers had seen the many successes and new options created for students in the 41 other states who allow charter schools, and were determined. So they persevered to make those options available to their own children in Washington and on May 31, 2012 Washington Initiative 1240 was filed with the Secretary of State.

The creation of the Washington Charter School Commission (which Initiative 1240 called for) was the next step and last year this commission approved the rules for Washington’s charter schools.

Last month, all of the efforts led to the most exciting stage yet when the Spokane School District approved the state’s first charter school, and the Washington Charter School Commission followed shortly after with the approval of another 7 charter schools.

This reform movement took time, hard work, and had some failures along the way, but the will was strong and the results are well worth it as students options and parental choices have increased.

Congratulations to the people of Washington as they celebrate the approval of the 8 charter schools:

  Pride Prep,   First Place Scholars,   Excel Public Charter School,   Green Dot Charter Middle School,

  Rainier Prep,   SOAR Academy,   Summit Public School – Tacoma,   Summit Public School – Seattle

And remember, if you feel there is something to be improved or corrected, roll up your sleeves, grab like-minded peers, check your impatience at the door, and let the reform movement begin.

About the author

Jess Langhaim

Jess is the National Advocacy Director for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Prior to joining the Foundation, Jess worked for a political consulting firm in Nevada on local, state and national campaigns. Prior to that, Jess worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Romney for President 2008, the Florida House of Representatives and the Legislative Affairs office of Governor Jeb Bush. Jess is a graduate of Florida State University. In addition to helping coordinate nationwide advocacy efforts, Jess’s portfolio of states includes: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington DC and West Virginia.