An interview with Washington State Superintendent Candidate Erin Jones

 

erin jonesErin Jones is running for Washington State Superintendent to be in charge of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). According to the OSPI webpage, it is “the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 public education in Washington state”.

Presently, Ms. Jones is School Director for Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) in Tacoma. Erin Jones is NOT a public school district director as is implied by her in all of the information she provides to the public. AVID is a product sold to school districts that promises students will be able to achieve through self-discipline and focusing on the Common Core Standards. The work is done with hired tutors.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Erin Jones was a volunteer in a public school in North Philadelphia, a substitute in South Bend, IN, a private school teacher, an ELL instructor, a classroom teacher in English and French Immersion in Tacoma, an instructional coach and AVID tutor in Spokane, an assistant State Superintendent (working for the current superintendent, Randy Dorn), and now a school district director for AVID in Tacoma.

Ms. Jones received the (Michael) Millken Educator of the Year Award as an educator while teaching at a high school in Spokane, WA. Today, Milken is a leading figure in the education reform movement and is one of the founders of the nation’s largest cyber charter chain, K12.

For more on K12, which is in our state now under the Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) umbrella, see:

From Junk Bonds to Junk Schools: Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers for Phantom Students and Failing Grades

Cashing in on Kids: K12

Diane Ravitch: What is Legal Fraud?

Two years ago, Ms. Jones testified in favor of Rainier Prep charter school in front of the Charter School Commission and now says she regrets that action. Rainier Prep charter school is enrolling students for next year.

Ms. Jones largest donors so far include Teach for America, Inc. (TFA), the League of Education Voters and Stand for Children but at the time of the interview Ms. Jones said she was not aware of who her donors were.

Editor’s Note: The up-to-date list of donors can be found in the post OSPI State Superintendent Candidate Erin Jones’ list of donors: A who’s who of corporate ed reformers thanks to Stand for Children lobbyist Jim Kainber.

Ms. Jones attended the ultra-conservative Roanoke Conference but said during the interview she knew nothing about the conference until she arrived and found out who was attending. Ms. Jones said she went to hear the panel on education. The panel on education was titled “What strategies can work to save charter schools” featuring Chad Magendanz, Lisa MacFarlane with Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the Chairman of Summit charter schools and Beth Sigall with the Eastside Education Network.

Jones received an endorsement from Jami Lund with the anti-union Freedom Foundation who wants to see teachers’ salaries decided by the state and, coincidentally (?) Erin Jones agrees with him.

Erin Jones states she’s against the amount of standardized testing and teaching to the test and yet sees no problem with the Common Core Standards.

Ms. Jones stated in the interview that Teach for America, Inc. (TFA) could be a credible substitute for districts that may have a teacher shortage and are better than substitute teachers although substitute teachers are required to be certified, but TFA, Inc. recruits have only five weeks of rudimentary training and a college degree in any subject. TFA, Inc. recruits are not certified.

Ms. Jones sat on the Parent’s Union’s board, but did not know who the funders were. The Parents Union was originally formed in Los Angeles by Steve Barr, founder of the Greendot charter school chain to promote charter schools and bust the teachers union.

Most recently she said that “teaching transgenderism” in school was not appropriate and that such instruction could cause students to “feel additional pressure to ‘choose an orientation’”, as if it were a choice, or as she later states, choosing a “lifestyle”.

Since then she has also tried to walk that statement back but it looks like the die has been cast. You can only fool some of the people some of the time.

Erin Jones is very adept at telling people what they want to hear.

With so much at stake and the pressure of Gates’ money that has been granted to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Gates’ $2M grant to the Mary Walker School District to explore the option of expanding charter schools in our state, we need to be thoughtful about who we want to run our schools statewide.

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Post Script:

From a reader’s comment:

According to the PDC, Jones has received a $1,000 contribution from a David Yunger. The PDC lists Yunger as an entrepreneur, but a LinkedIn search reveals that he is a VP for Pearson.

http://web.pdc.wa.gov/MvcQuerySystem/CandidateData/contributions?param=Sk9ORUUgIDEwOQ====&year=2016&type=statewide

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidyunger

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To follow are excerpts from the interview I had with Ms. Jones on Saturday, February 27, 2016. A transcript of the entire interview can be found here.

Carolyn Leith, my co-editor, and I spent an hour with Erin Jones, asking her questions on the following topics.

Teach for America, Inc.

Dora: The first (question) is about Teach for America. They’re your biggest contributor, your largest donor so far in your PDC file. Tell me what your thoughts are about Teach for America.

Erin: So, first of all, I didn’t even know who the donor was when he donated.  So he donated I think, I think it’s Sean, who donated?

…And he wasn’t somebody that I asked for a donation from. He donated as soon as my website went up. I used to know the original director of Teach for America, Lindsey Hill. So I knew her, or I know Lindsey and I have a student that was a Teach for America student, who now actually teaches, I just hired him this year in Tacoma. I’ve done some training for them. I don’t want them to take over.

Dora: As State Superintendent how would you feel about them (TFA recruits) teaching in public schools?

Erin: So, how would I feel about them teaching? I think that we, for right now, need to figure out some ways, whether it is Teach for America…I would prefer that we in district, figure out ways to recruit, whether it’s from Para-educators, whether it’s from our substitute teachers, we’re gonna have to address our teacher shortage somehow.

Dora: You believe there is really a teacher shortage?

Erin: I know in Tacoma there’s a teacher shortage, we still have five buildings right now that I know of, and I don’t know all of the buildings in Tacoma, because I just work in middle and high school, but we still have five buildings that have had subs. This year. All year. So there’s definitely a shortage of teachers. And sixty percent of our teachers are retirement age in Tacoma. So it’s gonna be an issue that we have to address.

Dora: Okay. Well, Teach for America (recruits are) trained basically to teach in charter schools, are you aware of that?

Erin: Well, they’re not though. They’re trained here…and I understand other places in the country…but I have worked with their training model, because one of my students that I’ve taught as a middle school kid who went to Whitworth, became Teach for America, and so they actually had me come in and teach Cultural Competence to them. And it wasn’t to teach in charter schools, they were to teach in, they were teaching in Federal Way, they were teaching in Seattle at the time.

Dora: Well, you understand that they have about five weeks of training before they go into basically high needs schools.

Erin: Yes.

Dora: You think that’s okay?

Erin: No, I don’t think that’s the best thing at all…I think people need to have years of training and being in buildings. I guess what I’m saying though, right now, in Tacoma I’m saying that subs who’ve had zero training who are teaching outside of their field, and going in for two and three weeks without any lesson plans… That also is not a good solution. So, my preference would be that we… So right now what we’re doing in Tacoma is that we’re actually training our subs over the summer. So, I led training this summer for substitute teachers…so that at least we’re sending people in, with more training than they’re getting. Most districts don’t have any training for subs, which I think is criminal.

About the League of Education Voters (LEV) and charter schools

Dora: The third person on your list of donors, another one of your larger donors, is Kelly Munn with the League of Education Voters. They also feature you on their blog occasionally. So, what are your thoughts on that organization?

Erin: So, I have done a lot of work…when I first went to OSPI after my last year in the classroom, I ran their Center for the Improvement of Student Learning … it used to be the family and community engagement arm of OSPI, but it was defunded. From that I met Kelly Munn for children and family engagement work. And so, I did a lot of speaking for them (LEV), especially with immigrant families, and particularly talking about the transition from middle school to high school, because that’s my expertise area. I taught middle school and I moved to high school, and at the time I had three kids that were middle school transitioning. So, that is my connection to them. I think they do really great work around community engagement, with a population that is not served well by PTA. Now, at the time that I was doing work with them at OSPI, charter schools was not part of their big push.

Dora: It has been for a long time.

Erin: Right, but… the part of the work that I did, had nothing to do with charter schools. It was all around transition, it was all around, how do we engage families who don’t speak English, or don’t feel like they connect with school. And so, Kelly Munn is, it’s ironic because she had an event, maybe about eight months ago, and one of the things she said is, “you know I love Erin.” “She doesn’t support our charter school work.” And it was funny, because she started out…the introduction of me, with the group by saying, “Erin and I don’t see eye to eye on everything, she doesn’t support charter schools, and yet I still think she wants what’s best for kids and teachers.” And that’s why I support Kelly. Now, I’ve been pretty vocal about being anti charter schools, so I have an email from her that I could show you, that she is pretty upset with me right now. Which I’m fine with. She knew from the beginning, I don’t support charter schools. And, she was clear about that in the very beginning.

About testifying for Rainier Prep charter school in 2014

Dora: Well, you were in front of the Charter School Commission in 2014.

Erin: Mmm. In front of their leadership team…

Dora: …where you spoke in support of Rainier Prep charter school.

Erin: Yes, in support of Maggie, yes…

Dora: No, you said you were in support of Rainier Prep.

Erin: Yes, who’s Maggie. Maggie is one of my principals.

Dora: Well okay, but it was a charter school, you were in front of the Charter School Commission.

Erin: Yes…

Dora: So, you’re against charter schools but…

Erin: And that’s probably the most unfortunate presentation. To be really honest with you. Maggie and I have talked about that, many times. She is one of probably the best principals that I worked with in Federal Way. Do you know Maggie O’Sullivan?

She hired me. Yeah, she was my principal at Wildwood Elementary too. One of my favorite principals. And I should not have done that. Because I realized, and at the time I wasn’t thinking about this work, and so it was just really supporting her and I feel really badly about that. I’ve told her, I love her as a principal, and I think she is going to do great work. The movement itself I don’t support. And it’s really unfortunate, that was a mistake for me. Politically that was a mistake that I made and it is really unfortunate and she and I have had many conversations since then, about that, and I felt like I was going to support a great friend, who took an entire year off, didn’t take a salary, to plan a school. And what I told her is I wish every principal had the opportunity to take a year, to plan a school, and, not have regulations…

Dora: It (Rainier Prep) could have been under the ALE umbrella.

Erin: It could have. No and I agree with that now. I realize that, I realized that afterwards. I talked to, also to the superintendent, why am I blanking of Highline, oh my gosh, Susan?

Dora: Susan Enfield

Erin: Yes, Susan Enfield. So Susan and I have talked about that over time too… probably the board could have taken that school…she loved Maggie, and the board probably should have taken that school and made it part of, and made it an alternative learning environment, and so Susan and I have had long words about that too because now it’s really tarnished Maggie’s reputation and even Highline, it’s put them in a complicated position.

About the donations given by Stand for Children, Don Nielson and Greendot charter schools

Dora: Okay, now you’ve got other supporters, you’ve got  Stand for Children, Green Dot, Don Nielsen…

Erin: They are people…

Dora: Yes.. I understand they are people…

Erin: But I have 400 some odd thousand contributors.

Dora: But the thing is that these people expect a return on their investment.

Erin: If, okay, if I’m gonna make $300,000, their little $200 or $300 or $1500, is not gonna buy…I didn’t ask for the money. People gave me money.

Dora: Well, would you give it back to them? Would you say, “You know what, I really don’t want to be, at all related to your group at this point. I think it would be better, if you just took the money back.”

Erin: So I guess, I guess what I would say is if I lived my life…I know what I stand for and I’ve been pretty clear verbally and in public about what I stand for, and there’s nobody that can buy me.  It’s just, there’s nobody that can buy who I’m gonna be and what I’m gonna stand for.

The Roanoke Conference

Dora: What about the Roanoke Conference? Did you attend that?

Erin: I did, yeah. So, and my whole purpose of attending is this is a non-partisan position. I need to hear from both sides. And actually I’ll be really honest, I was mortified by what I heard. So their whole conversation around education, I just went for one hour to hear their education panel. Because actually the organizer of Roanoke …was my former pastor’s son, out in Spokane. And he invited me to speak on the panel, and I said, “Well, you know, I’m not a Republican, and I don’t support charter schools.” So suddenly I wasn’t on the panel anymore. And I said well, I’d be interested in hearing though, what they had to say because, I was just curious…I was more mortified by what they had to say than I was before I arrived. And one of the pieces that I think people need to know, Chad Magendanz is really open about, “I’m going for vouchers.” And I’m glad I was sitting there, because, people could say, “oh, vouchers aren’t coming up.” But to hear him physically say it in front of a whole audience of people was, um, pretty profound and disturbing. So I did go.

So I used to train with the students and Teri Hickel was the director of that program in Federal Way. And she happened to be there, and so she invited me to sit with her, and I did. And I’ve been mentoring her student(s) through Federal Way for the last four years.

About the Common Core Standards

Dora: There was, on the Teachers United site…a couple of quotes that they attributed to you. One was on the Common Core Standards. You said, “As a teacher, I don’t think that Common Core necessarily will help or hurt us,” Jones said in an interview. “The content is fine, but really it’s all about the teaching. People are really panicking about Common Core. While I don’t think that Common Core is the right thing to panic about, it’s become a distraction.”

Erin: And I still believe that. I think that the test is a problem. So I think for me right now what I worry about, because I’m with teachers all the time, I’m worried about changing the standards yet again, in four years. I would prefer to have different standards right now, but I feel like right now the test is the thing that we’ve really got to worry about, and the test and the standards are two very different things in my mind. Standards are just a road map. They’re not curriculum, they’re not content, it’s the roadmap for, here are the different elements that you, that need to be covered in a year. At some point. The test is I think what’s putting undue pressure on teachers, and on students…When I’m called in to talk to third graders who are crying because they’re stressed out about a test…if we could take away the high stakes of testing, so that people don’t feel like we’re on this crazy path to “I’m gonna be evaluated by this”, and yeah, evaluation also shouldn’t be associated with testing, but I think the test is really for me, the biggest, the bigger problem than the standards. We need to have standards, at some level. Are Common Core the best? I don’t think they’re the best, but I think right now, where our focus needs to be is paring back the test, and making sure that it’s a usable tool for classroom teachers, and it gives them information to help them inform their practice.

Dora: Well the SBAC can’t be modified. It’s trademarked. It’s registered.

Erin: Well we don’t have to use it then. We don’t have to use it, then.

Dora: It’s kind of a gray area, right now.

About Gates money and OSPI

Dora: How do you feel about Randy Dorn and OSPI accepting money from Bill Gates?

Erin: So I think, Gates money is everywhere. And so I feel really conflicted about that. I think there are things Gates does that are good, and I think there are things Gates does that are bad. I don’t think it’s all around, Bill Gates is evil, but I think what’s dangerous about Gates is this assumption that because I’m rich, I know everything about education. He’s not an educator. I think, he does live in Washington State, so this notion that he could give money to the state is…but when it becomes such large sums that it now drives what’s happening, politically, that’s a problem.

Dora: If you ever can get ahold of one of their grant summaries, like we did for the Mary Walker School District, there are a lot of strings attached. He (Bill Gates) doesn’t just give money. He wants, what he expects is very clear, very clearly defined.

Erin: And I’m not sure, what did he recently give money for, besides Mary Walker?

Dora: He’s been giving millions to OSPI (over) the last several years.

Erin: I mean, I think that’s problematic, when there’s, there’s a person who’s giving millions, I think there’s an assumption then that there’s something he wants.

On McCleary and the funding of education

Dora: Another quote attributed to you on their (Teachers United) website about McCleary… “It’s important that we fund education at a higher level. Washington being 40th in the nation is to me criminal. But money is not our biggest issue. It’s how we spend the money we have and how we will support our teachers.”

So, do we have adequate funding here (in Washington State)?

Erin: No. We don’t. No. But what I guess what I’m saying though is untiI…I don’t think the legislature’s gonna move, to be really transparent, until, we actually value teachers, and that’s the, culturally, as an  American culture, that’s where I think our biggest problem is. I think we have a bunch of legislators, who think this is not an issue they need to deal with. Because they don’t see teachers as being really all that important. And that’s what I think we need to get to, is how do we value teachers and see them as the most important adults in the life of our children? And when we can see that… So, do we need funding? Heck yeah. But I don’t see the legislature really feeling any crisis or urgency until they actually see our profession as one that’s the greatest profession on the planet. And that’s really what I was trying to say with that.

About standardized testing

Carolyn: How could you restructure testing to help people gain some time during the day for less coverage the (class) material. So, instead of covering five chapters, we would be back to the normal two. …So those are things that you would be in control of.

Erin: Well, not exactly. The legislature’s more in control of that.

Carolyn: With the ESSA, roughly, you’re supposedly going to have more control if you’re the head of the OSPI.

Erin: Hopefully they will not have made those decisions until I get there. You know what I’m saying, because a lot of those decisions are being made right now, by the current state superintendent. And what I’m hoping is that they will all not be made. Every day there are new changes being made by OSPI. And so it remains to be seen what will be left open. But I guess my opinion as a classroom teacher, is, we’ve gotta pare back on the testing… In Tacoma took us 4-6 weeks on average to test kids. And so, for example, kids would take a test for two hours in the morning. Well, guess what, kids aren’t doing any work after that. So if I’m a second grader and I’ve been sittin’ at a computer for two hours, you are not getting any more learning outta me. So we’ve now lost that entire day. And so one of the things that I, I wanna talk about, is how do we pare that back.. My preference would be two days of testing a year. That would be my dream, my dream length: a pre-test in the fall, and a post test in the spring. And something that’s usable by teachers. I think what pains me right now, being at a district level, is the tests don’t even come back until kids are gone. And so what is the point? Right? So we’ve just spent 4-6 weeks testing, and you don’t even get that data back until after kids have gone home for the year. So what’s the point? …We’ve gotta have that honest conversation. What’s the point? What is the test for then? ‘Cause it’s not helping me as a teacher with the kids I have right now. And if I’m just getting those kids, what does that test even mean for me? As I get them for the next year. That is problematic.

About recess

Carolyn: So my ten year old has a question…She wants to know, what you’re going to do for recess.

Erin: Oh, yay. I love that question.

Carolyn: For actually kids getting recess… when it comes to recess, it doesn’t happen. So how are we going to do that for every kid?…So, in the state, so they all get recess, and we document it, and it if there’s a problem, we come to you, and what do you do?

Erin: So I think there are a couple things that I think about recess. Number one, I think it’s problematic how we’re instructing right now. So, we’re asking kids from early on to high school to sit for five to six hours a day. Which, just development…even for adults, it’s just, that’s criminal. We can’t, we as adults, know how to play that game. So we can play the game, but even if we’re asked to sit for four or five hours or two hours, we’re not listening, we’re checked out, right? And so, one of the things, I didn’t need to read research about this, I just needed to have my own children, is every ten to fifteen minutes, we need as teachers, to be getting kids up and moving. So I think that’s part of the problem, that we’re asking kids to sit all day. And so, you know what, they’re squirrelly now, right? If we are, we’re just squirrelly inside. We know how to hold it down really well. So I think part of the problem is that we are not moving kids around, enough. And so I learned that, as a French immersion teacher, my kids were dancing…I knew. Like every twelve minutes a bell would go off and if I hadn’t moved my kids, I was moving my students, and we were doing something physical. So I think that’s problem one. We need to talk about the importance of physical movement, and not keeping kids, sitting in a chair, for five hours. That’s just crazy-making. Problem two: they’ve gotta get outside. I mean it’s just, it has to happen. And really the younger the kids, probably the more times in a day they need to get outside. And so that needs to built into every system. And that’s something again, I don’t get to make those laws, but as the bully pulpit, this is stuff that’s important to me, because I watched my own kids. I have a son who’s ADD, he’s not ADHD. But he needed that, like just get up and move. He’s also dysgraphic. He can’t physically write. So imagine what it’s like for a kid like that, who can’t physically write, is now frustrated, ‘cause I have to sit here for six hours. I can’t do this well, and now you’ve got me stuck. And guess what, I’m staring out the window, ‘cause now I’m not engaged. And so I learned from my own kids, we need to be up and moving, and we need to create spaces for every kid to feel successful. And that’s what I want to talk about, as the state superintendent.

Carolyn: What would you say about withholding recess as a punishment?

Erin: Oh, it’s ridiculous. That is, that’s criminal. Because the very kids that we tend to withhold it from, are the very ones who need to move. And I believe the kids who get in trouble, right, are the kids who don’t do well sitting still. I, we’re over diagnosing ADHD, and ADD. And part of it is because we’re asking kids to sit still for so long. We wonder why they get fidgety. Well maybe that’s your sign that they need to be moving. But again as administrators, we need to give our teachers permission, and encourage them, get kids up and moving. This is how our brains learn.

Carolyn: I think there’s a problem though that teachers feel like they have so much pressure…to do all the curriculum, that they’re stuck in the middle… and they’re behind, and to do more work so the kids are sitting for an hour…and they’re second graders. And then they act up…and then they miss recess…

Erin: Exactly. And that’s criminal. And now you’re compounding the problem. I think the other reality is…um, we just know this as adults too… So, we’ve got all this curriculum to get through, right? That we have five pages we’re supposed to get through today. I’m just gonna push through. Have the kids learned any of that? No. ‘Cause they’ve just sat still, and they are taxed out. So maybe you got to page five, but nobody learned page five. Actually people stopped learning after about page three. And so really having those honest conversations about what, how does, how do we learn, as human beings, both as children and as adults?

Carolyn: How would you solve that problem though, ‘cause we are confined by the amount of money we have for teachers, by the length of the school day…So part of the problem I think with recess is people feel this pressure to cover the material, and we only pay for so much time, and so recess is lost…or eroded. Lunch is lost or eroded… So I think from the upper level, things need to be changed.

Erin: Right, and I think at the top, as the state leader, I need to model, and talk with…so I’m not in charge of building administrators, but you know what, the leader at the top models what superintendents do, and then that trickles down. And guess what? This is not a conversation that Randy Dorn is having. He’s not talking about this stuff. I think this is stuff that needs to be talked about. I think we need to have professors come and talk about the actual brain chemistry that happens when kids…I mean we’ve got all of it, right here at UW, we have folks who could talk with us about the fact that just covering material is not, it’s not doing us any good. It’s killing our kids, and we’re frustrated as teachers. ‘Cause we, we know our kids aren’t learning.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Post Script:

We will be interviewing all of the candidates for State Superintendent.

Next up is Larry Seaquist.

 

 

 

 

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McCleary Crime Scene Special Session Coloring Sheet

 

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art courtesy of Susan DuFresne

As parents with kids in public school, it takes a tremendous amount of restraint when describing the just completed session of the Washington State Legislature.

A profanity laced tirade feels justified, maybe even appropriate. How else to explain the lunacy of the extreme arrogance and cowardice on display in Olympia?

Contempt of the McCleary Ruling

Much has been made of the Supreme Court fining the Legislature $100,000 a day for contempt of the McCleary ruling.

What’s not talked about is the Legislature’s refusal to even create a fund to collect the fines.

No_fines_McCleary

The Governor was politely asked by the Supreme Court (see pages 8-10) to make sure the account and fines were collected. Inslee, showcasing his wishy-washy leadership style, decided not to rock the boat and let the Legislature wiggle out of this symbolic slap on the wrist.

Nothing stings more than a token fine, collected in imaginary dollars, deposited into a non-existent bank account.

Public School Funding

The next jaw-dropping absurdity was lawmakers’ approach to the public school funding crisis.

Members of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee held much hyped public forums – which not only managed to insult parents who have been patiently waiting and advocating for much needed funding for their resource starved schools – but seemed specifically designed to push the Senate’s preferred solution, a state property tax dependent levy swap.

The State Budget Director tried to excuse the continued foot dragging by stating:

State Budget Director David Schumacher even said early in the session that nobody expected lawmakers to meet the requirements of the McCleary decision until 2017 because the court set a 2018 deadline.

Surprising no one, the Legislature passed and Governor Inslee signed the infamous Kick-the-Can Plan. A perfect example of bipartisanship of the most craven sort.

Sorry public school students, no funding for you. Better luck next year.

Charter Schools

Confirming the Bizzaro World bubble which has sealed off the Capital from reality, charter schools received lavish attention from lawmakers.

Never mind that these schools have been:

  • ruled unconstitutional
  • serve less than a 1000 students and have been open for less than 8 months
  • operate under a legally dubious ALE scheme engineered by Randy Dorn and the Gates Foundation.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees perfectly sums up the inverted logic in Olympia.

Worth noting: Rees was the education advisor to Vice President Richard Cheney, afterwards moving on to work for Michael Milken in his education business. (Take a moment to let that sink in.)

“We celebrate the parents who led this charge, and the school and movement leaders who refused to take no for an answer,” said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees. “Their amazing efforts on behalf of Washington’s students has led to one of the most remarkable victories in the history of this movement.”

Translation outside of Bizzaro World: The money we poured into PACs, lobbyists, and TV ads during Seahawks games finally paid off.

Lessons from the 2016 Regular Session

Public school parents, the system has failed us and our children. Nice isn’t working. Outrage is a fitting response. Time to say goodbye to get a long, to get a little strategy.

We must hold lawmakers and the Governor accountable for their criminal neglect of our kids and public schools. Every day, 1 million public schools students’ Constitutional rights are being violated.

Angry? We sure are.

Here at TRAP Headquarters, we demand lawmakers immediately begin to treat the Constitution as THE LAW as opposed to a suggestion which must be followed only when it’s convenient to do so.

If this isn’t possible, time to #ArrestTheLegislature.

Happy coloring.

-Carolyn Leith and Shawna Murphy, cofounders of TRAP (Teacher Retention Advocate Parents)

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Money for charters but nothing for public schools? It’s time for a recall in Washington State starting with Ruth Kagi

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It’s amazing how some of our legislators can get real creative with funding charter schools but not so much with public schools.

Ten Washington State Legislative Democrats voted to keep charter schools on life support by having these financial enterprises funded with state lottery money. (The state lottery was originally sold as a way to fund PUBLIC schools.) According to Bill 6194 charter schools, do NOT have to comply with district and state policies and law in any areas except that they are to be overseen by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. Instead charter schools are granted “flexibility” to “innovate.” Local school district boards  will not have authority over charter schools. The system is rigged for charters and against local control.

For a related articles, see Emails reveal OSPI in contempt of Supreme Court ruling on charter schools in Washington State and California Board of Ed Tramples on Local Control, Pushes Charter School on Poor Community That Doesn’t Want It.

Part of the Washington State Democrat’s platform is the quote “We oppose charter schools”.  This plank in the platform was hard fought throughout the state as one district after another passed resolutions clearly stating that charter schools are unconstitutional and undemocratic.

And yet, Frank Chopp allowed the faulty bill to make it to the floor for a vote where it narrowly passed, with the help of ten Democrats.

Those Democrats are:

  1. Judy Clibborn-D, 41st-Mercer Island (where they will never see a charter school)-judy.clibborn@leg.wa.gov

  2. Christopher Hurst-D, 31st-Enumclaw- christopher.hurst@leg.wa.gov

  3. Ruth Kagi-D, 32nd-Seattle/Shoreline- ruth.kagi@leg.wa.gov

  4. Kristine Lytton-D, 40th-Anacortes- kristine.lytton@leg.wa.gov

  5. Jeff Morris-D, 40th-San Juan Islands- jeff.morris@leg.wa.gov

  6. Eric Pettigrew-D, 37th-Seattle- eric.pettigrew@leg.wa.gov

  7. David Sawyer-D, 29th-Lakewood- david.sawyer@leg.wa.gov

  8. Tana Senn-D, 41st-Mercer Island- tana.senn@leg.wa.gov

  9. Larry Springer-D, 45th-Redmond- larry.springer@leg.wa.gov

  10. Pat Sullivan-D, 47th-Kent, Covington, Auburn- pat.sullivan@leg.wa.gov

Now the bill is headed to Governor Inslee’s desk for signing.

There are four actions to take.

First, contact Governor Inslee and demand that he veto the bill.

His phone number is 360-902-4111 and you can send him an email message at fortress.wa.gov/es/governor.

To follow is a letter Seattle School Board Director Sue Peters wrote to Governor Inslee:

Dear Governor Inslee,

I urge you to veto ESSSB 6194 for the reasons I outlined below to our state legislators.

This is no way for our state legislators to govern.

It is a last-minute, non-transparent, recklessly unconstitutional attempt to manipulate funding to benefit a few students (less than 1,000) while ignoring their paramount duty to fully fund all 1 million of our state’s K-12 public students.

These legislators are not only in contempt of the Supreme Court, they are violating the Constitution in terms of both McCleary and charter schools.

You should not be a party to such irresponsible and political maneuvers, and instead demand that our legislators act responsibly and deliver a budget that includes good faith efforts to fulfill the mandates of McCleary and our state Constitution.

Thank you for your consideration and service.

Sincerely,

Sue Peters

Seattle Public Schools parent

Public education advocate

Founding Member of Parents Across America

Vice President, Seattle School Board

And the letter to the State Legislators from School Board Director Sue Peters:

Subject: VOTE NO on 6194 and other charter “fixes” — Support our 1 million students and the Constitution

Dear Legislators,

I ask that you not approve the last-minute version of bill 6194 (or any of the other charter school “fixes” that have been ­­­introduced this session such as SB 6163, HB 2347) for the following reasons:

http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Amendments/House/6194-S2.E%20AMH%20SPRI%20H4714.2.pdf

  • All of the charter-focused bills put forth in the current session remain unconstitutional and represent an effort to focus on a few (less than 1000 students) rather than the needs of the many (1 million public education students statewide). I ask that you remain focused on all of our students and fund all of our schools.
  • These bills would amount to a further violation of the state constitution from a state governing body that is already in contempt of court, and would incite a further legal challenge.
  • None of these bills or variations thereof provide for actual and constitutionally required local, elected oversight of charter schools.
  • Instead, by stipulating that charter schools are “governed by a charter school board,”these bills interpose a governing body that is not accountable to voters and families.
  • Even if school district boards become charter school authorizers, they inherit all the administrative responsibilities associated with charter schools, but little to no governing authority in terms of implementing policy, curriculum, operations, etc.
  • Instead, these bills primarily mandate extra bureaucracy for already overextended school districts.
  • Furthermore, by granting charter schools the privileged and unique right to be exempt from district and state policy and law, these bills effectively negate the oversight of the local district school board: “charter schools are not subject to and are exempt from, all other state statutes and rules applicable to school districts and school district boards of directors”
  • These bills also maintain an added layer of bureaucracy in the form of a charter school board (“the charter school board maintains oversight authority over the charter school.”)
  • These bills also establish special treatment for charter schools, setting the stage for two castes of schools – charter schools with “flexibility,” and all other schools.  “For the purpose of allowing flexibility to innovate in areas such as scheduling, personnel, funding, and educational programs to improve student outcomes and academic achievement, charter schools are not subject to, and are exempt from, all other state statutes and rules applicable to school districts and school district boards of directors…” 

Please also note, there is no evidence that charter schools in Washington are faring better than existing public schools. All “data” that has been produced so far is self-reported, unverified, and premature (many have only been open for a few months, and the very first one, First Place, was mired in financial and management problems and closed as a charter).

Specifically, a recent press release from the Washington Charter Commission that claimed “Washington’s Public Charter Schools on Path to Successful First Year Despite Threat of Closure Following State Supreme Court Ruling”  contains “data” that the Charter Commission admits is unverified, therefore it should be treated with the attendant skepticism. These claims are self-reported by the schools, with no evidence provided. This lack of transparency or public accountability only underscores the problematic nature of charter schools and the critical need for true public oversight of all schools that receive public funding. (http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=36a2a1b17ba3ff174c005c978&id=d43a512a30)

In contrast, there is evidence that charter schools negatively impacted existing public schools by drawing away students and funds from existing schools. At least 60 students left Seattle Public Schools for charters this past fall, which contributed to an enrollment deficit that resulted in detrimental cutbacks to schools after the year had begun. As a result, classes lost teachers, children were negatively impacted.

Above all, if you support “flexibility” for “innovation” that is touted by charter school proponents and afforded to charter schools by bills such as these, I ask that you permit such flexibility for all of our students in all of our schools. Many of the mandates that shackle our school districts come from you, the state legislature: Excessive and experimental assessments and standardization, like the Common Core State Standards and the time-consuming, unproven and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessments, unfunded but costly mandates like onerous graduation requirements, even the 24 credit and 1080 hour mandates from the state will be burdens that our state’s underfunded school districts will be challenged to meet. The state law underpays school board directors (who have earned the same $50 per diem since 1987), and burdens school districts further by failing to fully fund our schools,  therefore causing difficult choices to be made.

Approval of these bills would be reckless and would incite further legal challenges – at a time when the state legislature is already in contempt of court. It would be grossly irresponsible to engage in further invalid actions.

I urge you to vote No on these bills.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Sue Peters

Parent, public education advocate, Founding Member of Parents Across America, Vice President, Seattle School Board

p.s. Please note the charter school resolution passed by the Seattle School Board last week: https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/15-16agendas/03022016agenda/20160302_Action_Report_Resolution201516-13_Charter_PACKET.pdf

https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/15-16agendas/03022016agenda/20160302_Action_Report_Amendment_Geary_Charter.pdf

Two, start a recall petition for the Democrats who voted for the charter school bill.

With that charter school vote, our elected representatives defied their constituents and the Party Platform.

Three, contact WEA, LWV and others about taking this bill, if it becomes law, back to the courts.

It’s time for our legislators to know we are serious about adequately funding PUBLIC education, not private and/or corporate owned charter schools.

Four, find good candidates to run against those who are now in office and voted for this bill.

Dora Taylor

Related post:

Does the Education Platform of the Washington State Democrats Mean Anything to Our Legislators?

Emails reveal OSPI in contempt of Supreme Court ruling on charter schools in Washington State

illegal-operation-red-grungy-stamp-on-white-background

The Washington State Supreme Court ruled last fall that charter schools are unconstitutional in the state due to a lack of public oversight but that wasn’t going to stop someone like Bill Gates, a private citizen and billionaire, from getting his way.

As described in a recent post titled Emails reveal the “Gates Machine” in action after the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision that charter schools are unconstitutional, I showed the timeline of emails that involved the Gates Foundation, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) headed by Randy Dorn, the Washington State Charter School Association (WA charters) and the Mary Walker School District (MWSD) in getting public money funneled through the MWSD,  a 500-student school district in eastern Washington, to the charter schools scattered around the state to keep them open. WA charters stated last year that they received $14M to keep the charter schools open but apparently that was just a ruse. The plan was to keep the charter schools open with tax payer dollars even though the Supreme Court ruled they were unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

A second set of emails has emerged showing OSPI’s involvement in this scheme to keep the charter schools open in defiance of the ruling.

Do remember that OSPI has received millions directly from the Gates Foundation which at the time I thought was to grease the wheels for the Common Core Standards to be instituted in our state by State Superintendent Randy Dorn, I did not foresee that Dorn would be accommodating charter schools to stay open using tax payer dollars within a month of the Supreme Court ruling.

To follow is a timeline of correspondence that took place between WA charters, OSPI, MWSD and the Gates Foundation during November and December of last year when Gates and WA charters were scrambling to keep charter schools open through December.

10/21/2015: “Meeting notes and next steps” sent to MWSD and OSPI by WA charters.

11/18/2015 and 11/19/2015: Emails show the Gates Foundation put together yet another grant draft for MWSD to receive money, this time from the National Association of Charter Schools Authorizers. Think about it. The Gates Foundation wrote a grant proposal for the MWSD to submit to another organization. This is not how it works beyond the walls of the Gates Foundation.

Per a previous post on this subject, MWSD is to receive $2.1M from Gates in one grant and $250,000 from another grant from Gates.

11/20/2015: Email from WA charters to MWSD:”OSPI is motivated to get moving on planning though the open ALE items, particularly apportionment.”

(ALE stands for Alternative Learning Experience which is a public school program offered to students as an alternative to the traditional public schools. The difference is the ALE schools in Seattle are under the purview of the Seattle Public School board, not a charter operator and a district in a far-flung remote area of the state.)

11/20/2015: Email from WA charters to MWSD: A reminder for MWSD to reach out “to local districts about brick and mortar ALE’s opening within their boundaries (though OSPI said today explicit approval isn’t needed, they’d just appreciate the effort).”

11/20/2015: Email from OSPI to MWSD: “We are doing our best to answer all of your questions we are getting. Right now it looks like you should be prepared to bring the kids in as of December 1st and count them in December. Talk to you on Monday.”

11/23/2015: Email from MWSD to OSPI: Detailed questions from MWSD to OSPI including “How does OSPI see the transition occurring?”

11/23/2015: Email from MWSD to OSPI: “Will the “Host” districts (Seattle, Tacoma, etc.) release their Charter School students to become ALE students with Mary Walker? We believe so. OSPI will be encouraging them.”

11/24/2015: Email from WA charters to MWSD with attached agenda for a conference call between OSPI, WA charters, the Washington State Charter School Commission (which by this time should have been defunct) and MWSD.

(Part of the agenda was a list of detailed questions for OSPI about various subjects such as transportation reimbursement to charter schools, “How will charter operators current assets be transitioned?”, “How would apportionment payment flow from MW to the Providers?”, “Would OSPI be able to engage in emergency rulemaking for WAC 392-1347-145 or -135 to include charter scenario as a reason to transfer SHALL be granted?”.)

12/15/2015: From Gates Foundation to MWSD: The Execution copy of the Gates grant to $2.1M.

(Merry Christmas)

Post Script:

There are more emails and documents that have been received and they will be posted as I and others go through them.

Articles relating to this post:

An Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending

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

Have you received a robo-call from Ready Washington about the wonders of Common Core Standards and the SBAC? If so, this is why

Emails reveal the “Gates Machine” in action after the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision that charter schools are unconstitutional

Dora Taylor