When it comes to improving public education, Republicans generally call for reforms and Democrats generally call for more money.  This means charter schools, which are basically a reform, are more often something that Republicans push. 

However, more and more Democrats, increasingly frustrated with the state of public education, are getting behind charter schools.  Indeed three moderate Democrats have joined the Senate Republicans in this latest battle in the state legislature.

“Too often in Olympia all we have done is we have always concentrated our policies on what is good for the adults in the system,” said Rodney Tom, D-Medina.  “What I’m hearing from constituents is that it’s time for that to change.  You need to be more student-focused. “

Tom is one of three Democrats in the State Senate who have joined Republicans to insist that charters schools be a part of the final budget deal.  The condition has created a sticking point in already tense negotiations.

“They have mixed results around the country,” said Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.  “I think it’s a distraction, and putting a new bill on the table in a special session doesn’t make sense to me.”

Charter schools can take a lot of different forms, but they share pretty clear characteristics.  They are publicly funded, independently managed, put major emphasis on student achievement, and hire mostly non-union teachers.  

Last week Gov. Christine Gregoire was livid with the senate Republicans and their three Democratic supporters for reintroducing this idea.

“Suddenly putting charter schools into this budget and not funding bills that they passed is a waste of time, and just so they know, I promise to veto it, so get over it, get on with it,” said Gregoire.  “Get me a budget.”