I had watched the charter resolution develop over the last several months from the time that the original plank was developed by Chad Mangendanz and Alison Meryweather through until the convention when Chad got up and talked about his visit to KIPP in San Diego as a school board member and how wonderful the school was and how there was a graduation rate of 95% and on and on.
Chad called charter schools another “tool in the tool box” during his impassioned plea for the vote on the resolution. The tool reference has become a worn out phrase used by the corporate privatizers when describing everything from TFA, Inc. to merit pay and now charter schools. But from my vantage point, I believe that the WSPTA was used as a tool by corporate reformers and it was an effective tool indeed.
All it took were a few people with an agenda to turn the voting process in their direction. Kelly Munn with the League of Education Voters (LEV), Chad Magendanz with Stand for Children (SFC), and Alison Meryweather who is a LEV Key Activist as well as a SFC activist, hail from the well to do suburbs of the Issaquah/Bellevue region, Region 2, the area with the greatest number of memberships and involvement. That region had the largest presence at the convention also. Whether the membership was there before and was taken advantage of by LEV and SFC or if the numbers were increased over time based on who would be leading the charge, remains to be discovered.
The irony of this is that the charter schools that Chad referred to are targeted in the urban minority areas of Seattle and possibly Tacoma. If only his concern and fervor, and that of the others in his group, would carry over into other areas that would make a real difference in South Seattle, what a different world it would be.
The quandary for many at this time is whether to leave the organization in great numbers in our state or stick with the WSPTA and take it back. I am not expressing an opinion on that but I will say that others saw an opportunity and went for it. Now the headlines read “WSPTA supports charter schools!” It’s a sad day for the WSPTA and the rest of us.
Do we want just anyone with an agenda to come in and take over the PTA knowing how easy it is due to a lack of participation or concern on the part of most of us? We have had this soft image of the PTA with moms having bake sales and raising money for special events but that is not today’s PTA. It now has a hard edge and a political agenda, at least in our state.
To take it back would take time and energy but I would like next year’s headlines to read “WSPTA taken back by parents, teachers and students!”
What do you think?
For additional information on the corporate reform connection, see: Stand for Children, School Board Elections, Washington State PTA and Charter Schools.
Post Script: More to follow on the 95% claim made by Chad.