If you are a parent in a Seattle Public School, please forward this to your PTA legislative representative and president. They need to know the facts before voting on this plank in the Washington State PTA platform. The vote will happen in the statewide meeting being held in October.
The people in the state of Washington have voted down charter schools three times. This blog and others have provided studies and examples of how the heralded success of privatization of our public schools has remained unproven unless there is a tremendous amount of private funding received by the charter school as with the Harlem School Zone . Most charter schools do no better than their public school counterparts and many do not succeed and are simply test factories with no financial transparency and staffed by inexpensive labor many times in the form of Teach for America, Inc. recruits. But, Ramona Hattendorf, past Seattle PTA President and now lobbyist for the Washington PTA, described in her newsletter , down towards the bottom of the page, the proposed planks for the PTA legislative platform for 2011 and 2012. One of the planks included a brief description of a charter school proposal.
Many of us want to know exactly how this worked. Was there a general vote taken on this proposal? Not one that I know of and I certainly never received word of this in any newsletter sent by Ramona, the Seattle PTA or the Nova PTSA. Whose idea was it to introduce this plank in the PTA platform? Interestingly enough, no member of the PTA in Seattle was part of the committee that drew up this proposal. Fair representation? I think not. Better question would be who wrote this for them? But, this is how the PTA has worked over the past few years in our state. From my experience as a Legislative Chair during the last legislative session, which was an example of top down decision making using typical ed reform manipulative language to push the agenda of one of their wealthiest financiers, Bill Gates, who has funded the National PTA for $2M as well as the Washington State PTA this year for $191,000 and is a big proponent of charter schools, I have seen how far away the Washington State PTA has drifted from its’ roots as an advocate for parents, teachers and students. The PTA in our state no longer represents all or even many of the parents, teachers or students which explains one of the reasons for the quick growth of Parents Across America.
For additional information on Bill Gates and his influence peddling around the country, see Gates’ Document Details Plans for Influence Peddling and Propaganda War for Corporate Ed.
In her most recent newsletter, Ramona describes the triumphs of her lobbying by describing the goals that were accomplished by the passage of Bill 1443 in the last legislative session. Below are excerpts from her newsletter. The words in bold are mine:
This bill touches on five of our top priorities for this legislative session
- · Changing “reduction in force” (or layoff policies) to include more than seniority … No. 4 priority/Not just seniority for layoffs (firing teachers whose students don’t “perform)
- · Revising compensation policies to reward for improving student learning … No. 6 priority/rewarding for improving student learning (high stakes testing and merit pay).
The items that Ramona refers to were two of the basic touchstones in the Community Values Statement (CVS) which was pushed through last year by our own Seattle PTA along with the Gates funded organizations League of Education Voters (LEV), Stand for Children, and the Alliance for Education just as contract negotiations were to begin between the Broad-trained superintendent Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and the teachers’ union. Was the deck stacked? Absolutely. This Community Values Statement was used as a tool to attempt to push through the ed reform agenda of merit pay based on test scores during the teacher’s contract negotiations in 2010 and during the last legislative session in Olympia. Flush with their victory in Seattle, LEV is now trying to be a part of the teacher contract negotiations in Bellevue, Washington.
Getting back to the Washington State PTA and their big ed reform push for charter schools, let’s look at the proposal.
The Washington State PTA shall initiate and/or support legislation or policies that drive innovation and accountability in public education by allowing the operation of public charter schools in the state of Washington.
The use of the phrase “public charter schools” has been used lately by ed reformers although it is a misnomer of sorts. The only thing”public” about charter schools are the funds that are received from the school district. After that there is nothing public about charter schools. Charter schools do not have to disclose their financial records or explain the decisions that are made, the head of the school is a CEO and the school’s board is hand selected. So much for “accountability”, another word bandied about by the privatizers.
And the reason that the PTA is for charter schools?
Across the state, many students are attending schools that struggle to excel. According to the Washington State Board of Education’s 2010 Achievement Index, as many as six out of 10 students attend a “struggling” or “fair” school, and only one out of 10 attend a “very good” or “exemplary” school. The Index assigned a rank of “struggling, fair, good, very good or exemplary” to all public schools in the state.
Here comes the word “achievement gap”. Yes, there is an opportunity gap but until we have enough money to fund education properly or rather, we as a society begin to take on educating our children in a far more serious manner, there will be many students who “struggle”. Until we reduce class sizes and provide additional support for our teachers, until we look at the whole child and ensure that he/she have been fed and any emotional or physical issues are addressed, children will fail. Until we address the growing number of children who live tenuously below the poverty line, children will have a very difficult time succeeding. But, charter schools are not the magic bullet and it has been shown that the majority of charter schools fail at the task of addressing the issue of this “achievement gap”.
And then this false statement in the proposal:
Families looking for alternatives have limited options. Charter schools have become increasingly popular choices in communities where traditional school structures aren’t working for local kids.
Actually we have very successful options here in Seattle, they are the alternative schools and the “option schools”. Nova high school is an exceptional school and a gem in the school community, taking students in an all-city draw, educating them and preparing them for life. I can testify to this school first hand because my daughter graduated from Nova and I have had the opportunity to co-teach a class at Nova on the history of architecture, looking at our built environment from the social and political context of the different periods through the centuries. Does this follow the edicts of “common core curriculum”? No. Does it sound like a class that students would have an opportunity to learn facts and information in a way that is interesting and challenging? Absolutely.
In terms of option and alternative schools, there is also Center High School, Summit, Thornton Creek, Salmon Bay, Queen Anne Elementary, Jane Addams, Orca, Pinehurst, South Shore, Tops, Pathfinder, the Cleveland STEM program, the International Schools, the Language Immersion Programs and the APP programs. I would say that there is a school and a place for all students to have an opportunity to succeed in Seattle. The alternative school and APP programs are tried and true. The alternative schools have been around for 50 years in Seattle and have been examples of innovation in our communities. An example of “innovation” is the head of the new STEM program working closely last summer with the principal at Nova when setting up STEM’s project-based program.
Charter schools have not met the test of time and there is no reason for our students to be the lab rats for Gates, Broad, the hedge fund millionaires and the rest of the folks who are looking for personal financial gain by using public money.
And for all of you who are not in large urban areas, don’t be fooled. The charter franchises are not interested in putting down stakes in less moneyed school districts or where they can only have one charter program. No, the target of these privatizers is to set up in urban areas which provide more dollars per student and opportunities for growth because like any other business, they want to expand. And remember, charter schools are businesses. The two charter franchises mentioned in the “Resources” section of this proposal are KIPP, Inc. and Green Dot and both of these charter school enterprises have multiple schools in several urban districts around the country.
And now another falsehood embedded in this plank:
Public charter schools are independent public schools granted more site-based authority . Usually, this frees them up to be more innovative. Charter schools operate from three basic principles:
Because of the “site-based authority” there is a lack of transparency that is demanded of public schools.
And, if you want innovation, look at our alternative schools at least the ones who get a waiver from teaching within the confines of the common core standards with required texts and readings.
Choice: Parents choose the school their child attends; teachers and principals choose to work at that school.
We have that in Seattle but not so in New Orleans where charter schools are multiplying since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. For an excellent description of what happened after this hurricane hit New Orleans and how the schools were privatized, see the introduction to the Shock Doctrine.
Flexibility: Charter schools can make timely decisions about developing curricula, structuring the school day and hiring teachers who meet the needs of their students.
I hope that teachers have the flexibility to create their own curriculum in our public schools. If they don’t, then we need to do something about that and not just open up charter schools that can have privileges that public schools cannot enjoy. If that is the case, that teachers do not have that flexibility, shouldn’t the Washington State PTA be doing something about that instead?
Also programs such as STEM and many of the alternative schools have received waivers so that the teachers can develop their own curriculum outside of the Common Core Standards and the school can structure the school day and hire the teachers that they feel are the best for their students.
Accountability: The “charter” of the school functions similar to a contract, making the school accountable to parents, to their charter school authorizers, and to the state.
All public schools are accountable so I don’t see any reason for this sentence except that it sounds good. In actuality, the charter schools are required to have a certain level of “achievement” in terms of test scores hence the propensity to teach to the test and if a child is not performing up to the standard, they are asked or coerced, “counseled”, to leave.
And while we are on the subject of the selectivity of these charter schools, you might be interested in the following articles:
Shall I continue? Oh why not. There is so much to respond to in this proposal.
For the second part of this post, please go to: