House Rep. Eric Pettigrew, House Bill 1497, mayoral control and the money

Washington State House Representative Eric Pettigrew


The cities where our foundation has put the most money in is where there’s a single person responsible. In New York, Chicago and Washington, DC, the mayor has responsibility for the school system. So instead of having a committee of people, you have that one person. And that’s where we’ve seen the willingness to take on some of the older practices and try new things, and we’ve seen very good results in all three of those cities.

Bill Gates

Actually Philadelphia parents are fighting to regain control of their school board through state legislation after the closing of schools on a massive scale and the conversion of schools into charter schools. New York’s school system is a mess after former Mayor Bloomberg took over the New York City public schools and Chicago is reeling from school closures and bad decisions made by Mayor Daley and then his predecessor Rahm Emanuel.


Standards Raised, More Students Fail Tests (New York)

Mayor Bloomberg’s Crib Sheet

Mayoral Control Means Zero Accountability

 A Parent Explains the Chaos of NYC School Reform

Mayoral Control Gets an F from New Yorkers

Chicago Coalition Wants to End Mayoral Control

Chicago Schools CEO Choice Shows Problem With Mayoral Control

Problems with Mayoral Control in Chicago

House Representative Eric Pettigrew sponsored House Bill 1497 that puts the control of two school board votes within the hands of the mayor.

Here is the critical excerpt:

…any first class school district having within its boundaries a city with a population of four hundred thousand people or more ((which)) shall have a board of directors of seven members, five of whom are elected and two of whom are appointed by the mayor of that city. A vacancy by an appointed member under this subsection shall be appointed by the mayor for the unexpired term.

I have written about this bill in a post titled Bill 1497: Looks like Mayor Murray wants to run the school district now

Now I want to look at Eric Pettigrew, Representative of the 37th District in Seattle, and find out whose water he’s carrying. It will explain why he sponsored the mayoral control bill and his other legislative actions.

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) description of Pettigrew previously on their website:

… in a state with a dearth of education reform leadership, he’s a real pioneer.

… Eric has been working with other education reformers to lift Washington’s ban on public charter schools. After his Democratic colleagues killed his charter school bill in the last legislative session, he urged education reformers to put charter schools before the voters. And he bravely stepped up to be a spokesperson for Initiative 1240.

As always, I like to start with the money, particularly when a public figure is making decisions that harm rather than help the people they are representing, their constituents.

State House Representative Eric Pettigrew has never been part of the vanguard fighting for public school education except on two other occasions when he wanted us to think he was working in the best interest of the children, first, when he sponsored a charter school bill and the second time when he bashed Rainier Beach High School, a school in his district, on the behalf of the League of Education Voters. That didn’t go over very well either. See Rainier Beach High School Responds to the League of Education Voters Attack on Its School and Community.

So now he’s back with a bill that would remove two publicly elected school board directors and replace them with political appointees, people who the mayor, a politician, would select.

Let’s look at his donors. Here’s the relevant list:

10/27/2014 K12 Management, Inc., $400 (Online charter school)
10/22/2014 Christopher Larson, $950 (League of Education Voters, LEV)
10/20/2014 Stand for Children, $950
10/6/2014 Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) Pac $950
8/05/2014 Democrats for Education Reform, $950
9/27/2014 Dennis Bassford, CEO of Money Tree, $950 (Pay day loans and high fees on check cashing. Bassford successfully fought legislation to regulate payday loans.)
9/27/2014 Robin Bassford, Attorney for Money Tree, $950
9/27/2014 Dennis Bassford CEO of Money Tree, $950
9/27/2014 Robin Bassford Attorney for Money Tree, $950
9/15/2014 Microsoft, $500
9/1/2014 Suzanne Dale Estey, Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, $100 (Estey ran against Sue Peters for a school board position and lost even though she out spent Peters about 5 to 1. Most of Estey’s donors were the usual corporate reformers.)
8/5/2014 Cash America $425 (Cash America was fined for robo-signing documents and charging 36 percent interest on payday loans in violation of the Military Lending Act.)
8/4/2014 Education Voters (LEV) PAC $950
6/3/2014 Matt Griffin $250 (Matt Griffin is a big supporter of charter schools. He also contributed money to the Seattle Foundation to bring Teach for America to Seattle.)

These pay day loan companies listed above prey on the same community that Pettigrew represents. LEV, Stand for Children and DFER receive money from Bill Gates and in turn support and carry out his agenda which is mayoral control, charter schools, high stakes testing (grading teachers, principals and schools based on test scores with severe consequences for those deemed failing), closing schools (when a school is deemed to be failing and usually converting them into charter schools), online learning (also called blended learning) which means putting students in front of a computer the majority of a school day, Common Core Standards, Teach for America, Inc. (an organization that recruits college students and gives them five weeks of training upon graduation and places them in classrooms, usually charter schools). The corporate reform agenda targets people of color and has proven to be at best an ineffective revision to our public school system and at worst, creating broken school communities and bonds, a decrease in teachers of color due to mass firings of teachers in schools deemed to be “failing” and the growth in the ranks of unqualified Teach for America staff.

And, needless to say, putting a child in front of a computer for at least 50% of the school day is not an education.

So, if you wonder why Pettigrew sponsors the bills that he does, you now know why. It all comes down to the money.

My question to him and others is why is he not doing his Paramount Duty, which is to come up with a budget that adequately funds our public schools? Our State Legislators have been held in Contempt of Court by the State Supreme Court for not funding our schools adequately.

Of course, Gates et al don’t want people in our state to focus on that because it would mean higher taxes on their businesses, a potential income tax put into place and losing tax breaks. We have Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks in our state receiving billions in income but we see very little of that even though they use our infrastructure and resources. That’s why, when we bring up the need for adequate funding, their minions say that’s it not all about the money. Well it is if your school can’t afford a nurse or librarian or has to depend on the PTA to pay for a teacher who otherwise would have to be laid off. It matters when a school doesn’t have appropriate facilities for special ed students or art classes or drama classes or a sports team. It matters when there are not enough computers for students to take all of the standardized tests required so the library has to close for a month or two so that library computers can be used. It matters when teachers have to ask parents for donations for books in a Language Arts class. It matters when our school buildings are deteriorating. It matters when trailers are used to house students because we have run out of class space. Yes, the money does matter.

What Pettigrew and his colleagues need to focus on now is not carrying water for the wealthy and privileged few but on ensuring our children receive the education they deserve.

For additional information on the groups that have filled Pettigrew’s coffers, individuals mentioned in this post and related issues, see:

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle
A Look Back at the League of Education Voters
Bill 1497: Looks like Mayor Murray wants to run the school district now
Bill Gates in Washington State: Mayoral Control and Charter Schools
“College and Career Ready”, also known as Common Core Standards: Impossible assumptions and real sacrifices
Common Core Standards
Democrats for Education Reform also known as DFER
Greendot Charter Schools
High Stakes Testing and Opting Out
Mayoral Control
Online (Blended) Learning
Stand for Children Stands for the Rich and Powerful
Stand for Children: For or Against Children?
Teach for America
Teach for America cashing in on ed reform?
The Lines of Influence in Education Reform
The Trouble with Common Core Standards
What is a charter school?

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

Here are the PDC listings:

An update on contributions to the League of Education Voters by Bill Gates:

Date: July 2014
Purpose: to contribute to a fund to support charter schools in Washington state
Amount: $2,100,000
Term: 12
Topic: College-Ready
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Seattle, Washington
Grantee Website:


Date: October 2013
Purpose: to build capacity for a state-wide public charter school support organization in Washington State
Amount: $4,200,000
Term: 24
Topic: College-Ready
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Seattle, Washington
Grantee Website:

Date: June 2013
Purpose: to support general operating functions
Amount: $250,000
Term: 12
Topic: Community Grants
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Seattle, Washington
Grantee Website:

Date: April 2013
Purpose: to support the formation of an independent Washington State charter school organization
Amount: $797,170
Term: 8
Topic: College-Ready
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Seattle, Washington
Grantee Website:

Alliance for Education/League of Education Voters:

Date: October 2011
Purpose: to provide the Alliance for Education and its sub grantees, the League of Education Voters and the Alliance for Technology, funds over three years for Our Schools Coalition
Amount: $760,100
Term: 26
Topic: Community Grants
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Seattle, Washington
Grantee Website:

Date: May 2012
Purpose: to support a research internship for the League of Education Voters
Amount: $3,000
Term: 1
Topic: College-Ready
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Seattle, Washington
Grantee Website:

Date: August 2014
Purpose: for general operating support
Amount: $3,500,000
Term: 25
Topic: College-Ready
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Grantee Website:

Stand for Children has received about $9M over the last five years from Bill Gates. For more on Stand for Children, see Stand for Children Stands for the Rich and Powerful and Stand for Children: For or Against Children?


4 thoughts on “House Rep. Eric Pettigrew, House Bill 1497, mayoral control and the money

  1. This is from a friend of mine who just returned from a visit to Philadelphia:

    “During my last visit to Philadelphia, I was bombarded with unsolicited complaints about their school system from complete strangers to close relatives. Unbelievable stories that are unfortunately true. Our worst nightmares about 1240 and then some.”

  2. Thank you Jill for your comments. The education reform movement has been very predictable and I’m confident we’re seeing another attempt to privatize education

    Ed Murray- the mayor of Seattle- has recently created a Department of Education and will try and slip is foot into K-12 via the city’s pre-k initiative.

    Seattle school board races are beginning to mimic those around the country. A candidate in the last school board race was provided with 2 consultants, polls, and a quarter of a million dollars. With highly financed campaigns and 2 appointed board members, it is quite easy for Seattle’s business and political classes to control our schools, and shut-out the voices of parents.

    It is only a matter of time before a legislator suggests lifting the cap on Washington State charter schools.

  3. Thanks again Dora

    When I was teaching in Seattle, as an SEA board member I was part of a lobby effort in which we dealt with Eric Pettigrew. He would not listen to our talking points.
    Most recently he sponsored a bill to legalize fantasy sports gambling. In an interview in the Seattle Times he admitted he had done no research into the impacts of this legislation. Pretty irresponsible on his part. In other words his financial benefactors write the bills and he introduces them.

    Ed Murray is a former Saint Edwards Seminarian, who at one time studied to be a priest. His Seminary activities are very secret but he was linked to the power group of students there that ran the Catholic Seminary. I might add that these are the very ones covering up criminal activities of priests.

    These so-called leaders are not interested in teaching children? Please!


  4. Thank you for the thorough investigation. I am sorry not to be in Olympia this winter like I was last year. Instead, I am writing and calling reps and senators in Massachusetts this year. We have our own issues like a new Governor who wants to take the cap off of charter schools for a start. I wish the very best to folks in Washington as you face another legislative session in defense of public education.

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