Saturday, November 03, 2012

Profile of DFER WA's Lisa Macfarlane, Charters

Sixteen years ago, in another chilly October, parent and school-levy volunteer Lisa Macfarlane managed a phone bank for the anti-charter-school campaign.

Back then, Macfarlane believed charters — the privately run, publicly funded schools that were cropping up in many states — would weaken the public school system she was working hard to strengthen.

Every night for about a month, she rounded up a roomful of volunteers to call voters to persuade them to keep charter schools out of Washington.

Charters, she said, "felt like an attack on public schools."

Yet this October, as the state's fourth charter-school campaign heats up, Macfarlane, in a complete reversal, is working hard to bring charters here. President Obama's support of charters made her re-examine her own views a few years ago, she said, and she's decided her stance on charters was all wrong.

Now she sees them as a way to bolster the public school system, by providing better options for struggling students.

"We've got to do better by a group of kids that aren't faring well in our traditional public schools," she said.

The big question for charter supporters this November is whether enough other Washington voters will also change their minds this time around and approve Initiative 1240, after having decisively rejected charter ballot measures in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

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