The latest cash grab : Teacher/charter school villages



TFA recognizes the value of the Centers concept and has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Seawall Development Company to replicate the Centers for Educational Excellence model across the country. Philadelphia, along with Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, is a TFA-identified growth area, and TFA has committed to being the lead commercial tenant in these developments, with their corps members making up the majority of residential tenants.

TFA: The New Gentrifiers

As I noted in a previous article titled The Battle in Seattle Against Yet Another Charter School Invasion, a developer plans to build a project that includes retail, low income housing and at one time, a charter school, the Green Dot charter school chain, in Southeast Seattle.

Based on further research, I found this is not an anomaly but a national trend.

Bankers, developers and real estate brokers are working together with Teach for America (TFA) and charter school enterprises to offer low income housing mainly for Teach for America recruits and other teachers who do not have adequate pay for clean and safe housing along with free space for charter schools through city and state support. These are our tax dollars paying for highly lucrative business ventures where all the profit goes back to the bankers, developers and brokers.

These people are not developing these projects out of the goodness of their hearts, they are doing it for, of course, the money.


So how does this work?

Basically, developers will get money from the city or state to provide low income housing in blighted areas or low-income communities. A charter school is brought in to sweeten the pot along with teachers who will begin the process of gentrification.

In a few years, the local community becomes popular for basically the creative class or white middle and upper classes and before you know it, you have a Soho, a Mission district in San Francisco, a Northeast Portland.

Property values begin to rise and an investment made with public money goes into the pockets of the bankers, developers and brokers.

For Teach for America, Inc. it’s a perk. They can retain recruits at very low pay because they now have “affordable housing” for the working poor and charter schools can come in with little to no cash required because of city and/or state subsidies.

Sweet deal for the 1%, not so good for the rest of us.

When the value of the property around the school begins to skyrocket, those who were to benefit from the developments will not be able to afford to live anywhere near the original charter school/low income housing sites.

And, if a charter school goes belly up, as a large percentage of them do, less money has been lost and the space is move-in ready for the next charter school venture.

According to an article titled Why Are Community Development Lenders Financing Charter Schools?  published in ShelterForce:

Some CDLF [Community Development Lenders] practitioners also believe that charter schools are conducive to urban revitalization because they provide middle-class families with “safe” educational alternatives that encourage them to move to and stay in urban areas, helping to break up the concentrated poverty found in many of those areas. Research documents that charter schools are used by higher-income, primarily white urban residents who do not want to send their children to local public schools serving large numbers of low-income, black and brown students.

Other studies provide evidence that charter schools are used by more affluent whites in non-urban communities as well, as a means of facilitating segregation. More generally, numerous studies have found that charter schools lead to increases in segregation in education by race, ethnicity, and income, across metropolitan areas

  1. It’s Where the Money Is

CDLFs are mission-driven organizations, but they also respond to the market. There are substantial and growing public and private incentives for investing in charter schools. Those incentives are particularly attractive given the limited availability of other forms of subsidy.

One of the most effective forms of subsidy to encourage CDLFs to support charter school expansion is the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDOE) Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities (CECSF) program. The USDOE awarded $280.9 million in CECSF grants between 2002 and 2015 “to public and nonprofit entities to develop innovative credit enhancement models that assist charter schools in leveraging capital from the private sector.” CDLFs received at least 75 percent of these CECSF grant dollars

Indeed, the program has been very successful in leveraging private capital with federal funding sources. LISC calculated that, through 2012, approximately $250 million in CECSF dollars leveraged an additional $3.2 billion in charter school facility financing, with private investors attracted by the lower risk and greater financial profitability.


Before heading to other cities where this is happening, I thought it would be worth noting that the Homesight low-income housing development in Southeast Seattle that was to house Green Dot charter school and populated by Teach for America recruits has one financial backer of note, Bill Gates. Bill Gates is a proponent of school privatization. The Gates Foundation provided Homesight with $100,000 to support the Regional Equity Network to advance a community-led agenda in the Puget Sound region”* and $16 million to Green Dot “to support the expansion of Green Dot Public Schools into the state of Washington”. Also of note, two of Washington Teach for America’s “Supporters” are Goldman Sachs (who finances several of these charter school/low income developments around the country) and Avenue Properties.

So, let’s see what’s been happening elsewhere.


One of the first examples of these business ventures was one Cory Booker pushed back in 2012. Cory Booker is no friend of public education because of his ties to the donor class so this comes as no surprise to those who have been following him.

As the then Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker stated at the groundbreaking of the Teachers Village per NBC New York:

“This is how we reinvent and rebuild a great American city,” Mayor Cory Booker declared when ground was broken for Teachers Village, a downtown development of eight buildings planned to have 200 apartments for teachers, three charter schools, a day care center and stores. It’s being designed by architect Richard Meier, a Newark native best known for designing the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The $150 million price is being covered by a combination of private and public funds.

In the next paragraph, the reporter writes:

The hope is that schools will be better with teachers who live in the community, and that it will create a middle-class enclave in a city where nearly one-third of families with children live in poverty. Middle-class residents can bring neighborhoods stability, attract more businesses and ultimately improve tax revenue.

Per New Jersey Business:

The project was awarded nearly $40 million in Urban Transit Hub tax credits from the state Economic Development Authority and allocated $60 million in federal New Markets tax credits for the school portion. Other public financing came from the city of Newark, the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and federal Qualified School Construction Bonds, according to an EDA memo. Private financing came from Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial Corp., TD Bank and New Jersey Community Capital, Beit said. In the early months of the recession, Beit said, Berggruen’s unwavering commitment to the project — Berggruen said he considers his investment “long-term” — brought everyone else together.

Teachers Village now has three charter schools.

All of this out of public coffers at an estimated $200 million.

Originally, leaders of the teachers’ unions were all for Teachers Village until they came to realize the concept was not for public school teachers but for Teach for America recruits. (It’s hard to imagine these folks were that naïve.)

According to Ed Week in an article titled Projects Couple Affordable Teacher Housing With New School Construction:

Newark Teachers Union President John M. Abeigon says the union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, initially backed the project because it thought it would benefit more traditional public school teachers. At the start, he says, the developers had emphasized its planned support for such educators.

But Abeigon contends that the project then became aligned with what he calls the “corporate charter school movement.” For evidence, he cites the complex’s three charter schools and the fact that most of the apartments are rented to charter teachers and staff.

Abeigon’s concerns are echoed by Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT.

“This was supposed to be a way to recruit and support and retain Newark public school teachers,” she said. “That was the basis on which then-president of the Newark Teachers Union Joe Del Grosso [now deceased] and the AFT said this makes sense, because we really do believe in the idea of teachers living in the communities in which they teach. But Teachers Village came to be about charter teachers alone and that was dead wrong.”

Abeigon also argues that the complex’s close ties to charter schools belie the developers’ professed commitment to the long-term health of the community—a sentiment shared by other critics of the project.

“It’s a known fact that traditional public school teachers, who I refer to as career educators, stay longer than charter school teachers, so their commitment and investment in the community is that much greater,” he said. “Those living in Teachers Village are going to be turnaround tenants. They’ll do their two-year stints with [Teach For America] or a charter school, beef up their résumés, and then go get a job elsewhere. They aren’t going to really be invested in Newark.”

And in New York, another housing development. Per Affordable Housing Finance:

A new vibrant, mixed-use development that is providing much-needed affordable housing, a charter school for underserved students, and nonprofit office space has been built on an underutilized area of a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) site in East Harlem.

Jonathan Rose Cos., Harlem RBI, and Civic Builders partnered to create the East Harlem Center for Living & Learning on the site of George Washington Houses. The development includes the 89-unit Yomo Toro Apartments; the DREAM Charter School…

The total development cost for the project was approximately $84 million, including $30 million for the Yomo Toro Apartments. The affordable housing portion was financed through low-income housing tax credit equity provided by Enterprise Community Investment and sourced by JPMorgan Capital Corp., first and second mortgages from the New York City Housing Development Corp. (HDC), a loan from New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Reso A funding from City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

In San Diego, there was a push to revise code requirements that would allow a charter school to be a part of a low-income housing development.

The community had issues with the school bringing with it additional unwanted traffic to the neighborhood causing the variance for the charter school to be tabled.

The difference between what happened in San Diego and what occurred in Seattle is that the variance request was reviewed by way public meetings in San Diego, not behind closed doors as was done in Seattle.

Thanks to the efforts of former School Board Director Sue Peters, the school board and the public were alerted to the second attempt by Green Dot charter school to receive special treatment by the City of Seattle in terms of receiving a code variance.

RBHGroup-logoThe RBH Group, who were the developers for the Newark project and whose CEO Ron Beit sits on the board of Teach for America, Inc. in New Jersey, then went to Hartford, Connecticut.

According to a report published by Goldman Sachs:

RBH Group, the developer of Newark’s Teachers Village, announced the completion of financing and the start of construction on Hartford’s Teachers Corner, a mixed-use apartment complex in downtown Hartford aimed specifically at teachers

RBH Group’s founder and president Ron Beit said, “Teachers Corner represents a public and private partnership committed to urban reinvestment, building affordable and workforce housing and contributing to revitalizing the center of the city.

Following the Teachers Village project in Newark, NJ, the RBH Group, through its joint venture with the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, partnered with Prudential Social Investment Group, the City of Hartford and State of Connecticut to build the $20M project

Funders include City of Hartford, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, State Department of Housing, Capital Region Development Authority CRDA, State Department of Economic and Community Development, Prudential Social Investment Group and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group.

In Baltimore, per Urban Land magazine:

The $21 million renovation of a long-vacant, century-old former tin box manufacturing plant in Baltimore’s Charles Village neighborhood was completed in summer 2009 by Seawall, founded by father and son Donald [Previously on the Teach for America, Baltimore Advisory Board] and Thibault Manekin. The project includes 40 apartments—ten reserved as affordable—and 35,000 square feet (3,250 sq m) of commercial space.

All the apartments are rented to school teachers at substantial discounts to market rental rates, and all office space—with the exception of Seawall’s headquarters—is leased to education-related organizations, including Teach for America.

Over 70 percent of the residents are members of Teach for America who work in Baltimore’s public school system, Morville notes. Several others are participating in the Baltimore system’s City Teacher Residency program, and some teach in parochial schools…

The financing mechanism that really made the project pencil out was the pairing of the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) with federal and state historic tax credits, Morville says. The project is located in a census tract defined as “highly distressed” under the NMTC program.

And in San Jose:

Developer proposes project with charter school, affordable housing for San Jose ‘urban village’.

With affordable housing and a [Aspire] charter school, the mixed-use project would be a first for San Jose and transform a currently vacant industrial property in the Alum Rock area.

As with charter schools and the Common Core Standards, venture capitalists are cashing in on public school funding making school districts even more strapped for cash while desperately trying to keep schools together, employ certified teachers and adequately staff their schools.

Make no mistake about it, these “teacher villages” are not about the children or the communities they live in. This is yet another big grab for cash by financial enterprises.

Dora Taylor

*Post Script:

It’s a devious web that Bill Gates and others weave particularly in the Seattle area where many of us caught on several years ago to the efforts by a few to privatize public schools in the US.

For that reason, it’s important to explain some connections.

Homesight and Regional Equity Network (REN):

Tony To, the Executive Director of Homesight is a co-chair for REN. Thus, the grant from Gates describes two receiving parties, Homesight and REN.


Recommended articles:


This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach for America: An internal memo reveals how TFA’s obsessive PR game covers up its lack of results in order to justify greater expansion.

Why Are Community Development Lenders Financing Charter Schools?

Public Schools to Community Development (A highly recommended deep dive into what the thinking is on the part of the moneyed community.)

Critics rip plans for $22M charter school at Cayce Homes

Who Will Live In Newark’s Teachers Village? TFAers

TFA: The New Gentrifiers

Policy Link: A recent find that shows who is connected to what organizations in Washington State

Projects Couple Affordable Teacher Housing With New School Construction

WHEDco Bard Academy Charter School to share space in Bronx with affordable housing and music center in 2013  

It’s an East Harlem DREAM come true: a new charter school beneath affordable housing 




Washington State: Charter School Backers Want to Oust Judge Who Authored Anti-Charter Decision










The Battle in Seattle Against a Charter School Invasion


Originally published on The Progressive.

Charter schools and other market-based forms of “school choice” have been touted as ways to make education more responsive to “market demands.” But when you look at the latest attempt to force these schools onto the citizens of Washington state, you have to ask, “Just who is demanding these schools?”

Washington State has been pushing back against charter schools for a decade.

Three times, between 1996 and 2004, the state held ballot initiatives allowing charter schools in the state. Three times the voters said “No.”

In 2012, Bill Gates, Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, and other wealthy education “reformers” made a concerted effort on a fourth try to bring charter schools to the state. The public received a barrage of TV ads, forums, and mailers sponsored by organizations such as the League of Education Voters and Stand for Children, both of which are financially backedby Bill Gates.

Initiative 1240 passed 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent, only squeaking by despite the enormous financial advantage of the “Yes” campaign, which outspent the “No” campaign by a margin of 12 to 1.

Charter schools remain a controversial and unpopular concept in the state of Washington particularly in Seattle where over 60 percent of the voters were against the initiative.

After Initiative 1240 passed, a special commission was established to approve charter schools in the state. It is comprised of politically appointed members with no accountability to the general public with the ability to circumvent oversight by local school boards.

The commission recently approved the Green Dot charter chain, despite its checkered history. Green Dot has been faulted for poor test score results, loss of accreditation, low SAT scores, teachers cheating on student’s tests, poor teacher pay, high teacher turnover, student free speech violations, and misleading parents.

The Green Dot charter chain got its foothold in Seattle by subterfuge.

When community members in Southeast Seattle, a neighborhood of minority cultures and immigrants, found out a Green Dot middle school was part of a development plan there, citizen activists pushed back.

Former Seattle School Board member Sue Peters, who helped block Green Dot from receiving a zoning variance, told me in an interview: “Green Dot is violating the law. They have no legal right to make that request, yet someone in the City worked with Green Dot behind the scenes and granted them one waiver already and want to grant them another . . . So Green Dot is committing violation after violation.”

“Too often [charters] want rules and laws broken or special treatment that public schools are not granted,” she summed up. “And then they have the audacity to claim to make apples to apples comparisons with truly public schools.”

In May, 2017 Green Dot managed to push through a different zoning variance—this one to have “greater than allowed” building height for a high school—and, again, by operating under the radar and with the assistance of the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods division of Major Institutions and Schools.

When community advocates called attention to Green Dot requesting a second variance, the Seattle School Board unanimously passed a resolution that charter schools should not be afforded a variance because they are not considered public schools.

On the board of the company Homesight, which is the developer of the site in Southeast Seattle, is an executive from Impact Public Schools, which advocates for charter schools, Natalie Hester, who also serves on the board of the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

There were no representatives from Seattle Public School district on the board of the company.

With the variance for the high school successfully pushed through, but the variance for the middle school stymied by the school board’s resolution, Green Dot has decided to co-locate the high school with the junior high school.

Local citizens protested at the construction site.

And once again, the legality of charter schools is being challenged at the level of the State Supreme Court.

Seattle citizens voted three times against charter schools and there is no indication that opinions have changed. Only a select few backroom operators want the privatization of public schools in Seattle so the battle in Seattle continues.

Dora Taylor

Beware of Tech Titans Bearing Gifts

Reposted with permission from Nancy Bailey’s Education Website.


The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) gift likely means huge changes for schools across the country. We’ve known for a long time that Chicago school experimentation is usually the country’s pilot project. And the CZI isn’t just putting money into personalized learning in Chicago. It’s tied to all-tech Summit Charter Schools (unfairly called public schools) and the College Board. They are also working in Massachusetts.

Chicago is getting $14 million through the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) that will be used for personalized learning, placing children online for their schooling. They are advertising their gift as “Supporting Chicago’s Teachers in Personalized Learning.”

The Chan-Zuckerberg website motto is “We believe in a future for everyone.” Here’s my question. Do they believe in a future for professional teachers?

Is the CZI goal to replace teachers? Ask them that question! Get them to tell us yes, or no. It’s a great question to start off Teacher Appreciation Week!

Many teachers will jump on the tech bandwagon. Technology is a useful tool. No one can deny that. But there’s no research to indicate that total tech without teachers will succeed in getting children ready for their college and career futures.

The CZI money in Chicago will also go to LEAP Inovations—a nonprofit that pushes tech with “Appy Hours” (tech instruction at the local bars?).

One of the CZI administrators is James H. Shelton. He used to work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and also had the powerful position of Assistant Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Education, under President Obama. Shelton oversaw the Office of Innovation and Improvement where he managed competitive programs involving teacher/leader quality, Promise Neighborhoods, school choice, and, of course, technology.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation may appear to support teachers and public schools, but their past actions show otherwise. They have supported charter schools and groups like Stand for Children, Teach for America, and many other anti-public school, anti-teacher nonprofits. Their Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) was an insult to teachers everywhere. In Memphis, where Gates had a prominent presence, teachers wore ear buds with coaches (called experts) in the back of the room directing them how to teach!

The CZI gift likely means huge changes for schools across the country. We’ve known for a long time that Chicago school experimentation is usually the country’s pilot project. And the CZI isn’t just putting money into personalized learning in Chicago. It’s tied to all-tech Summit Charter Schools (unfairly called public schools) and the College Board. They are also working in Massachusetts.

And LEAP calls for more tech company involvement.

Want exposure to Chicago schools, educator feedback, and valuable implementation and outcome data? Pilot your product with the LEAP Pilot Network!

Think of schools and tech companies looking like NASCAR drivers competing for children’s data to increase business.

LEAP presents a report called “Finding What Works: Results from the LEAP Pilot Network 2014-2015.”

It begins:

LEAP Innovations was founded on the premise that our outdated, one-size-fits-all education system isn’t working. Instead, LEAP is driving toward a new paradigm, one that harnesses innovation—new teaching and learning approaches, along with technologies—to create a system that is tailored around each individual learner.

Isn’t it funny (not really), how those of us who disliked high-stakes testing for so many years, used to use the “one-size-fits-all” argument? Corporations were the ones that pushed that testing, now they are using that line to sell personalized learning.

It’s also funny (not really) how teachers have begged for years to have reasonably sized classrooms so they could individualize learning. It always fell on deaf ears. 

The report goes on with the usual complaints about students not graduating and not doing well on tests, and how wonderful it is that edtech is growing. The citations in the report are from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce, and an article from The Atlantic.

On the Leap website they also say:

LEAP first reviewed applications internally, selecting for companies that clearly personalized the learning experience for students in literacy, as well as demonstrated a record of prior success. An external curation panel of learning scientists, educators, and other subject-matter experts was then assembled to further evaluate the applicants and decide which would be made available to schools for selection. Their criteria included the potential for student impact; company strength and stability; alignment to learning science and Common Core standards; augmentation of teacher capacity; and functionality around student feedback and motivation.

I’d love to hear from teachers, principals or any friends from Chicago involved with this panel.

There’s also talk of merging social emotional learning with tech. SEL is becoming known for its assessments that call for personal student behavioral data that makes parents nervous.

So, when schools aren’t funded and rich people with big ideas, no matter how they will impact children, come into the school district with a lot of money, public schools lose a lot of their public feedback.

For those who still don’t believe there’s a movement underfoot to replace teachers with tech, and collect even more data concerning student progress that will benefit corporations, watch the CZI in Chicago. Time always tells. It might be too late, but sooner or later we’ll learn the truth.

-Nancy Bailey

Six reasons why we don’t want Green Dot charter schools in Seattle


The Green Dot charter chain tried to sneak through a project to open a high school in Seattle’s south end as they had done with a middle school last year. Southeast Seattle is made up of minority communities which create a rich and diverse culture adding to the fabric of Seattle. Green Dot charter school franchise targets minority communities with the promise that they, and they alone, can provide for students the best education possible. This has not been the case.

When some community members found out about a plan that the Green Dot charter chain was to be part of a development in Southeast Seattle, red flags were raised and a zoning variance that Green Dot charter school was trying to push through the city came to a halt.

It was pointed out that the requested variance, which was being pushed through by someone in the Department of Neighborhoods with no authority to do so, was only applicable to public schools under the purview of the school district and therefore Green Dot, being a charter school, could not receive a zoning variance for the location they had chosen.

The Green Dot middle school received a variance for the Southeast Seattle location last year but that was done under the radar and illegally with the assistance of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

As former Seattle School Board Director and co-founder of this blog Sue Peters states about the charter high school which is applicable to the junior high charter school as well:

Green Dot is violating the law. They are asking for a waiver from zoning law called a departure. But they have no legal right to make that request. Only the Seattle School District can legally do so, according to city law — specifically Seattle Municipal Code 23.79.002. Yet someone in the City worked with Green Dot behind the scenes and granted them one waiver already and want to grant them another.

City law (SMC 23.79) also states that the advisory committee that makes these zoning determinations must include a representative from the Seattle School District. That did not happen. So it was convened unlawfully by the Department of Neighborhoods.

Charter schools are also required to comply with local and state and federal law (See RCW 28A.710.040).

So Green Dot is committing violation after violation. It is never a level playing field with charter operators and backers. Too often they want rules and laws broken or special treatment that truly public schools are not granted. And then they have the audacity to claim to make apples to apples comparisons with truly public schools.

When the flag was raised about the Green Dot charter franchise requesting a variance for a high school in Southeast Seattle, the Seattle School Board unanimously passed a resolution  that charter schools should not be afforded a variance because they are not considered public schools. For this school board vote, Director Zachary DeWolf recused himself because of his involvement as a Commissioner with the Seattle Housing Authority, the governing body that approved to sell city land to Homesight which is a development and financial group.

You can view that portion of the Seattle School Board meeting at 1:04:00:

It is interesting to note who is on the board of Homesight. On the board are Natalie Hester, Co-founder and Director of Impact Public Schools, an organization that promotes charter schools and is also on the board of Washington State Charter Schools Associations (WA Charters), Jen Wickens, CEO of Impact Public Schools, who was formerly with Summit charter schools and Virginia Freeburg, Director of Individual Giving at Seattle Preparatory School which is a private school. It is interesting to note there is no representation of Seattle PUBLIC schools are on this board.


Along with the school board’s resolution, there have also been protests at the construction site where the Green Dot junior high and high school are now to be co-located. Apparently Green Dot charter schools has decided to co-locate the high school with the junior high school rather than try again for a variance at the Othello location.

While all of this is happening, the legality of charter schools is again being challenged at the level of the State Supreme Court and is slated for review in April of this year.

The people of Seattle have voted three times against having charter schools in the state of Washington and it’s obvious that opinions have not changed. No one wants the privatization of public schools in Seattle. The few who do want charter schools stand to make a profit on the privatization of a public good.

Some of the people associated with Green Dot charter schools and its history

Green Dot charter schools have less than a stellar history.

ben-austin  I originally took notice of Green Dot during the time of the scandal in South Los Angeleswhen Ben Austin was hired by Green Dot founder Steve Barr to promote the school by any means necessary and that’s exactly what he did. Parents were duped into signing a petition to “turn around” their school. What the parents did not understand is that according to a new California law, that meant closing the school and thereby providing the opportunity for that school to be converted into a charter school. The parents were extremely upset about this once they discovered that their school was to be closed.

It was a scam.

This was termed the “Parent Trigger” and was written into legislation in Washington State with Initiative 1240.

The charter school established by Green Dot Corporation in Watts, California closed.

As Brett What wrote in his article Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models:

This is a story of a charter school in the Green Dot Public School system which, after four years of operation, is coming to an inglorious end. It is not an end to the system, or even to school itself, but an end in name and in so many exhausted careers used by Green Dot to experiment with failed policies in Watts, California.

Since then I have been following the Green Dot charter franchise and consider them on par with the KIPP charter school chain, both bottom feeders in the world of charter schools.

To follow are three key people associated with what is happening in Seattle.

Steve Barr

Steve Barr, Founder of Green Dot and Future Is Now (FIN)

After being caught with his hand in the Green Dot cookie jar in 2009, Green Dot founder and CEO Steve Barr, who is married to Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, an organization that populates charter schools with unqualified “teachers”, branded a new organization called Future is Now (FIN) and opened two charter schools in New Orleans while maintaining a seat on the Green Dot board.

Things didn’t go well for Barr’s new financial venture, even in a town where charter schools thrive. Barr’s new brand failed miserably where his school, John Mcdonogh High School, brought the School Performance Score down to a 9.3 out of 150. Two years after the school was established, Barr pulled up stakes again and the students once again became part of the diaspora that is the school population in New Orleans since Katrina.

From Diane Ravitch’s blog, Oprah’s Charter Schools Star in New Orleans is Closing Down:

It seems like only yesterday that the Oprah television network featured an exciting new charter school in New Orleans that promised to turn around the John McDonogh school. The new charter group was led by Steve Barr and his Future Is Now organization.

“One year after the Oprah television network featured New Orleans’ John McDonogh High School in “Blackboard Wars,” hoping to depict a successful charter school turnaround, the Recovery School District is dissolving the school. All staff members will lose their jobs.

“A fresh start. This school needs a fresh start,” Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard said of the school run by Future Is Now.

“Struggling charter schools have three years to prove themselves, and they can lose their authorization to operate after the fourth. However, the school known as John Mac is closing after only two years. The high school had the lowest performance score in the state in 2013, after alternative schools.

Marco Petruzzi, CEO of Green Dot charter chain.

Marco Petruzzi

Mr. Petruzzi is a former hedge fund manager who took over the role of CEO for the Green Dot Corporation when Steve Barr founded FIN.

He will be discussed under the six reasons why Seattle does not need Green Dot charter schools anywhere in the vicinity.

Bree Dusseault

Locally there is Bree Dusseault who founded four charter schools in New Orleans before moving to Seattle with her husband. Her first job in Seattle was with Bill Gates’ funded think tank the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE). Soon after Broad Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson hired her to be part of a new layer of bureaucracy as an Executive Director overseeing schools in a portion of the district. Ms. Dusseault immediately created quite the kerfuffle when she tried to oust a well loved high school principal based on student test scores. This was an attempt to instill the policy of Race to the Top (RTT) that Goodloe-Johnson was basically placed in Seattle to implement by the Broad Foundation. It didn’t work out for Goodloe-Johnson or Bree Dussault. After Goodloe-Johnson’s departure, Ms. Dussault founded WA charters in Seattle and is now Executive Director for Green Dot charter schools in Washington State. 


Now getting to the seven reasons why Green Dot has no business in Seattle or any other city or town for that matter.

1. The impact of charter schools on the surrounding community

An example of the effect of a charter school on a community is exactly what we are seeing in Seattle now.

Sue Peters states the following about the impact a charter high school would have on Seattle’s Southeast community and the school district.

Pretend for a second that the proposed Green Dot school was not a charter school, but a proposal for just another public high school. Who in the city or district could justify spending taxpayer funds to build another high school within 1-3 miles of three other existing public high schools which all have space for more students? It would be fiscally irresponsible. This is no different. This is taxpayer money we are talking about, and public land it would occupy. Another school in that area is not needed. Furthermore, it will almost certainly negatively impact the existing neighboring schools by draining resources and students from them.

Now return to the fact that it is a charter school. What would it offer that Rainier Beach with its IB program, its aerospace program, its School Improvement Grant (SIG) and high graduation rates doesn’t already offer? What would it offer that Cleveland High School, with its successful STEM program, diversity, decent grad rates and popularity not offer? What would it offer that Franklin High School, one of the truly diverse high schools in the district – meaning, the student body is not comprised of any one, racial majority – academies and popularity offer? The answer is nothing. It is not needed.

2. Questionable practices:

Being a charter school franchise with little to no public oversight and no opportunity for parents and students to turn to a district school board or other outside governing body for relief, the CEO and internal board do as they see fit with little to no regard for city, state or federal regulations.

To follow are three examples of what Green Dot has tried to get away with.

Inappropriate behavior by staff:

Parents of a student who attended Green Dot charter school in Tacoma, Washington testified in a Charter School Commission meeting this January that their daughter had been sexually molested and the school’s response they felt was inadequate. They moved their student out of the school because the issue had not been dealt with, there had been no disciplinary process put into place and “race issues were thrown back in our faces”. The parents said that Green Dot was “not a steward of the community”.

Teachers changing answers on students tests:

From the Los Angeles Times:

Cheating on state tests found at two Los Angeles schools

The state has thrown out the test scores of a top-performing Los Angeles school and of the highest-scoring campus in the nationally known Green Dot charter group after cheating was uncovered involving several teachers.

Short Avenue Elementary in Del Rey and Animo Leadership Charter High School in Inglewood were barred from receiving academic rankings released last week by the California Department of Education. That action deprived the schools of the state rating that has become the key figure used by parents and officials to judge campuses in California.

At Short, three teachers are accused of changing answers or coaching students to the correct answers or both. At Animo Leadership, a science teacher is accused of fixing wrong answers.

The violation of students’ and parents’ rights:

From Green Dot charter schools and freedom of speech:

Now, Green Dot, the retail chain that poses as an institution of education is facing new charges of gross misconduct: political repression of both students and retaliation against one particular teacher as well as Constitutional violations of the law.

Students,   parents, staff & teachers are engaged in a campaign to protest the   planned firing of Science Department Chair Mr. Friedman.  Friedman is well respected and a “fabulous   teacher” according to GD Human Resources Director Kelly Hurley. He has   brought many science programs, scholarships to Anímo and has helped hundreds   succeed and go on to college.

[Green Dot’s] Anímo Leadership students’ Constitutional Rights were violated by the on campus   seizure in early May (by Principal Murcia) of student petitions collected   outside school to protest the firing of History Department chair Sonia Del   Pino.  Students were called into the   office, intimidated, forced to sign statements & petitions confiscated.  

This violated CA Education Codes 48907 & 48950, US Supreme Court Decision Tinker vs. Des Moines and the US   constitution. In response, Mr. Friedman called the American Civil Liberties   Union & National Lawyers Guild to help protect students’ free speech   rights. He helped organize a student/parent/ staff committee to defend their rights, the teachers’ contract & fight the Del Pino firing.

3. Lackluster overall performance:

The Green Dot charter school franchise promotes itself as a college-ready preparatory chain of schools promising high test scores and IB classes although the opposite is true.

As Sue Peters points out in her argument that placing a charter middle school and high school in a community already served by public schools:

We already have an example of a Green Dot charter school in WA–Destiny Middle School in Tacoma – and its state test results are not impressive. As many as 64 percent of their students failed the Smarter Balanced Language Arts test and 78 percent failed the SBA math test. Why replicate this?

And from Schools Matter:

The Schools Steve Barr Made: Green Dot Charters post NINE of the lowest SAT scores

Green Dot Corporate Charter Schools hold the dubious record of NINE of the lowest fifty average SAT scores in Los Angeles County for 2015. The billionaire backed charter chain, founded by corporate executive Barr and run by hedge fund manager Marco Petruzzi, group of SAT bottom dwellers leads all other charter chains in comprising 18% of the fifty worst. These schools were (lower numbers are worst performing):

• 4. Animo Locke Charter High School #1 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1033

• 12. Animo Watts Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1092

• 14. Animo Locke Charter High School #2 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1104

• 16. Alain Leroy Locke High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1107

• 19. Animo Ralph Bunche High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1117

• 25. Animo Locke Technology High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129

• 26. Animo Oscar De La Hoya Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129

• 34. Animo Jackie Robinson High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1150

• 50. Animo South Los Angeles Charter (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1180

The privately managed charter chain’s marketing slogan is “…all students graduate prepared for college, leadership and life.” These dismal SAT scores would seem to indicate otherwise. For context 1500 is considered the minimum threshold for college readiness, while 2052 was the composite average for Freshmen accepted into UCLA in 2013.

You can find a list of the SAT scores here.

4. The churn

There is the constant opening and closing of charter schools, many times with little to no notice to parents of the closing and the churning of teaching staff creates instability for students and the communities they live in. You can read what happened to Locke High School in Watts, California that was taken over by Green Dot which was led by Marco Petruzzi in the article Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models by Brett Wyatt. To follow is an excerpt.

I began to question the effectiveness of the Green Dot model after the first year, when over 30% of the teachers resigned. By my second year of teaching for Green Dot, both of the administrators whom hired me had to resign, as had the dean of the school. At the end of the first semester of my second year, another 30% of the teachers had left. Now, at the end of my second year, the school is being re-organized, only a small fraction of the remaining staff will transfer with it, and I have been re-assigned to a different and currently re-organized academy. First, I want to explore the numbers. Only two of the sixteen teachers from the original Locke Ace, who transferred to Locke II, will be moving on to Locke B academy. The new cluster re-organization will dis-aggregate the ninth grade into a separate academy to be housed in the main Locke HS building with the two of the grade10-12 academies. Locke A academy will move to the bungalow area in the back of the school. 

Here is the churn that occurred at Green Dot’s Amino Locke II charter school in Los Angeles:

ANIMO LOCKE II ADMINISTRATION NOTICE OF TRANSFER Locke Cluster Coordinator Chad Soleo – Moved to a national outreach position of VP of Advancement due to his excellent service as Locke Cluster Coordinator.

FORCED RESIGNATION (2008-2012) Principal – Discrepancies in practice, test scores did not improve

FORCED RESIGNED (2008 -2012) Assistant Principal – There was a discrepancy during state testing, he left three days later.

RESIGNED (2008 – 2012) DEAN – Multiple incidences of being beaten by students

TRANSFER (2012-2013) Assistant Principal– Transferred from Locke Tech where he was reportedly attacked by students to Locke II, and now transferred to be the principal at an Animo middle school.(2012 – Present) INTERIM PRINCIPAL – Position to be made permanent 2013-2014 (2012 – Present) DEAN , being promoted to Administrator in Residence.

COUNSELORS (2011-Present) Three full time counselors have been at the school since 2011, no reports on their placements for 2013-2014

FULL TIME TEACHERS Note: Teach for America (TFA) Full Time Educator (FTE) Provisional – Teacher does without a clear credential

SPECIAL EDUCATION RESIGNED (2008-2013) TFA – Moving out of state

RESIGNED (2009-2013) FTE – Hired into another district

RESIGNED (2011-2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2010-2012) Provisional – Left mid-year for personal reasons (2010 – Present) FTE (2010 – Present) Provisional

MATH RESIGNED (2011-2013) TFA – Leaving for personal reason, possibly leaving profession

TRANSFER (2010-Present) FTE – Transfer to Animo Pat Brown

TRANSFER (2010-Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th Grade Academy

TRANSFER (2010-Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th Grade Academy (2012-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2011-Present) TFA

SCIENCE RESIGNED (2002 – 2012) FTE – Moved out of state

RESIGNED (2009-2012) TFA – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2011-2012) Provisional – Left teaching profession

MEDICAL LEAVE (2010 – 2013) FTE – Return is uncertain (2011-Present) FTE (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA and Provisional

HISTORY RESIGNED (2011-2013) TFA – Hired into another district as administrator (2008 – Present) FTE (2010 – Present) TFA (2010 – Present) TFA (2011 – Present) FTE

ENGLISH RESIGNED (2008 – 2012) TFA – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2009-2012) TFA –Hired into another district

RESIGNED (2010-2012) FTE – Left teaching profession, resigned mid-year

RESIGNED (2011-2012) TFA and Provisional – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Injured by student, Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons (2010-Present) TFA

RESIGNED (2011-Present) TFA – Hired into another district.

TRANSFER (2011 – Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th grade academy

RESIGNED (2011) FTE – Left without a new assignment, (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2013 – Present) TFA

SPANISH TRANSFER (2010 – 2013) TFA – Taking new position at Animo Pat Brown (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2012 – Present) TFA

PHYSICS MEDICAL LEAVE (2011-2013) FTE – Injured after battery by student, left in January 2013

PE (2006-Present) FTE (2011 – Present) TFA

TECHNOLOGY RESIGNED (2011-2012) FTE – Left mid-year for personal reasons (After a series of long term subs, a new full time teacher has been hired in April)

DRAMA RESIGNED (2009-2013) FTE – Moving out of state

ART (2011 – Present) FTE

ENGINEERING RESIGNED (2011- 2012) TFA – Left for personal reasons

LONG TERM SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS – Used to fill in for resignations and accounted for about 15% of the teachers at Locke II.

LONG TERM SUB (2011-2012) CLEAR CREDENTIAL- Left to be full time PE teacher and athletic director in another district.

LONG TERM SUB (2011-2012) PROVISIONAL– Hired into Locke Tech

LONG TERM SUB (2012 – 2013) PROVISIONAL – Birth of child





Regarding little to no notice given by Green Dot charter schools to parents when a school is to be closed, or in the following case a public school being “reconstituted” by Green Dot,  Fremont High, Ánimo/Green Dot Social Justice Charter, Menlo Adult School: SOUTH CENTRAL PROTESTS SCHOOL CLOSURES + smf’s 3¢.

An excerpt:

Mirna Rico, a Fremont High School parent and activist, said, “The district still hasn’t notified us parents or the community. We heard about the reconstitution on the news. They’ve been stonewalling us, and it doesn’t give us a chance to decide what to do.”

School reconstitutions, like charter takeovers of public schools, are extremely disruptive to students and their families. Fremont representatives discussed the ongoing community efforts to save the school and invited people to go to their Web site.

Marlon Silva, a junior at Ánimo Justice and one of the student leaders, described the march to Green Dot. He explained how Petruzzi told all the press to leave before agreeing to meet with students and parents.

“Green Dot’s motto is parents and students have a voice and input,” Silva said, “but when this decision was made, the only thing Green Dot cared about was money. It’s a business behind a mask of a school.”

For more on charter school churn, see:

Charter Schools Are Constantly Burning Out Teachers—And They Often Like It That Way

5. The use of public dollars with little to no oversight:

The Green Dot charter chain of schools has a CEO and an unelected in-house board. There is no oversight provided by a local school board. In this type of system, parents, students and teachers have no where to go with grievances outside of the charter school. This makes for frustrating circumstances for parents and students.

The example I used previously in this article is the incident that occurred at a Green Dot charter school in Tacoma. According to Melissa Westbrook who attended a charter school commission meeting recently, parents of a student who attended Green Dot testified that little to nothing had been done in response to their daughter being sexually assaulted at the charter school. The parents stated they withdrew their daughter from the school out of fear that something might happen again to their child.

They began to understand that the charter school commission had little to no say over what happens at a specific charter school, it is only the charter school and they are in complete control.

This is a lesson everyone needs to remember.

Ironically, the public money that went with the student to the charter school will not be returned to the school district even if the student returns to a public school. It’s just one less student the charter school has to worry about and yet they get to keep the cash for that school year.

There is also a lack of transparency in how the public dollars are used.

6. The money

The people who establish a charter school and run it, generally referred to as CEO’s and synonymous with Principals at a public school, pay themselves very well.

Mind you, the teachers are poorly paid and there is always skimping on books and supplies but there is a reason these folks establish charter schools and it’s all about the money.

Marco Petruzzi, CEO of the Green Dot Corporation, in 2013 made $279,478. Most charter schools do not post salaries as they do in public schools.

In 2014, CEO’s representing various charter school brought home the following:

Image 3-18-18 at 4.12 PM

There are many reasons why we don’t need the headache of a Green Dot charter school in our school district and probably more than I have outlined here.

Let’s just not look backwards one day and find new reasons why Green Dot was a bad idea.

Dora Taylor

Note: Melissa Westbrook at the Seattle Schools Community Forum is keeping up on this issue and is a recommended follow.

Recommended reading:

GREEN DOT CHARTER SCHOOLS: A CAUTIONARY TALE: This is a story of a charter school in the Green Dot Public School system which, after four years of operation, is coming to an inglorious end.

The Inside Story of a Green Dot charter school: Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models

The schools Steve Barr made: Green Dot Charters post NINE of lowest fifty SAT scores: “The lowest-performing, based on test scores, is the large Green Dot chain.” — Los Angeles Times

Steve Barr Bails on McDonogh: Surplus Laptops Sold Bearing Student Data

14 of 15 Green Dot schools are “failing” by Parent Revolution’s definition by Caroline Grannan and originally posted in the San Francisco Chronicle

Ben Austin: The Six Figure Salary Man – Green Dot

The Miracle That Wasn’t: Steve Barr’s Failure in New Orleans

Green Dot charter schools and freedom of speech

Another charter school scam?… ‘Parent Revolution’ charged with misleading parents about signatures on ‘close this school’ petition

Connections between Eli Broad, the Parent Union (aka Parent Revolution, the creators of the “Parent Trigger”), and Green Dot

Parent Empowerment or Parent Manipulation?

Signing Their Rights Away:A series of court rulings suggests that students who attend charter schools do not have the same rights as public school students…

The Racist History of the Charter School Movement:Touted as the cure for what ails public education, charter schools have historical roots that are rarely discussed.

Updated: Hostile Charter Takeovers Sideline Communities: One of the top-down, private control education reformers most prominent tenants are hostile takeovers of neighborhood schools and turning them over to charter corporations. 

Charter Schools:What is a charter school?

Do Profits Drive Desire for LAUSD Board Seat? Most of the time the charter school industry’s corporate leadership is able to craft their messaging so as to distract the populace from the real purposes undergirding their projects. But occasionally, someone in their sector goes off script and tells the truth about what chartering is all about.

Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City 

K12 Inc.: Virtually Failing our Students: Yale Education Studies students research on equity, policy, school choice and desegregation





Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s – Parents Across America




Hmm, I didn’t know our State Superintendent was in the business of selling charter schools and Teach for America, Inc.

this one.jpg

We sent the following question to then Candidate for State Superintendent Chris Reykdal on October 6, 2016:

“Given the legal uncertainty of charter schools in our state, as head of the (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) OSPI, would you distribute the Federal money to the existing charter schools and provide funding to set up new charter schools?”

This was Mr. Reykdal’s response:

“I am very troubled that our state pursued federal funding for charter expansion before the substantial legal questions surrounding charter schools in our state have been resolved.”

He continued:

I do not think it is appropriate to allocate these funds to existing charter schools or expansion of charters until our courts have ruled on the pending lawsuit.  That said, this allocation question will most certainly be settled before the next Superintendent is in place.  By then, the courts may have also settled the constitutional questions.  So the question, as posed, gets at our philosophy as OSPI candidates, but not likely our ability to influence this grant, short of a court determination that charters in our state are unconstitutional.”

(The underline is by Chris Reykdal.)

Now, even though the Supreme Court in Washington State is to hear arguments this month or next on the constitutionality of charter schools in our state, the following flyer was tweeted out by the now State Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s office recently:

OSPI -TFA and Charter Career Fair.jpg

(Please note: The tweet shown above was deleted on the OSPI twitter account after this post was published. Fortunately we captured it before it was taken down.)

This flyer targets teachers and the hiring event is sponsored by a group calling themselves the Washington State Charter School Association, which is heavily funded by Bill Gates, along with Teach for America, Inc., a company that hires recent college graduates, no experience of certification necessary, to populate charter schools as teaching staff.

What OSPI fails to mention in their tweet is the present court challenge on the constitutionality of charter schools in Washington State led by the League of Women Voters, El Centro de la Raza and the Washington Education Association.

We know Bill Gates, a proponent of charter schools, has been giving money to OSPI for years, even though we question a private foundation donating to a public, and state, institution. Could it be this reflects Gates’ influence on Chris Reykdal and OSPI?

Charter schools are a privatization of a public good where money trumps students and TFA, Inc. churns unqualified teachers through charter schools and all at a price to school districts and communities.

To contact State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, you can send an email to


For more on charter schools, see:

On Contact with Chris Hedges: The Rise of Charter Schools with Diane Ravitch

The NAACP calls for a moratorium on charter schools

How privatization of schools (charter schools) works: An infograph

What is a charter school?

Firing Day at a Charter School


For more on Teach for America, Inc. see:

Teach for America

Lawsuit: TFA not interested in equity and access — Truth For America

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

Does Teach For America advocate for equity and access? Whistleblower says no, files lawsuit

10 things you should know about TFA corps member realities


-Dora Taylor


More Red Flags for School Board Candidate Omar Vasquez as Ed Reform Cash pours in to the Campaign of Charter School and Teach for America Candidate Vasquez


Independent Expenditure (IE) jumps into race for Omar Vasquez who is running for Seattle School Board, District 5. IE funded by those that seek to privatize education!  NO Surprise!

On September 17, 2017 we alerted our readers to the candidacy of Omar Vasquez, who is running for Seattle School Board, District 5. Red flags began to wave when Vasquez  accepted $1,000 from Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and $1,000K from Vulcan, Inc. (Link to PDC here. See also: The stealthy campaign for charter schools found in emails of Seattle Public School employees and the candidacy of Omar Vasquez. )

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is a New York-based national political action committee that aims to -privatize education- Vulcan, Inc. is the Seattle-based development corporation of Microsoft confounder Paul Allen which has also been involved in efforts to privatize education. Vulcan contributed $1.5M to the “YES on 1240” campaign to privatize education by legalizing charter schools in Washington State in 2012. (Link to PDC here. See also: The Charter-Pushers: Who is Bankrolling the $8 Million Effort (and counting) to Bring Charters to Washington State? and Charter Schools in Washington State – by Hook or by Crook? )

At the time of our first report, Vasquez was a member of the state board for Summit charter schools. ” Vasquez served on the state board for Summit Public Schools, which operates three Washington charters…”

Only recently (and apparently reluctantly) did he step down from Summit’s Board. Yet he continues to receive significant infusions of money from major charter-backing enterprises.

It comes as no surprise that in the final weeks of the election, Democrats for Education Reform has contributed $20,000 to Vasquez’s campaign via an Independent Expenditure, paying for digital advertising.

Yes the battle to hijack and privatize Seattle Public Schools continues. The effort is funded by the same few political players. 

Voters should be sure to stay informed and vote for the candidates who oppose privatizing our public schools and will protect our public trusts. In District 5, that means vote for Zachary DeWolf. In District 7, that means Vote for Betty Patu. And in District 4, Vote for Eden Mack.

-Dora Taylor and Carolyn Leith 



Charters & School Board Races: Is There a Project Renaissance Coming Your Way?


By Amy Frogge

Project Renaissance is folding. Let me take a moment to explain what this group is really all about.

Last summer, Project Renaissance injected itself into local school board races with a vengeance, trying to take down several board members and replace them with pro-charter school candidates. I believe Project Renaissance was founded in large part to focus on our local school board elections, but the organization failed in this mission, as those of us who were targeted last summer handily won back our seats.

However, there is a greater purpose for groups like this, which are funded by very wealthy individuals who advocate for charter schools and other such market-based, money-making “reforms” (standardized testing, vouchers, etc.) while sending their own children to private schools.

Charter schools need two things to survive: (1) Teachers willing to work for extremely low salaries and benefits who will churn and burn long hours; these are typically young teachers with no traditional teacher training or experience. Many come from TFA, which provides them only weeks of training before throwing them into classrooms. (In charter schools, the money goes to the top, not the classrooms.) (2) They also need parents who are trained to spread the message of “failing [traditional] schools” and “choice” in order to create greater parent demand for charter schools. (Charters die without enough parents choosing their schools, and for this reason, charters spend a lot of money on marketing.) Because parents are not clamoring for more charter schools (they usually have little to no wait lists), wealthy charter backers must resort to recruiting families by trying to build groups like “Nashville Rise.” The whole thing is astroturf, but the lovely people involved in organizations like “Nashville Rise” don’t understand this. I’ve heard many well-intentioned and thoughtful parents sent from “Nashville Rise” to speak at our board. They believe they are fighting for civil rights and the rights of poor children to receive a better education, but they don’t realize that the agenda set forth by Project Renaissance and “Nashville Rise” actually increases inequity and segregation in our school system.

Because public opinion has changed on charter schools and polling now shows that Nashvillians are predominantly against the idea at this point, Karl Dean has decided to take a different tack during his campaign for governorship. While mayor, Dean successfully fought to remove local control of schools in Nashville. He also wanted the board to open a segregated charter school for wealthier students, and he pushed the board to open as many charter schools as possible (even extremely low performing schools like Rocketship), despite evidence that the influx of charters was having a negative fiscal impact on other schools in the district. Now that he’s running for governor, though, he maintains he’s really not about privatization or charter school expansion.

So there you have it. If we actually responded to real parent demand (not demand for “choice” contrived by millionaires), we would have had a very different conversation in Nashville over the last five years. And if we truly wanted “high quality” teaching, we would demand well trained, experienced teachers and spend some of the money we must now direct at charter operators and testing to pay teachers accordingly.

I am grateful that this organization is closing in our city, but I hope public education advocates will remain wary in other locations. This is surely coming your way.

Amy Frogge  is an elected member of the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education.

My Experience as a Student with the Center on Reinventing Public Education


Last week, I opened my Facebook page to an article which explained how the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), an anti-public education think tank nestled within UW Bothell, is making waves nationally.

I wasn’t surprised.

As a UW Bothell student in the Masters of Policy Studies program, who signed up for the only “Education Policy” elective offered in my program, I learned first-hand how CRPE views public education, and witnessed first-hand how they conduct their own classroom.

Robin Lake and Betheny Gross, the co-instructors of the CRPE course, presented the argument that business models were more equitable and efficient than traditional public schools, and that the only way to reform education was to dismantle it and replace it with charters that will constantly open and close according to their “results”. The goal was never “better schools overall”. The goal was the ability to close “bad” schools.

These instructors argued the education system is supposed to have mixed results, to compare outcomes (test scores), and shut down “ineffective” schools; they argue that it is good to create a continuous, responsive cycle for “improvement”. They argue that public institutions are too bureaucratic, too slow to change and adapt to the 21st century. Their goal is to privatize public education.

Robin and Bethany, the instructors of the CRPE course, blamed teachers, parents and students in the process of demonizing public education. They didn’t mention the factors of poverty or low school funding, nor did they mention budget cuts or how since Federal education policies from No Child Left Behind, and every version since then, drain resources from public education. According to Robin and Bethany, “money doesn’t make a difference and we need to stop throwing it at education”. When have we ever done this?

That quarter, we read from business models how shutting down and “starting from a clean slate” was the best way to turn around failing businesses. We did not read a single piece of educational literature that did not come directly out of CRPE. I was shocked.

I raised concerns over issues of equity and standardization. They dismissed my concerns as being unsupported, non- issues or able to be solved by Charter Reform. At the end of the quarter we were asked to present one of our final two projects. Most of my colleagues chose to regurgitate the arguments made in class readings (some to save their grade, others because it was the first Ed policy class they took and the only information they had to draw from). I took a moderate stance on a paper that briefly included issues within high stakes exams and the need for multiple measures of intelligence.

I would have been open to any form of critical feedback, both positive and negative. The only response I received; however, was “Nice try but it will never work on a national scale”. Then, I saw a week later how my grade was negatively impacted by my substantiated and researched views. I received the lowest possible grade accepted by my program. No feedback on my work except for “Nice try…”. I was stunned. I did the work. Education Policy was my specialization.

I bring up this anecdote because it highlights a significant learning opportunity in my graduate education. I care much less about grades, than I do feedback. And that was the problem.

I realized the way these instructors defined democratic participation (both in educational reforms and the way they conducted their classroom), was by offering choices created by “experts”; rather than increasing the participation of stakeholders. Their evaluation methods also reflected the disproportionate value they placed on “absorbed information”, not ability to think critically, find information, interpret information and disseminate it to my colleagues within the framework of the course. They didn’t engage with competing perspectives and grade a body of work. They rated students according to their worldview.

I question why a research based program, UW Bothell, is allowing lecturers from a think tank intent on dismantling public education, to teach future educators and policy makers.

There was limited oversight or accountability for how they chose to deliver information. They had full control over grading practices, were not hired on as professors, assistant professors or lectures. They were given a title of “instructor” and allowed to teach without observation of a faculty member. We were given office hours for the Director of the MAPS program and a survey at the end of the quarter. There was no other oversight to prevent them from retaliating against students. I’ve taken classes by people in the pro- charter camp before. But they conducted themselves as professionals capable of entertaining competing perspectives, provided critical feedback and graded based on quality of work and participation.

All of the students from that class are working in our education now. We are making decisions that impact the lives of students and families across the state and nation. Some of us had exposure to enough competing perspectives to challenge the idea that public dollars should be taken away from schools and given to a private marketplace. Some didn’t. So as I read about how they are shaping the educational landscape nationally, I really understand how their views as course instructors have shaped the perspectives, and educational outcomes of professionals working in our own backyard.

Taking the course taught by CRPE’s researchers was one of the most eye opening learning opportunities I have ever had. Comparing their research methods, ideologies and classroom culture to the courses I took to earn my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I was struck by their narrow views and how they wouldn’t entertain any views outside of their own.

I don’t doubt that these two upper middle class white women care a great deal about children like theirs. I do doubt CRPE’s ability to question their unwavering faith in Neo-Liberal Market reform. 

How material is taught is just as important as the curriculum itself. Does the instructor value debate as a tool of learning? Or is repetition of subject material the leading indicator of learning?

I recall watching “Waiting for Superman” in previous classes. This video is a popular marketing tool for Charter Reformers. One of the central arguments of the video, is that students are currently taught as passive recipients of knowledge. Where the teacher is the ultimate authority and attempts to “dump” knowledge; rather that teaching students to engage with material.

If the fundamental argument of Charter reformers is that you can break up the “bureaucracy” and “monopoly” of public ed so that teachers are able to engage with students; why are their reformers teaching in the very authoritarian style they critique?

-Heidi Schauble

UW Bothell ‘Think Tank’ CRPE Aims to Dismantle Public Education

big money

By Amy Frogge and Will Pinkston

Many Washingtonians may not realize it, but the University of Washington Bothell is harboring an organization that’s intent on dismantling public education in America.

UW Bothell’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) — an anti-public education think tank funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and other philanthropies that are hostile to public schools — is wreaking havoc in communities as far-flung as Indianapolis, Nashville, and New Orleans.

CRPE’s list of “senior research affiliates” reads like a Who’s Who of special interests determined to tear down public schools and replace them with publicly funded, privately run charter schools. As members of the local school board in Nashville who are fighting against the devastating effects of school privatization, we are writing this column to advise Washington public education advocates — including the leadership and faculty at UW Bothell — that you have an enemy in your midst.

CRPE first surfaced in Nashville in 2010, when it convened an elite group of civic, and charter school leaders to ink a “collaboration compact” with Metro Nashville Public Schools, America’s 42nd-largest school system with 86,000 students. The heart of the CRPE compact seemed reasonable: “Collaborate as partners on the city-wide effort to provide an excellent education for all students.”

What happened next didn’t resemble collaboration at all, but rather outright hostility. As it turns out, no one who signed the CRPE compact actually cared about public education. Instead, their sole focus was forcing the unabated growth of charter schools at the expense of traditional schools.

Political and business interests aligned with the charter movement seized on the CRPE compact to attempt a wholesale privatization of Nashville’s public school system. Some even shamefully referred to their plan as “New Orleans without the hurricane” — a reference to the charterization of Crescent City schools in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. CRPE, led by pro-privatization director Robin Lake, cheered the effort.

Fortunately, the voters of Nashville ultimately rejected CRPE and Lake’s agenda by overwhelmingly electing and re-electing a strong pro-public education contingent to the Nashville school board. Yet the well-funded CRPE threat persists, in our city and elsewhere in the U.S.

Nationally, CRPE is now aligned with President Donald Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. In a new report, CRPE urges local school systems to gloss over the negative fiscal impact of charter schools by instead reneging on teacher pension commitments, slowing teacher pay improvements, and undertaking mass closings of traditional schools.

Our view: UW Bothell should consider forming a “Center on Recommitting to Public Education” to counteract the damage done by CRPE. If the turmoil of the past seven years in Nashville is any indication, we’ve had enough of CRPE’s false promise of collaboration. In talking with other school board members around the country, we know many of them feel the same. At the end of the day, CRPE is merely a tool to facilitate the demise of public education.

As observers of education politics and policy, we know that many Washingtonians strongly support public schools and that your state’s voters have spoken at the polls against privatization. With this column, we are hoping that readers — including UW Bothell Chancellor Bjong Wolf Yeigh and UW Bothell faculty — will stand in solidarity with American public education advocates and in opposition to CRPE’s destructive agenda.

Amy Frogge and Will Pinkston are elected members of the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education.

The stealth campaign for charter schools found in emails of Seattle Public School employees and the candidacy of Omar Vasquez



We have published several articles on Summit charter schools and “personalized learning” which is a sugar coated description of placing students in front of a computer for all their lessons and tests. There is nothing personalized about the programs, simply that the student can do the lessons at their own speed and has nothing to do with their interests, strengths or academic weaknesses. The program is prepackaged and a robot could provide the same learning experience.

Speaking of robots, Summit charter school and other commercial enterprises are now developing “academies” where anyone who has a pulse can take a course, become a “trainer”/“facilitator” and be hired by Summit or another online school to respond to student’s questions and track their progress. This is not my idea of receiving a good education but is a cash cow for business enterprises.

Another aspect of the idea of “personalized learning’ is that it is unvetted. No one knows who developed the programs, their credentials, and unlike a text book, you can’t open it and get an idea of the subject matter, its accuracy or whether the information is objective and unbiased.

We have written about how the small Mary Walker School District in Eastern Washington chose to include online charter schools under their umbrella under the guise of ALEs – Alternative Learning Experiences — even though the State Supreme Court had determined that charter schools were unconstitutional in the state. A hefty investment in Mary Walker by the Gates Foundation helped the small, cash-strapped district carry out this charter-laundering deal.

Seattle Education also noted later that in January of 2016, the Mary Walker School District (MWSD) rescinded their request for approval of charter schools in the City of Seattle after requests were made twice, first by The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and then by MWSD, for the school district to recognize the charter schools and thereby provide legitimacy to the schools.

During the legal limbo all Washington charter schools found themselves in after the state’s charter law was (rightly) found unconstitutional in the fall of 2015 and they were declared illegal, Summit Sierra Charter School in Seattle decided to recast itself as a ‘homeschooling center’ and avoid the Mary Walker scheme. But now it is back as a charter school, with no ties to the Seattle School District.

With all of this in mind, why are officials who represent the Seattle Public School district and various principals falling all over themselves to develop relationships with Summit charter schools, wasting valuable time and resources supporting a charter school when Seattle is still struggling with a limited budget and all the complexities of managing 104 actual public schools?

The Seattle Public School board passed a resolution on March 2, 2016 making clear its commitment to public education and its opposition to charter schools. Why are people within the administration ignoring that resolution?

Our next question is, why keep all this activity in the dark for three years, not providing the information to the Seattle Public Schools’ Board of Directors or the School Board’s Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee? Is Seattle’s School Superintendent Larry Nyland aware of this activity? Michael Tolley, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, who Michael Starosky reports to, the person who began the chain of events that we will describe, is to report directly to the superintendent. Is that happening? It seems as if there is a shadow district within the Stanford Center that neither the school board, parents nor teachers know anything about.

Per emails that we received through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), there have been numerous conversations between Seattle Public Schools’ key administrators and Summit representatives, meetings at Seattle Public Schools’ administrative offices, the Stanford Center, sharing of district information with Summit Sierra charter school and tours provided by both parties.

There has also been communication between Seattle Public School principals and Summit Sierra charter schools.

We will provide a timeline of the two batches of emails, Part One and Part Two, bringing to light what has been in the shadows for the last three years in a series of posts beginning today.

The focus of this first set of emails is a conversation between Eric Anderson, Director of Research, Evaluation & Assessment within Seattle Public Schools who shows on his LinkedIn page interests in the Broad Foundation (Center), Teach for America, The KIPP Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Malia Burns, Founding Executive Director of Summit Sierra charter schools who refers to herself as “Principal” as the occasion dictates, who is also on the Washington State Teach for America State Board.

Eric Anderson appears to have taken over from Broad Foundation “Resident” Brad Bernatek whom some of you might remember from his false17% stat about graduation rates.

To follow is the first timeline:

The specific emails referenced below can be viewed here. 


Michael Starosky, Chief of Schools with Seattle Public Schools, does a “virtual introduction” between Malia Burns, former “Principal” of Summit charter schools, and Eric Anderson, Director, Research & Evaluation at Seattle Public Schools.

Starosky suggests Anderson would be a great resource to Burns in “learning in all things SPS”, particularly around data systems and measuring student growth.


Anderson writes to Burns expressing his excitement in partnering with Summit Sierra charter schools.


The Seattle Times reports the Seattle School Board has no interest in becoming a charter school authorizer. Unbeknownst to the board and public, Eric Anderson continues to collaborate with Summit Sierra charter school and continues to do so after the board’s position on charters is made public.


Malia Burns with Summit charter schools contacts Eric Anderson to make arrangements to meet or talk on the phone about student assessments.


Eric Anderson immediately responds to set up an appointment the next day.


Malia Burns and Eric Anderson decide to meet at the Stanford Center where the Seattle Public School administration offices are located.


Malia Burns to Anderson, “It’s great to meet kindred spirits working in education to support the work we all are doing within schools.”

Ms. Burns shares with Eric Anderson the login to Summit’s Personalized Learning Plan and cognitive skills rubric.


Eric Anderson to Malia Burns, ”With all the Charter School news in recent months I thought I’d check in” and sharing his hope that everything “remains positive” for Summit Sierra charter school.

Anderson expresses interest in bringing a small team from Seattle Public Schools to visit Summit Sierra charter school.


Malia Burns responds to Eric Anderson that they would “love to have a group visit” from people representing Seattle Public Schools.


Jen Wickens, Chief Regional Officer for Summit charter schools who is also on the Strategic Advisory Council for Teach for America. Inc. and CEO of Impact Public Schools “providing leadership in the ed reform sector”, replies to Eric Anderson to arrange a visit to Summit suggesting sometime during the week March 14, 2016.


The same day Eric Anderson responds to Jen Wickens confirming a visit the week of March 14, 2016 and stating an interest in Personalized Learning.  Anderson states he would like to bring in a group of 4-5 people with “our new Senior Research Scientist from my team” and “a couple of others from Teaching & Learning”.


Jen Wickens and Eric Anderson arrange another onsite visit for Anderson to see a student demonstration of Summit’s Personalized Learning Plan

The next set of emails will focus on correspondence between Summit Sierra charter schools and principals within the Seattle Public School district.

Note: “Chief of Schools” is a new position created for Starosky. Starosky reports to Michael Tolley, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning which is a relatively new position. Starosky oversees the activities of five Executive Directors which is another layer of Seattle Public Schools bureaucracy created by Broad trained Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson six years ago.

Michael Tolley is the last vestige of the Goodloe-Johnson era. The former superintendent brought Tolley with her from Charleston, SC.


How Omar Vasquez fits into the push for charter schools in Seattle

Omar Vasquez, who is running for a position on the Seattle School Board, is on the Washington Board of Directors for Summit charter schools but he won’t likely tell you that. Omar started in education as a Teach for America, Inc. recruit, is now on the Washington State Teach for America Board and has been active with charter schools ever since since first working for Teach for America, Inc. Recently all information about his involvement with charter schools has been scrubbed from his website and LinkedIn Page. As an attorney in Seattle, he has represented charter schools.

When Mr. Vasquez was asked about charter schools during his candidate interview with the King County Young Democrats, he lied and said he never had any involvement with charter schools. The Young Democrats decided to endorse him based on that interview.

As Michael Maddox wrote on his blog #hashtag:

Omar Vasquez – I mean, this guy told one group that he supported Charter Schools, and another that he didn’t. The guy lies, and when he’s called out or criticized, shows a temperament that does not lend itself as evidence that he could be a good school board member. Blatant lying, shitty temperament, and support for Charter Schools? HARD PASS.

The Washington State Democratic Party platform states in no uncertain terms that the party opposes charters yet the State Democratic Party gave Vasquez $2,000 worth of in-kind donations to his primary campaign, most likely to obtain access to the vital GOTV tool VoteBuilder, which helped him eke out a second place finish in the primary after Zachary DeWolf and just ahead of Andre Helmstetter. The thousands of dollars from corporate ed reformers like Lindsy Hill, founder of the Washington TFA, and the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) helped as well. His dishonesty about his charter ties helped smooth the deal. Do the State Democrats know they have been underwriting someone whose positions and work history directly conflict with their platform?

The teacher’s union at least, was not fooled by Vasquez. His Teach for America history would likely have been a deal breaker for them. The short-term  flash-trained TFA recruits have been used as a union-breaking tool and cheap labor for charter schools. As we have pointed out on this blog numerous times, the founder of Teach for America, Inc., Wendy Kopp is married to the founder of one of the biggest charter school franchises, KIPP’s Richard Barth. It’s bitterly ironic that charter schools which claim to aim to serve underprivileged students of color, offer these students the least qualified, high turnover teachers available – in direct contradiction of all research that shows that experienced, stable teaching staff serve these students best.

Vasquez’s Twitter history also reveals his support of charter school’s legal victory in Washington State.

The Seattle Public School (SPS) board passed a resolution on March 2, 2016 reaffirming its commitment to public education and its opposition to charter schools.

The final paragraph of the resolution states:

RESOLVED, that the Seattle School Board of Directors (1) requests that the Legislature focus on its paramount duty to amply fund K-12 educational needs first as mandated by the McCleary decision; (2) opposes charter schools and charter school legislation; and (3) disapproves of the establishment of Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) status for former charter schools when operated by non-resident school districts.

No wonder Vasquez is trying to hide his charter connections.


Dora Taylor


Related articles:

Seattle Public School Board candidates

The scoop on Seattle School Board Candidates Chelsea Byers and Omar Vasquez: Buyer Beware

Summit Sierra charter schools

The inherent racism of Summit “public” (charter) school

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

Summit (Sierra) charter school: The skinny on the Gates-backed school set for Seattle, Brad Bernatek (remember him?) and a host of others

Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning Pathways & the Gig Economy

Teach for America

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

The grifters of corporate ed reform: KIPP charter schools with the aid of the DOE

The Broad Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools

The Broad Foundation: A Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s training programs and education policies

The Battle for Seattle, Part 2: Hijacked!

Bill Gates has spent $440M to push charter schools: Here is the list of recipients

Bill Gates funds the media, including the Seattle Times’ Education Lab, then secretly meets with them

Education Reform and Racism: Why Aren’t We Talking About This?

Original Title: Why Aren’t We Talking About This? Reposted with permission from Save Maine Schools – Helping You Navigate Next-Gen Ed Reform.

Why Aren't We Talking About This?

Everyone in the nation is talking about our racist history, but do people know what type of racism is happening today, beneath our noses, under the banner of education reform?

When I was twenty-five, I interviewed at a charter school in Brooklyn.

Before I sat down to talk to the dean, I observed a kindergarten class that looked nothing like any kindergarten class I had ever seen: just shy of thirty children sitting in rows on a carpet, each with legs crossed and hands folded, all completely and utterly silent.

In my interview, the dean asked me what I noticed about the class.

“They were very well behaved,” I said.

“Yes, they were. But they sure don’t come in like that,” he answered.  With icy pride in his voice, he said: “It’s only because of the hard work of our staff that they act like that.”

I took the job – foolishly – and soon found out what this “hard work” meant: scholars, as we called them, were expected to be 100% compliant at all times. Every part of the nine-hour school day was structured to prevent any opportunity for deviance; even recess, ten-minutes long and only indoors, consisted of one game chosen for the week on Monday.

We were overseers, really.  Our lessons were scripted according to the needs of the upcoming state test, and so we spent our days “catching” scholars when they misbehaved, marking their misdeeds (talking, laughing, wiggling) on charts, and sending them to the dean when they acted their age too many times in one day.

There weren’t any white children at the school, but there I was – a white teacher, snapping at a room full of black children to get them to respond, in unison, to my demands.

Everyone in the nation is talking about our racist history, but do people know what type of racism is happening today, beneath our noses, under the banner of education reform?

With useless, commercial junk-tests as justification, we have been told, for years now, that we must serve up our low-income schools – those schools filled mostly with children of color – to profiteers, who are then free to experiment on children in whatever ways they see fit.

Have you ever seen this video?  Watch as the parents – parents who love and value their school – are told that they need a charter network to rescue them:

“Why come here and discombobulate our home?” one parent asks.

They are discombobulating homes everywhere, of course, but communities of color are almost always hit first – and hardest.

But who, aside from a few bloggers and academics, are talking about this?

Why aren’t more people demanding that these racist institutions and policies be taken down?

Things are about to get much worse, as profiteers are now turning their attention to the measurement and manipulation of the non-academic parts of schooling – how much “grit” a child has, or how compliant he or she is – with computers taking the place of teachers to conduct remediation.


It’s modern eugenics: the molding of children’s personalities, starting from preschool, to suit the needs of our Wall Street masters.

If you aren’t sure what I mean, it’s because it isn’t happening yet in your community. Maybe, if you’re lucky, it never will.

You can be sure, however, that it is happening to other people’s children.

When will we demand that this stops too?

Save Maine Schools