Is Washington State government trying to jump on the ed reform bandwagon of failure?

Two recent attempts by WA state government to subvert democracy in order to potentially push an ed reform agenda are cause for alarm.

Two eyebrow-raising news items out of Olympia strongly imply that Governor Gregoire and Co. may be positioning our state to turn some tricks yet again for “Race to the Top” bribery funding.

Both involve bypassing the democratic process. This is the M.O. of many corporate ed reformers. Mayoral control of school districts is the desired scenario of top-down, anti-democratic ed reformers like Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg and  others. [See sidebar: Power grabs: the M.O. of Ed Reformers]

In the first example, Gov. Gregoire recently proposed eliminating the democratically elected State Superintendent of Public Schools (currently Randy Dorn) and seizing control of state education herself. The Seattle Times (quoting Dorn himself, I believe) rightly called this a power grab.

Crosscut’s David Brewster applaud’s Gregoire’s move as “bold” (I guess that’s one way to describe seizing power away from the voting public).

Now Publicola reports that the state senate education committee has apparently just been rigged by the pro-corporate-reform clique (aka the “Waiting for Superman” fan club). Two new members have suddenly been added to the committee and, whaddya know? They both support corporate ed reform, and now tip the balance of the board potentially towards privatization of public education and other discredited “reforms.”

I know we’re tucked away in the far northern corner of the nation, but really, did no one in our echelons of state government get the memo? Nationwide, state after state, study after study, scandal after scandal show that the “reforms” commanded by “Race to the Top” are failing.

Charter schools, merit pay, high stakes testing – are all proving to either not work at all, or do serious damage to our schools and the teaching profession, or are by and large no better than what we already have in our public schools.

To recap: 83 percent of charter schools perform no better or perform worse than traditional public schools. (Read Stanford University’s CREDO report which found that only 17 percent of charter schools outperform traditional public schools.)

High stakes testing does not make teachers or kids perform better, and “value added measures” are riddled with error.

Merit pay doesn’t work. Teachers aren’t motivated by making more money than the teacher in the next classroom. Two separate studies out of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Performance Incentives have now reported this fact.

RTTT demands that states remove caps, change laws, do whatever it takes to make public education an open market for privately run charters. Washington State is one of only a dozen or so states that does not allow charters.  Some say this is why Washington failed to “win” RTTT dollars in its bid last year. Voters have voted against handing over our public schools to private enterprise at least twice. But clearly there are players in Olympia who want to push charters through anyway.

Voters Schmoters

Apparently Gregoire, the state senate education committee, and our friends at Jonah Edelman’s (does your mom know what sneaky stuff you’re up to?) carpetbagging astroturf PAC “Stand for Children” think we voters should be shut out of this process. (Publicola reports that S4C apparently contributed $21,000 to the campaign of one of the newly implanted committee members, Senator Steve Hobbs, D-44, Lake Stevens. Here in Seattle, Stand for Children had a semi-secret, invite-only fundraiser last year featuring Seattle’s Broad-trained School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson as a speaker, and with the stated goal of raising funds to help elect pro-reformers to office. Some parents cried “conflict of interest” when they heard about this extra-curricular political fundraising by the supt. But the school board members I asked said, No, it was just fine for the superintendent to lend the power and influence of her elected office in that manner.)

Bringing back those brilliant moonbeams

Meanwhile in California, new (recycled?) Governor Jerry Brown is apparently going in the opposite direction of Gov. Gregoire. Rather than stacking the state school board with reformites, one of his first orders of business as the new gov was to kick out the most fervent corporate reformers, the controversial Ben “parent trigger” Austin and Ted Mitchell, president of the pro-charter NewSchools Venture Fund. Brown instead appointed an array of – get this—qualified educators and others to help drive the education policy of one of the nation’s largest states. Even the teacher-bashing L.A. Times was forced to agree he had chosen a pretty substantial and fair-minded group of people.

Now, the L.A. Times may also claim that Brown’s moves are merely a thank you to the teacher’s union which supported his campaign. But detractors would be wrong to dismiss Brown’s selection so simplistically. Parents across the country cheered Brown’s  choices. And this may well be yet another indication that the tide is turning against the “Waiting for Superman” teacher-bashing, rah-rah charter crowd, and turning towards sensible, positive education policy.

Also, rumor has it that Brown, who once supported the creation of two charters in Oakland as mayor, has since soured on the concept, and disagrees with the heavy-handed,  top-down, federal control of President Obama’s “Race to the Top” education policies.

Which brings us back to Washington State. Are we really going to dance for “Race to the Top” dollars  again (pennies, really, when the limited amounts awarded are divided by the number of kids statewide) by selling out our schools and kids to private enterprise and failed “reforms”? And is our democratically elected governor and the senate education committee going to stage a coup against our democratically elected state school superintendent in order to force that agenda on us? Not a very honorable picture.

–sue p.

SIDEBAR:

Power Grabs: the MO of the Ed Reformers (cause they know the people won’t support their agenda)

A Seattle Times editorial rightly questioned Gregoire’s proposal, but wrongly called Washington’s failure to fully capitulate to the federal edicts of “Race to the Top” a loss. It also didn’t note that the national “trend” toward mayoral control of school districts has resulted in despotism and failure.

The Bloomberg/Klein dynamic duo in New York comes immediately to mind. As the nation learned this past summer, the alleged “success” of the mayor and school chancellor’s much ballyhooed ed reform policy was a sham.

And too easily this mayoral control thing can run amok. Witness Mayor Bloomberg’s recent insistence on appointing the totally unqualified publishing exec Cathie Black to school chancellor. The state law prevented a non-educator from taking the helm of the school district, and a state panel voted 4-2 against granting a special waiver to get around the law. Yet Bloomberg, never one to let state law get in the way of his ambitions, still managed to wrangle a waiver to bypass the law and allow Black, his choice, to be appointed anyway, over public protest.

(It appears these schemes may be catching up with Mayor Bloomberg, who may be feeling some political fallout for the Cathie Black debacle and other controversies on his watch. The New York Times reported on Jan. 9 that the three-term mayor’s approval ratings have sunk to 37 percent.) [These two paragraphs were updated on Jan. 13. –s.p.]

The pro-privatizing Broad Foundation prefers and supports mayoral takeovers of public school districts (Bloomberg model) which eliminates democratically elected  school boards and gives the mayor sole authority to appoint the superintendent. (This is what Gregoire’s shenanigans remind me of). This set-up squeezes the public out of the decision-making process and consolidates their representation to just the mayor.

See the pattern here? This is how the corporate ed reformers push their agendas through. By force, manipulation and power grabs. Such end runs around democracy are a trademark of the current breed of corporate ed reformers who want complete control and no pesky public input to get in the way of their agenda.

In Compton, Calif., using the “parent trigger”  mechanism invented by Ben Austin, a consultant for Green Dot charters, parents were tricked and intimidated into signing a petition that would have converted their kids’ school into a charter. They were told the petition was merely to “beautify” their  kids’ school — not hand it over to a private enterprise.

This is fairly typical ed reform behavior — sneak something by, force something through, change the law if you have to. This underhanded, undemocratic behavior does not speak well of the reformers, and instead raises many questions about their true agenda.

–sue p.

 

Is Washington State trying to jump on the ed reform bandwagon of failure?

Two recent attempts by state govt to subvert democracy in order to push an ed reform agenda are cause for alarm.

 

Two recent eyebrow-raising news items out of Olympia strongly imply that Gregoire and co may be positioning our state to turn some tricks for Race to the Top funding.

Both involve bypassing the democratic process. This is the MO of many corporate ed reformers. Mayoral control of school districts is the desired scenario of top-down, anti-democratic ed reformers like Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg and various others. [See sidebar: Power grabs: the MO of Ed Reformers]

In the first example, Gov. Gregoire recently proposed eliminating the democratically elected State Superintendent of Public Schools (currently Randy Dorn) and seizing control of state education herself. The Seattle Times (quoting Dorn himself I believe) rightly called this a power grab.

SHAW http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2013850318_edfunding06m.html

The pro-privatizing Broad Foundation prefers and supports mayoral takeovers of public school districts (Bloomberg model) which eliminates democratically elected  school boards and gives the mayor sole authority to appoint the supe (this is what Gregoire’s shenanigans remind me of). This set-up squeezes the public out of the decision making process and consolidates their representation to just the mayor. (But if you’re Bloomberg, you buy your office and have the laws change so you can stay in office for as long as you like.)

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/editorials/2013865899_edit07education.html

 

Crosscut’s Brewster applaud’s Gregoire’s move as “bold” (I guess that’s one way to describe seizing power away from the voting public.) http://crosscut.com/blog/crosscut/20029/Impressive-power-moves-from-Gov.-Gregoire/

Now Publicola reports that the state school board has just been jiggered by the pro corporate reform clique and two new members have suddenly been added to the board and, whaddya know? They both support corporate ed reform, and now tip the balance of the board potentially towards privatization of public education.

 

http://www.publicola.net/2011/01/11/our-first-amendment-rights/

I know we’re tucked away in the far northern corner of the nation, but really, did no one in our echelons of state government get the memo? Nationwide, state after state, district after district, study after study, scandal after scandal show that ed reform and the demands of Race to the Top are failing. Charter schools, merit pay, high stakes testing – are all proving to either not work at all, do serious damage to our schools and the teaching profession, or are by and large no better than existing public schools.

RTTT demands that states raise limits, change laws, do whatever it takes to make the public education a market for privately run charters. Washington State is one of only a dozen or so states that does not allow charters. Voters have voted against handing over our public schools to private enterprise at least twice. But clearly there are players in Olympia who want to push charters through anyway.

Voters Schmoters

But apparently Gregoire, the state Baord of Education, and our friends at Jonah Edelman’s (does your mom know what sneaky stuff you’re up to?) carpetbagging astroturf PAC “Stand for Children” think we voters should be shut out of this process. (S4C apparently funded the campaign of one of the implanted school board members who actually lost his election.)

To recap: 83 percent of charter schools perform no better or perform worse than traditional public schools. (Read Stanford University’s CREDO report.)

High stakes testing do not make teachers or kids perform better, and “value added measures” are riddled with error.

Merit pay doesn’t work. Teacher aren’t motivated by making more money than the teacher in the next classroom. Two studies out of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Performance Incentives have reported this fact.

Meanwhile in California, new/old Governor Jerry Brown is apparently going in the opposite direction of Gov. Gregoire. Rather than stacking the state school board with reformites, one of his first orders of business as the new gov was to kick out the most fervent corporate reformers, the controversial Ben “parent trigger” Austen and New Schools Venture’s Ted Mitchell. Brown instead appointed an array of – get this—qualified educators to help drive the education policy of one of the nation’s largest states. Even the LA Times was forced to agree he had chosen a pretty substantial and fair-minded group of people. Now the Times and others may also be claiming that Brown’s moves are merely a thank you to the teacher’s union which supported his campaign. But detractors would be wrong to dismiss Brown’s selection so simplistically. Parents across the country cheered Brown’s sensible and insightful choices. And this may well be yet another indication that the tide is turning against the “Waiting for Superman” teacher-bashing, rah-rah charter crowd, and turning towards sensible, positive education policy.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0108-brown-education-20110107,0,4390922.story

Also rumor has it that Brown, who once supported the creation of two charters in Oakland as mayor, has since soured on the concept, and disagrees with the top-down, federal control of President Obama’s Race to the Top education policies.

Which brings us back to Washington State. Are we really going to dance for Race to the Top dollars by selling out our schools and kids to private enterprise and failed “reforms”? And is our democratically elected governor and the state school board going to stage a coup against our democratically elected school superintendent to force that on us? Not a very honorable picture.

Gov Gregoire should not try to rig the game so a very few politicians and investors with an agenda decide what will happen to our kids, their teachers and their schools. And she should not crown herself czar of education.

–>

SIDEBAR:

Power Grabs: the MO of the Ed Reformers (cause they know the people won’t support their agenda)

A Seattle Times unsigned editorial rightly question’s Gregoire’s proposal, but wrongly calls Washington’s failure to capitulate to the federal edicts of Race to the Top a loss. Itsalso fails to note that the national “trend” toward mayoral control of school districts has resulted in undemocratic despotism and failures. The Bloomberg/Klein dynamic duo in New York come immediately to mind. Turns out their alleged raised test scores were a sham. Too easily this mayoral control thing can run amok. Witness Bloomberg’s insistence on appointing the totally unqualified including by NY state law Cathie Black to school supertindent. This was over wide public protest and required a legal waiver to rig this. See the pattern here? This is how the corporate ed reformers push their agendas through. By force, manipulation and power grabs. They have a serious problem with the democratic process. Why? Because they likely know that the voting public would not support their self-serving and draconian “reforms.”)

Such end runs around democracy are a trademark of the current breed of corporate ed reformers who want complete control and no pesky public input to get in the way of their agenda.

The f-word keeps coming to mind when I think about what the ed reformers are doing — fascist. I know that may sound like an exaggeration, but look at the pattern:

In NYC, the public schools community didn’t want Cathie Black, a business woman with zero background in ed, to become the next schools chancellor. The law prevented a non educator from taking the helm. So Bloomberg arranged for a waiver to go around that law and allow Black, his choice, to be appointed anyway, over public protest.

5 comments

  1. Of course merit pay doesn’t work. One of the inherent problems with it is the question of how exactly it gets distributed or awarded. I have a friend who teaches Social Studies who vigorously supported merit pay, most likely because our school consistently recognized him as an effective teacher (which he definitely was). We ARE friends, so I try not to talk politics with him too often, especially when we disagree, but now with the whole value-added system of grading teachers, I wonder sometimes how he feels about it now. NYS recently decided to abolish the state Social Studies test – so my friend now falls into the very broad category of teachers who have no data-driven results by which they would be eligible for merit pay. As it stands now, only Literacy and Math teachers would ever get merit pay or bonuses. I think our school was awarded one of those school-wide merit bonuses one year – I say “I think” because the principal was given broad discretion in distributing the award, and most of the teachers I spoke to never received anything from it, and once we heard about the award we never heard another word about it. Lots of opportunity for abuse of the system by the principal, yes? I worked in special education – how would *my* merit be evaluated? Very few of my kids would score 3s or 4s on state tests – some are mentally retarded, others are learning-disabled or language-impaired. These things can’t be “fixed” – some of the higher-achieving kids with LD can be taught strategies to circumvent learning difficulties but their learning processes will never be like those of typically-developing kids. There’s a rumbling in NYC now to terminate all IEPs after the 8th grade – I suppose that’s how “merit” for SPED teachers will be measured, by how many kids get pushed out into the general education arena with no supports whatsoever. And, by the way, terminating an IEP for no other reason than some administrator or education official telling you that “nobody should have an IEP past the 8th grade” without any sort of educational justification is ILLEGAL. But I digress.

  2. Great article. Don’t forget that recent data indicates that any gains seen in charter schools, when they do occur, are probably due to increased instructional time. And I’ll note, on this partial snow-day, that the state’s budget difficulties are causing Washington school districts to consider cutting instructional time, when we already have some of the shortest school years nationally. There’s a simple shortcut to these gains – pay for instructional time. In public schools. Oh yeah, we just voted down revenue to pay for this, thanks to charter proponents support of “defeat1098.” Bah.

  3. This is very well done. It needs much broader exposure so let’s hope we can get it picked up by a network of advocates. I will post it on ksdcitizens.org in the Tri-Cities. Are there groups or individuals in Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Yakima, Bellingham, etc? How can we get this organized statewide? Does Dick Clark at UW have connections to such groups?

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