In a recent post, The Washington State PTA and the Lack of Transparency, I stated that I had contacted the president of the Washington State PTA and requested a list of schools that had been represented at the Legislative Assembly held in October of this year. That was the meeting where the proposal to have charter schools in the 2011/2012 PTA platform passed by 8 votes.
Prior to this assembly, a proposal had been sent out to the PTA legislative chairs and/or presidents of all schools that have PTA organizations. This proposal was basically out of the blue not only for me but also to all of the PTA members that I communicated with. See Whoa! Where did that come from Washington State PTA? Charter schools? Part 1. After further research, it was discovered that the primary writers of this one-sided proposal were also Stand for Children members. Stand for Children (SFC) is all about union busting and thereby creating a cheaper workforce to staff charter schools. One of the writers of the proposal, Chad Magendanz, is referred to as a “Stand Leader” by the SFC organization. Mr. Magendanz was supported through funding and hands-on support as described by SFC during his successful bid for School Board Director in Issaquah, WA.
As I stated in that post, there were no opposing viewpoints offered in the charter school proposal. The information that was provided was basically what they found on Wikipedia and from the KIPP and Greendot charter websites or representatives as stated in their “Resources ” section and they echoed the corporate mantra of “school choice”.
Then, at the statewide PTA Legislative Assembly, I discovered that a featured speaker was to be George Scarola, Legislative Director with the “facts don’t matter” League of Education Voters (LEV), a Gates backed organization that has beat the drum for charter schools since last year when they started a speakers series on the subject. There were no speakers like a Diane Ravitch speaking out for keeping public schools public in this slanted PTA forum.
The only opportunity for debate over the subject of charter schools during the assembly was when PTA members went up to the mic for their few minutes to express their viewpoints before the vote on the proposal. Democratic? Transparent? Fair and balanced? Would the vote had turned out differently if the PTA representatives had an opportunity to receive adequate information on why charter schools are not the answer in our state? I’ll let you decide.
The assembly was on a Friday in South Seattle on a day that students were out of school so many parents could not attend and be a part of the process. You had to be present to vote. And, you had to have enough money to attend the two-day event in terms of lodging, food, transportation and possibly childcare to attend the assembly.
Out of curiosity, I and others wanted to know just how many schools and districts were represented at the assembly. If the PTA is going to say “Every Child, One Voice” as is their motto, were all the children represented at the assembly? I heard that Issaquah and Bellevue were well represented but what about the other school districts in the state? Someone also noted that they counted only five African-Americans in the audience during the assembly.
I sent an e-mail to the Executive Director of the WSPTA, Bill Williams, and copied Ramona Hattendorf who is listed as “Government Relations”. Ms. Hattendorf is a paid lobbyist for WSPTA as well as a League of Education Voter “Key Activist”, asking for a list of schools that were represented at the assembly. Several other parents and teachers sent a similar request to Mr. Williams and each one of us received this same phrase:
Washington State PTA is committed to a member driven legislative agenda, and each of the 900 local PTAs (sic) across the state had the opportunity to send representatives to the Legislative Assembly. We do not release attendance information, so I am not able to respond to your request.
One parent received this as a variation on what became a basic form letter response:
We do not compile the kind of data that you have asked for and in any event see no benefit to our releasing that information if we had it.
We do not compile that information? What’s there to “compile”? You have a list of PTA members and the schools that they represent. With the advent of computers and every kind of program available to look at information, a simple thing like knowing what schools were represented has got to be at their fingertips if not on a list already.
Transparency? Definitely not.
Then the question becomes why not provide the list? What’s there to hide?
What’s the deal PTA?