Remember: There is nothing “public” about charter schools except the funding of these franchises by our tax dollars.
This began as a memorandum to a group of political and education activists in the state of Washington but as I started writing this, I realized that everyone in the state of Washington needs to be aware of what is coming down the pipe in Olympia in terms of the effort to privatize our public schools.
Many companies and individuals have jumped onto the band wagon of “ed reform” because of the dollars involved with everything from testing to “online learning”. See the right hand column of this page under the heading of “Cashing in on Ed Reform” to get an idea of the money involved in these business endeavors.
What these folks want to do in our state is take over the tax dollars that are used to fund education and make a profit off of our children with ideas and programs that are untested at best or have proven to be detrimental to our children at the very worst.
To follow is the strategy that the folks who are basically paid for by Bill Gates are planning to do in January to take over our public school system. The organizations that will represent the 1% are the League of Education Voters(LEV) led by Chris Korsmo and Kelly Munn, Stand for Children (SFC), the Excellent Schools Now Coalition (a brand new astro turf organization) and unfortunately, the Washington State PTA that has lost its’ way under the tutelage of LEV and SFC and with loads of money from Bill Gates and Boeing.
Boeing and Microsoft have been funding LEV and working with them on two “megabills” as they are termed by Korsmo of LEV. When I say “working with them”, I mean that Microsoft and Boeing are lending them their “corporate lobbying power” (LEV’s term, not mine) for the bills that will be put forth by certain legislative representatives. Keep in mind that the two school board members who were able to hold onto their positions in the last school board election in Seattle, Harium and Carr, both are employees of Boeing. I am not implying that they will consciously go with what their employer is spending major cash and “man hours” on, but it can be a psychological influence, so I would watch for that and remind them that they are to be representing the rest of us and not the 1%.
LEV and SFC are hoping to receive “bipartisan support” on these bills so again, I would suggest that everyone remind their representatives that we are the 99% who will be voting in the next election. It is still one person, one vote, no matter how much money the 1% might have so they need to be mindful of that. It would also behoove all of us to educate our representatives on what charter schools are and what has happened so far in other states. We are fortunate in the sense that we can see what has been happening in many other states and can understand that charter schools are not the way for our students particularly since we have many successful programs such as the alternative schools in Seattle, the Montessori programs, APP, the International Schools and Aviation High School in Shoreline.
One response that the privatizers have when you ask why they are even suggesting the pressure of high stakes testing on our children or teachers’ salaries and professional lives being based on test scores, they will flippantly answer you with “Well, we’re just starting a conversation!” Forget the conversation. There is no conversation at that point. They have had the process rigged and the votes sold. They will call their bills “platforms for discussion” with the “discussion” being manipulated so that if you don’t agree with them, you are ignorant or an insensitive cow who cares nothing about “the children”. Watch for that. Their well-paid marketeers such as Strategies 360 have a smooth roll-out in terms of strategy and phrasing. What we have is our earnestness, our honesty, the fact that we are voters and that we have skin in the game in terms of our children. All the folks at Strategies 360, Boeing and Microsoft are paid and couldn’t care less who is in office or who isn’t.
Also know that there will more than likely be the strategy this year as there was last year where several bills will be proposed with the hopes that one bill gets through. They will all be the same but the language will be different. It is also a way to distract, divide and conquer in terms of the reformers’ strategy. See How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools.
The first of the “megabills” is about principal and teacher evaluations. Couched, or rather buried in the language, will be the proposed evaluation of teachers and principals based on student test scores. This is called “high stakes testing” or “value added testing” and not something that you would want your child subjected to. Can you imagine your child thinking that their test score might be the cause of the district firing a beloved teacher or principal?
Now, why are test scores so important with this crowd? Because charter schools live and die by test scores, or theoretically they are to. Most states have set up criteria for charter schools where they are to meet an established standard in terms of test scores to remain open. If they do not meet the criteria, they are to close. Unfortunately today, many of these charter franchises remain open basically because of the money that exchanges hands between the charter school operators and the state representatives. Remember, this is all about the money. It is not about our children.
The projected cost of this proposed bill as noted by LEV is $10-12M per year. That’s their projected cost. In reality, it could be far greater.
Now for the charter school bill that we might see different reiterations of. First, they want to have language in a state law that says basically that the state or a district can “interdict” on the behalf of a “failing school”. That is the same thing as what Race to the Top (RTTT) termed a “school turnaround” whenever a school was closed and then turned into a charter school. That’s why these “school report cards” were developed by our last Broad trained superintendent. If a school is “failing”, if there is a substantial “achievement gap”, then the school can be a “turnaround school”, meaning closed and turned into a charter school. That’s “Part One” with these folks. And by the way, they’ll say that there are just a few of those schools that are failing but trust me, once they get their foot in the door, there will be a proliferation of charter schools that will not be stopped as seen in New Orleans and Florida. They will refer to them as “struggling schools”. My argument is that these “struggling schools” are actually schools that have students struggling in their schools and that has more to do with a lack of resources and poverty than anything else. The issue of poverty is something that the 1% willfully ignores otherwise they would have to own up to the fact that they should pay their fair share of taxes to support our educational system. See Where Do We Go From Here?
The 1% will propose in this “megabill” that “outside agencies” be hired to intercede on the behalf of these “failing schools”. What does that mean? That means paying some company to come in to “manage” the “turnaround” of these schools into charter schools. More profit to be made on the backs of our students. These people truly should be ashamed of themselves but they are not. Now, not only would you have charter school profiteers, then there would be folks who would “manage” the turnovers or “turnarounds”, not the district people themselves who we pay to do this kind of work but private “outside agencies”. If there was no money in public school funding before, there will be nothing left after these folks suck us dry.
Another “outside agency” that was being bandied about is the University of Washington (UW). What is striking about this is that the Dean of the School of Education, Tom Stritikus, is a former TFAer and was instrumental in getting his school to manage the five weeks of training that the TFA recruits are to receive before going into our “struggling schools”. Odd isn’t it? He leads a college where students study and train to be teachers which takes at least a few years and yet he championed providing training for college grads to receive barely enough training to find the front door to their new school.
The euphemism for these “failing schools” will be “Transformation Zones”. The language that these people come up with who are paid millions to do this is quite good and deceiving in the sense that the language deflects the true meaning of these words just like the term “Innovation School” which was part of a bill last year is a charter school in sheep’s clothing.
Part 2 of this charter school bill with its’ “Transformation Zones”, will have eight points:
1. There would be a cap on the number of charter schools in the state. Now, don’t let that fool you. There is a push by Arne Duncan and Obama right now for states to remove the cap on charter schools to receive more federal money. Also, the state can increase the cap yearly. Once these privatizers get their foot in the door, it’s all over, they won’t stop, not when it comes to money. It gets down to a matter of greed and that cannot be legislated out of a person’s soul.
2. Charter schools will be targeted to the “poor areas”, meaning the schools with the greatest minority populations. That has been the target in other states also. What parent in a tony neighborhood would allow their children to be taught by a poorly trained TFA temp? That means the urban areas such as Seattle and Tacoma will be the targets for these charter franchises, not the rural areas so again parents, don’t think that a charter school is going to pop up in a less populated community, the charter school franchises are not interested in quality, just volume. There is also Title 1 money involved with these “poor areas” which is icing on the cake for these poverty pimps.
3. The proposal will be for State Board of Education oversight. Now this is interesting because last year Governor Gregoire pushed for an appointed board of education as Schwarzenegger had in California which was populated with charter school operators and the likes of folks like Ben Austin. The bill in our state was fortunately voted down but don’t be surprised if we see that bill come up again. When Jerry Brown became governor of California he cleaned house and got rid of all of the corporate interest folks who had populated the State School Board in California.
4. Collective bargaining would be “building specific” which is what SEA leadership was, unwittingly I hope, negotiating for with the MOU on Innovative/Creative Approach Schools, aka, charter schools that came up recently. Fortunately that brain child got put on hold for another vote next year. There will be language in the proposed “megabill” about longer school days which of course will cost money that we don’t have. The governor is talking about cutting the school week to four days in response to our state budget shortfall so I don’t see this flying at all. I have nothing against longer school days but over the years we have been cutting days and hours off of the school week because of budget cuts, not because parents and teachers want a shorter school day or less school days in a year it’s because we haven’t been able to afford it. Of course, if you staff the Innovative/Creative Approach charter schools with cheap TFA temps the problem of costs might be solved as it has been in other states where charter school are populated with TFA recruits or non-union teaching staff.
5. “Open enrollment” which begs the question of the cost of bus transportation. If they are referring to anyone being able to attend, think again. Special Ed and ELL students need not apply.
6. “Lottery”. Oh yes, the famous lottery scene in Waiting for Superman. The lottery is hype, a hoax of sorts. It creates a desire and excitement, a sense that this school is so important that you have to be part of a lottery to be selected. Exactly what part of that is democratic? In the successful alternative schools system within Seattle, it is first come, first served. If there is not enough room, and many times there isn’t, the student is placed on a waiting list and you start at the top of the waiting list. No lottery, no Hollywood hype, just a fair and reasonable process.
7. “Non profits as management companies”. Here the privatizers are referring to charter school management companies, referred to as CMO’s. It’s not enough that the cost per student covers their education; it also has to cover the cost of a management company that is to come in and “manage” the school. Why a management company? Why another layer of cost and profit? My guess is that most of the folks who own these franchises don’t understand the day-to-day process of running a school or any other public institution for that matter. It’s another layer of business management. And “non-profit” or not, a profit is made. It’s just another guise, another wolf in sheep’s clothing.
And the cost of this bill? Apparently Ross Hunter is working on that. What I find interesting about this push for charter schools is that it’s not coming from Seattle but from the outlying, well-off, basically bedroom communities just outside of Seattle. These folks will not see one TFA temp or KIPP school in their neighborhoods.
As I said at the beginning of this post, this ed reform movement has become a cash cow for a few profiteers. Let’s make sure that they don’t cash in on our children.
The LEV “Key Activists” as they are termed by Korsmo and Munn have been urged by the LEV Director of Government Relations, Frank Ordway, to “Go down (to Olympia) and drop off (a) note, talk to legislators, talk to senior staff to tell them ‘we want this.’ “
Let’s all do the same but with a different message. We want our legislators to meet the demand in our state constitution that it is the state’s paramount duty to adequately fund our schools so that all of our children receive the best education possible in the state of Washington. We don’t need charter schools, just a well-funded educational system for all.
See the NAACP’s resolution regarding charter schools that was created last summer during their annual convention. Their demand was the same.
In a follow-up post on charter schools we’ll look at the three charter franchises that are being bandied about by the corporate reformers in our state, KIPP, Greendot and the Rocketship online learning business enterprise.
Here is an e-mail list of members of our House of Representatives for the state of Washington. You can cut and paste all of the names or specific representatives into the To: box of your e-mail.
Washington State Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education
I received an e-mail from Ross Hunter who said the following:
“I’m not actually working on the cost of the charter bill you are talking about, nor have I seen a draft of it.”
My information came from an LEV conference call that Frank Ordway had with the LEV “Key Activists”. I guess Frank was wrong.