Last Night’s Board Meeting

It has finally come to pass in Seattle as many of us had begun to discuss over a year ago when we began to hear the distant drumbeat of ed reform; high stakes testing, merit pay and not far behind, Teach for America bringing up the rear and populating charter schools with cheap labor.

About the meeting, unbeknownst to me, bright orange anything was de rigueur for the evening at the Stanford Center. I happened to have on a toned down orange striped shirt so I almost fit in.

The Alliance for Education, Stand for Children and Our Schools’ Coalition, basically one in the same group at this point, had dressed up unwitting students for the evening in bright orange t-shirts that said “kids first” on the front. There was also a contingent of the SPS construction team members in their orange and yellow construction vests displaying unity against staff being laid off so it was a visually lively event.

Several of the speakers were the usual cast of characters from the Alliance. Someone wondered if they get paid for these appearances. I imagine that many of these folks are Alliance staff and do get paid but that can be the focus of another article. They went on and on about how we need to have effective teachers and how the state of Washington has relatively low test scores compared to other states. NO ONE in that group mentioned anything about the fact that the school system in our state has always been poorly funded and that there is a direct correlation between the amount of funding a school or district has and how well the students do. Inadequate funding has nothing to do with the teachers except for the fact that all teachers I know feel it necessary to use their own funds to make their class budgets meet, paying for books and materials. None of these folks mentioned class size as a determining factor or poverty and how that can impact a student’s life in school. Nope, it’s all about the teachers.

Meg Diaz did her usual awesome job of pointing out the financial details of STEP and Melissa Westbrook came down hard on the board for not meeting their responsibilities as board directors in overseeing the superintendent as reflected in the recent audit.

What I want to focus on briefly is how the Alliance shamelessly used our students to promote their, rather the Gates and Broad, agenda last night. Under the umbrella of the Alliance for Education and paid for by Broad and Gates money is their offspring “Our Schools’ Coalition” developed and produced by Strategies 360, a national marketing firm paid for by Stand for Children. Stand for Children, also backed by Gates’ money, apparently has joined forces with the Alliance or at least they did last night.

Here were these people with shirts that say “kids first” using our children as a foil for their agenda. The Alliance staff made sure that they took lots of pictures of these kids that will more than likely be used in their literature and as photo’s provided to the press.

This to me shows a complete lack of respect for our students and reflects their willingness to do anything to achieve their ed reform goals.

How do I know that these students hadn’t even heard of Our Schools’ Coalition before last night? Because someone asked them! One student said “I know nothing. My friend brought me”. Another young person said that they had worked with the League of Education Voters on getting out the vote last year and they were asked to show up at the board meeting. Using young, optimistic, hardworking volunteers to promote the ed reform agenda. Another student said that he was part of an organization called “Youth Ambassadors” and someone told them that if they wanted their voices to be heard, that they should come to this meeting. NONE of these young people knew anything about what they were cheering about. This is truly shameless usury on the part of these groups. And they call themselves concerned about children.

The Alliance, Stand for Children and Our Schools Coalition showed their true colors last night and that color is more of a murky gray not a bright, sunny orange.

I could go on but I will save a post just about these organizations in a future but not too distant post.

Below is the testimony that I gave at the Board meeting regarding SERVE:

Dora

Much in SERVE has to do with tying the performance of a student on the MAP test to the evaluation of a teacher. Salaries can be based on a student’s performance, but worse than that, SERVE goes on to propose that when there is a rif, the superintendent can then fire teachers based on their evaluations. This is referred to as high stakes testing.

Do I want my daughter’s teacher to be that concerned about how she does on a single test or do I want them to teach the whole child a broader view of the subject, helping her to develop her creative and critical thinking skills?

It would be human nature that a person who is concerned about their livelihood and career would want to focus on ensuring that their students know the correct answers to a multiple choice test, drill and kill as some people call it. Make sure the student knows simple answers to simple questions and kill any desire on the part of the student to want to learn more, subverting any sense of curiosity or wonderment about the world around them. Teach to the test and nothing more.

And who cares about seniority and knowledge of teaching gained from years of experience when you can hire Teach for America recruits on the cheap, another item on the SERVE agenda.

Hiring Teach for America recruits straight out of college and placing them in the classrooms for a stint of two years is the latest rage among ed –reformers, particularly with for-profit charter schools that can hire TFA recruits, keep their cost down and make a profit. Remember, charter schools do not hire union teachers.

Hiring Teach for America recruits works well for charter franchises but not for the students. These recruits, who are planning to go into other fields once the economy picks up, commit two years to teaching, receive six weeks of training, go into the classroom, do their thing and then move on to their chosen fields. Most do not continue on into education. That creates a high rate of churn, as well as a lack of stability with the students, the school and the community. There is no long-term commitment on the part of the teacher to the school or the community and leaves students who have developed bonds with these teachers with nothing at the end but the broken promise that the teacher would be there for them forever.

These elements of SERVE would not work for our students or our community and should not be accepted by the teachers. And teachers, even though you are being bombarded by messages brought to you by Broad-backed and Gates funded faux roots organizations, such as the Alliance, Our Schools’ Coalition and Stand for Children, know that we as parents support you during these negotiations and consider you a precious resource in the development of our children.

Thank you

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8 thoughts on “Last Night’s Board Meeting

  1. Great information Joan.

    To this day no one from OSC, the Alliance, LEV or Stand for Children have ever come up to me or written to me to try and deny what has been discovered about the financial ties that bind all of these groups together. I suppose it would be foolish to do that because the information is public due to their non-profit status.

    This weekend I will post a diagram that shows how all of these faux roots organizations are linked based on major contributions made by the Broad Foundation and Bill Gates.

  2. correction to above:

    The largest 11 donations [to EV-PAC] account fo 7/8 of the coffer. One of these eleven donors is a c0-founder of LEV, one of these eight works for LEV; in the next tier of donors is a member of the Board of LEV. Several of these eleven donors were among those small # of donors accounted for about 1/2 of the cumulative donations to the campaigns of the business-backed candidates in the 2007 school board elections. (Oddly, there is no limit on contributions to campaigns of Seattle school board candidates). These four, plus one more, are the the targets of a recently initiated recall effort.

  3. Thanks for reporting on this, Dora.

    League of Education Voters was part of the group of (directly or indirectly)Gate-F. backed astroturf orgs that recruited kids to wear the orange t-shirts. Lest an LEV employee denies this, I must clarify: LEV has three branches. The financial, physical, and human resources links between the three orgs are highly incestuous. The three orgs are these,

    501(c)3 LEV Foundation; major donors are Gates F. ($250K+ in 2008), Nick Hanauer’s F. ($250K+ in 2008), Microsoft Corp. ($25K+ i n 2008). The total revenue for LEV F. in 2008 was just under one million. Contributions are tax deductible. There is no website for this organization. The WA Sec. of State’s “charity profile” for LEV-F. gives the URL as “levfoundation.org,” but visitors to this URL are seemlessly routed to the 501(c)4 website. LEV-F is anything but a grassroots organization.

    501(c)4. Education Voters. This is a lobbying group. They call themselves League of Education Voters (leaving off the “Foundation” tag.), and this is the name you see when you visit the website of this 501(c)4. URL: educationvoters.org. Donations to this 501(c)4 are NOT tax deductible. However, when you click on the “donations” tab of this website, you are routed to a “wiredforchange” URL that accepts TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donations to the 501(c)3 org LEV-Foundation! (This is one example of what I mean by “incestuous links.”) Education Voters is anything but a genuine grassroots organization.

    Education Voters Political Action Committee. This org raises $ and makes campaign contributions. It is their donations that probably explains why my representatives Scott White and Phyllis Kenney are supporting the education reform agenda in the state legislature. When we look as the source of EV-PAC’s funds, we see this is anything but a grassroots PAC. The two largest donations (from N. Hanauer and K. Binder) account for 3/4 of the coffer to date. The largest 8 donations account fo 7/8 of the coffer. One of these eight donors is the founder of LEV, one of these eight works for LEV; another of the eight is on the Board of LEV. After WEA, EV-PAC appears to be the most generouse education PAC in Wa State. WEA also support the Ed Reform agenda. (WEA’s parent, NEA has come out against the Ed Reform agenda.) EV-PAC is no grassroots organization.

    I am omitting here many details about the incestous links. This is significant, because Gates F. can loose their 501C3 status if they give money to non-501(c)3 organizations. It looks to me like the LEV F (at least 1/4 the funds of which comes from Gates F). pays all or most of the salaries of the very people who do all the lobbying and political work documented on the LEV website.

    Gates F. is also a generous contributor to Alliance For Education and the 501(c)3 arm of Stand4Children.

  4. Sadie,

    I am glad that you feel so noble about your cause but here in Seattle we have experienced, qualified and certified teachers who are quite capable of teaching our children. We do not need inexperienced teachers who are learning on the job just to leave our children and communities in two years to come in and think that they are going to show us the way.

    We understand what creates a successful school community. We have that now in many of our schools. You do not need to come to Seattle. You are not invited.

    And regarding excuses, it’s obvious that you don’t understand what children in certain communities or circumstances need. They don’t need tough love from you, they and their families need health services, food, maybe a safe and warm place to live, a life without abuse, maybe clothes or just a more stimulating environment. TFA is not the answer, adequate funding so that our teachers who we have right now can have a smaller population of students to handle and teach everyday, students who are fed, healthy and ready to work, buildings that are safe and materials so that they have all the tools necessary to learn, that’s what we need as a nation.

    Your heart might be in the right place but you are not equipped or have the commitment to face the challenges of teaching for the long haul.

    Thanks but no thanks.

    Oh and by the way, for a non-profit, Teach for America is making quite a tidy profit, in the millions.

    Dora

  5. As a TFA corps member, I do take this to heart. As a Seattle native, I take offense for what I thought our community in the PNW was all about.
    Corps members, by far and large, in the community where I serve, are not cheaper- we are innovative. We do not teach the test, we spark interest. We are trying, harder than ever to put ourselves out of business.
    No, TFA may not produce life-long teachers, but that has never ever been stated as the goal of the non-profit organization. The goal, and mission, of Teach for America, is instead to bridge the educational gap. Plain and simple.
    The questions always posed to corps members usually fall under two categories: what our experience is and how we are qualified to do our job. Six weeks of training may not seem like a lot to someone else but we do not waste time in the lecture halls, we are put into classrooms with real children, with real disadvantages and with a real chance at being expelled or held back. We don’t make excuses for these kids and don’t let them either.
    I do challenge the author of this piece and also the Seattle community which I grew up in, to think about TFA in the way that we do – not as an organization looking to hire cheap labor, but as an organization that is fighting a battle that would eventually put them out of business.

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