Act Now for Washington Students

Washington voters paved the way for public school choice when they approved Initiative 1240 in 2012. By the fall of 2015, nine public charter schools serving more than 1,100 primarily low-income and traditionally underserved students had opened across the state. Unfortunately, the Washington Education Association (WEA) challenged that initiative in court, and just days after the start of the school year, the state’s elected supreme court ruled that the charter initiative violated Washington’s Constitution on highly technical and controversial grounds. All nine schools were now threatened with closure unless the legislature acted to keep them open.

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The Washington State Charter Schools Association, along with coalition members Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), Stand for Children, the League of Education Voters, and leaders from the business community, partnered with RALLY to find and drive a solution that saved the existing schools and reinstated the will of the voters. RALLY developed and managed a high-impact legislative advocacy campaign that forced legislators, especially elected Democrats, to confront the prospect of being held responsible for closing public schools that serve a racially and economically diverse student population – or taking action to support their constituents.

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To deliver our message, RALLY created a campaign that truly put parents and students front and center. We built, encouraged, and supported a strong grassroots advocacy team that made more than 1,000 calls per week to elected officials, flooded legislative offices with homemade postcards and letters, and brought hundreds of people to Olympia for multiple rallies to keep schools open. A statewide petition activated 20,000 new public charter supporters and created a backbone for a strategic digital effort that augmented the on-the-ground tactics.

Grassroots efforts were coupled with an aggressive paid media campaign designed to make it impossible for state leaders to ignore the plight of public charters. RALLY produced four television ads, which aired during Seattle Seahawks games and nightly newscasts. Additionally, voters in key swing districts around the state received a series of direct mail, robo-calls, and targeted earned media. Statewide, every major newspaper endorsed saving the schools and called on Democrats to stay true to their social justice roots. These tactics were combined with a PAC fundraising effort, a relentless online digital presence, and a robust social media strategy.

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On March 9, 2016, the Democratic Speaker of the House made a highly unusual concession to set aside his own long-standing guideline prohibiting votes on bills without majority Democratic support and allowed for a vote to save Washington’s public charter schools. Democratic legislators who previously did not support public charters stepped forward to make impassioned speeches that called on their colleagues to do the right thing and keep Washington’s schools open. SB 6194 ultimately passed with the support of ten House Democrats and two Senate Democrats and became the law on April 3.

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This victory allowed Washington’s public charter schools to remain open, and created a path forward to open new schools and serve more of the state’s children. The campaign established charter school supporters as real political players with a grassroots army ready to stand up and fight for kids. More importantly, this effort changed hearts and minds—especially in the halls of the state capitol.

To learn more about what RALLY can do for your team, email Felix Schein at fschein@WeAreRALLY.com.

TV ads produced for Act Now for Washington Students:




 

To learn more about what RALLY can do for your team, email Felix Schein at fschein@WeAreRALLY.com.

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