This was originally posted on October 14, 2009

My friend Dora and I started Seattle Education 2010 in an effort to amass and share all the info a group of us had accumulated this past year that connects the dots on our superintendent and the “education reform” agenda and how that is wreaking havoc on Seattle’s schools. Our goal is to protect, preserve and invest in public education without the influence of privatizing agendas.

The Save Seattle Schools blog  is another priceless source for what’s really going on in the school district from the perspective of some very active and informed parents. It was started about 5 years ago during the last round of closures by 3 parents — Beth Bakeman, Charlie Mas and Melissa Westbrook. Here is a long thread about the Broad Foundation that will fill you in on a number of things.

The Broad (which rhymes with “toad”) Foundation is the enterprise of AIG billionaire Eli Broad who is trying to influence school districts and education policy throughout the country promoting an agenda that emphasizes the privatization of public education via charters. He also has a “Broad Academy” that trains superintendents to run school districts like businesses, and he seeks out school districts that he deems “ripe” for takeover and conversion to private control. A growing number of other parents, educators, writers around the nation share our concern and opposition to the Broad agenda and have written and blogged about it as well. To wit: Diane Ravitch, Susan Ohanian, Herb Kohl, and numerous others. I’ll include some links to their sites at the end.

Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson is on the board of directors of Broad, which a number of us believe is a conflict of interest.
Her recent annual evaluation was overseen by a fellow member of Broad, Tom Payzant. We believe that at least one school board retreat was funded by Broad. There are at least two “Broad Residents” on staff at the district’s central office.

Complicating matters is that Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is also an “education reformer” (with a controversial record) who is affiliated with the privatizers like Eli Broad. Up til recently, Duncan was on Broad’s board of directors. Consequently, Obama/Duncan are dangling “Race to the Top” education money in front of all the states — with demands that states meet certain conditions, and that includes allowing charter schools and merit pay for teachers. So there is pressure from the federal government as well to privatize our schools. (One reformer critic calls this unconstitutional and she may be right.)

Many of us in Seattle believe our alternative and nontraditional schools & programs (like Nova, APP, etc) should qualify us for these funds. Another troubling aspect is that here in Seattle the “reformers” are not being upfront about what they are doing. A parent I know asked Supt. Goodloe-Johnson point-blank if Broad supported charters and Goodloe-Johnson denied it.

Seattle’s Alliance for Education pretends to be just a fundraising ally of the district but in fact influences district policy, even though it is not an elected body. It secretly invited the “National Council on Teacher Quality” to Seattle and paid them $14,000 to write a report that basically (and unfairly) criticizes teachers. The NCTQ is a politically connected, privately funded enterprise aligned with reformers — whose goal is to break the teacher’s union. (Charters, btw, almost always exclusively hire non-union teachers whom they can overwork and underpay. The reformers regularly demonize teachers.)

At a meeting that a group of us had with School Board Director Harium Martin-Morris over the summer, he didn’t seem to realize how much Broad had infiltrated Seattle’s school district, and what the foundation was up to. Broad practices what it calls “venture philanthropy” and says “we expect a return on our investment.” Critics have referred to this as “vulture philanthropy.”

Here’s a link to Stanford University’s CREDO report that shows that charters are not the answer. According to this recent (6/15/09) study (ironically funded by wealthy pro-charter types like the Walton’s, the Dell’s and others), charter schools do not necessarily perform any better than public schools. In fact, 37 percent perform worse.

Here is a theory that a number of us feel is the only logical explanation for what Goodloe-Johnson has done to our district (from the Save Seattle Schools blog a few months back):

gavroche said…
“SPS Mom said…’Seattle has voted down charter schools more than once, so how would MGJ/Broad folks start charter schools?’ SPS Mom, here’s one theory on how and why Goodloe-Johnson’s Broad-trained leadership could lead Seattle to charters.”

“The Chaos Theory:

Another troubling factor in all this is the Broad Foundation’s stated objective (or M.O.) of “honing in on” troubled school districts that either are in bankruptcy or have been taken over by the city/mayor. Neither of these conditions is currently true in Seattle. In fact, despite a poorly run over staffed central administrative office (full of Broad Residents, apparently — which may explain its bloatedness!), Seattle’s public schools, by and large, are quite strong, with some nationally recognized schools and programs. Yes, there are weak areas and inequities that should be addressed.”

“So how does Broad (which rhymes with “toad”) plan to make its case for a privatized takeover of Seattle Public Schools via charters if our district isn’t asking for this?It would, in theory, need to create an environment that is “ripe” (to use one of Broad’s own terms) for charters to move in.”

“How does it do that? Looking at all the mind-boggling, reckless, rushed and illogical decisions and changes made by this School District this past year under the leadership of Broad board member and graduate, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, with no clear benefits in sight, one might question this Superintendent’s objectives for our District. Are she and her admin staff (larded with Broadies) genuinely trying to improve Seattle Public Schools, make them strong and desirable for all the kids in the city and lure back the high percentage of private school attendees into the public system? Will school closures that ignore demographic trends and community needs, teacher layoffs, mindlessly standardizing curricula, implementing a failed math curriculum, weakening alternative and highly capable schools, abolishing fresh cooked meals for middle and high schoolers in favor of central kitchen airplane food — add up to a stronger, more desirable School District? Or do these “reforms” create chaos and mistrust and weaken schools and parents’ faith in the system, and potentially open the door to a public cry for the city to take over the School District? If so, Mission Accomplished, from the Broad perspective, and the next step would be to present the idea of privately run charters as a “solution.”

“This, of course, is just a theory — a “Chaos Theory” if you will. But it really has been difficult to see how Goodloe-Johnson’s erratic, poorly executed “Plan for Excellence,” which has disenfranchised parents, has little to no community buy-in, and has elements that seem shrouded in secrecy, is putting our kids and their schools on a positive, stronger path.

This is not a new story. There are always those who come from the corporate world who believe that the corporate way to run a business is applicable everywhere. Well, there’s ample evidence that that’s just not true. Our country just finished 8 years under the “leadership” of the first U.S. president with an MBA, and look where that landed us — in two quagmires overseas and an economy in a tailspin such as we’ve not seen since the Great Depression. We now have ample evidence of the for-profit, oversight-free “business models” of the Ken Lays and Bernie Madoffs, Phil Gramms, Kerry Killingers, et al, of the world, and it has left our nation in ruins.”

“The Broad/Gates-types are the same kind of people who wanted to privatize Social Security. Thank God that didn’t happen, for look where everyone’s retirement savings would be now. Above all — and this is the heart of the matter for me and for many others on this blog, I would venture to guess — our children are not commodities. Their schools are not “enterprises.” Their principals are not “CEOs.”Their learning is not a “profit” opportunity. (These are all terms quoted from Broad literature.) Successful schools are collaborative, creative communities in which parents have a say and teachers are respected, principals are members of the team, and children are the primary focus.”

Also, have you seen SPS parent Meg Diaz’s new analysis of the bloated administration at the district’s central office? It’s about 39 percent larger than any similar districts in the state. And then they have the gall to close, split and merge our schools because of a “budget crisis.”

See “Central Administration Efficiency in Seattle Public Schools”

“The 2008 state auditor’s report highlighted administrative over staffing as early as 2003-04. SPS has 39% more executives, managers and supervisors per student than the average.” – State Auditor’s Report, 2008. The report estimated that if unchecked, Central Administration over staffing would cost SPS $10.5M over five years.”

Meg also did an amazing Power Point analysis of the Capacity Management Plan (on which we based the online petition) which showed that demographics indicated that schools should not be closed and money would not be saved. As we now know, the district is now saying that it need to reopen 5 schools at an estimated cost of $47.8 million — because of demographics & demand. See: Analysis of Final Capacity Management Proposal”.

Here are some informative blogs on education:

Seattle Education 2010

Dolce & Nutella

The Perimeter Primate

The Broad Report


Our Global Education

Gotham Schools

Schools Matter

— Sue