Tracking for the Rest of Us


Wages and benefits are a function of supply and demand. If there are too few of a particular worker to meet employer demand, wages and benefits go up. If there’s too many workers, employers can cut compensation, knowing that among the surplus of workers there will be a few desperate enough to work for less.

What happens to wages and unions when workers are atomized and organized by employers?

Tracking has always been a part of the American experience.

As a nation, we justify this cognitive conflict between freedom and oppression with a myth; merit rations our resources and those most deserving are rewarded for their hard work.

As it happens in a country born out of genocide and racism, the merit myth – or our inherited cultural algorithm – usually decides those most deserving are also white.

This isn’t news to people of color, but with the dawn of big data and the surveillance state, white people – like myself, are discovering there’s a downside to tracking.

Tracking for the Rest of Us

One such teachable moment is playing out in a high school in Florida where students are required to wear wrist bands. These ID bands are proof that a student is “on” or “off” track and determines if they are deserving of various privileges.

on track student

Workforce Development Pipeline

Another teachable moment is slowly unfolding in Washington State, where workforce training known as the Swiss Model is being pushed by Governor Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal.

Reykdal - Wa Schools Largest Workforce Development

The implementation of the Swiss Model is further along in Colorado. In the document Swiss Apprentice Model: An Employer Driven System of Education & Training – a title which is telling enough – one slide gushes about the many ways employers receive a return on their investment.

Colorado ROI on Swiss Model

Supply and Demand

Besides directly benefiting employers by lowering their training and recruiting costs, there’s another deeply disturbing feature embedded in this neoliberal model; employers get to decide through their industry associations how many of what kind of worker will be produced by this system.

Why is this so important?

Wages and benefits are a function of supply and demand. If there are too few of a particular worker to meet employer demand, wages and benefits go up. If there’s too many workers, employers can cut compensation, knowing that among the surplus of workers there will be a few desperate enough to work for less.

So Many Questions

What happens to wages and unions when workers are atomized and organized by employers?

How does rearranging our education system to supply just-in-time employees improve the quality of life for all of our citizens?

Or is this just another in a long line of market miracles sold to the public that ultimately ends up benefiting the corporate bottom line? 

Human Capital

Technologists love the word innovation, usually in combination with: disruptive, 21st century, and now permissionless.

Some of Silicon Valley’s vanguardistas are fond of a phrase “permissionless innovation”, a propaganda expression which implies that somehow progress won’t take place if it respects human boundaries. For obvious reasons, the phrase is coming back to haunt them.

In my opinion, the Swiss model reeks of “permissionless innovation”.

Treating children as an extractive resource – to be fed into our economic system in an attempt to keep this faltering system running – is well beyond my personal human boundary.

People are often puzzled why Tom Vander Ark, self proclaimed edu-innovator, doesn’t have a degree in education. Instead, he has a B.S. in Mineral Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and a MBA in Energy Finance from the University of Denver.

I think I’m beginning to understand this paradox.

-Carolyn Leith



State Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s Interview with Inside Olympia

Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 9.16.34 PM

Editor’s Note: This is an important interview which slipped under the radar of many parents and educators.

In it, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal talks about McCleary and education funding, Plus, Reykdal explains parts of his plan to redesign K-12 education and the importance of technology to his vision.  

Please take the time to read the transcript and share your thoughts in the comment section. I think there’s a lot to talk about.  

The interview can be seen here. Below is a transcript of the interview. 

-Carolyn Leith

Well a couple things. On the political front I would say, look at our levy passage rate around the state, folks in our state love their schools, they trust their local schools, which is why as much of this has to be in local controls hands as possible. The the further you get from people on the ground the more skeptical they get. So they’ll tolerate a package in Olympia that supports schools but gives their districts the ability to have some flexibility. The further up you go the less they’re gonna trust that for one. The other thing is we’re doing things very differently in this state. I I mean I wish we could spend an hour on your show going through twenty years of education reform to talk about what we’re doing: more math, more science, more English language arts, more rigor in the curriculum, more expectation of teachers, a better evaluation system, a school rating system, our achievement index. All of that by the way is getting reimagined right now because we owe a consolidated accountability report if you will to the federal government by September. And we’re writing that plan now. You’re gonna see variables in that achievement index where we, where we look at schools way beyond test scores, which we oversimplified. You’re gonna see things like chronic absenteeism and whether or not they’re at this critical benchmark, 9th grade success…and whether they’re getting dual credit for courses in the 11th and 12th grade. We are doing things very differently in public schools. I would argue a little humorously, most of the cynics of reform have not stepped in a classroom. If you go into a classroom today and see what’s happening, from a, from a third grade teacher, all the way to a high school science teacher, you would see a very different experience than when you went to school.

-Chris Reykdal

Inside Olympia, April 27th 2017

Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal with Austin Jenkins.

Jenkins:  As you complete your first 100 days, a former state lawmaker yourself, what are your, there’s a little bit of déjà vu no doubt going on, but what is your thought, as we begin this special session, and legislators find themselves kind of right back where they were two years ago, in a budget standoff.

Reykdal: Well I don’t think it’s surprising, given the magnitude of what they’re dealing with. The good news is, the court I think is still abundantly clear in their original order, that this is about making sure that the state fully funds basic education. The court did not say it has to be a levy reduction, that process, although I think there’s lots of reason why I think people want to implicate local school levies. They didn’t say there had to be some massively different structure in collective bargaining, even though that’s a political interest of some in the conversation. So, I’m not surprised that this fairly straightforward requirement meets politics. That’s just the nature of this place. Our house and senate are not just dealing with education funding. There are those preserving the social safety net, there are those who want a tax conversation, or a tax reform conversation, or tax reduction conversation. So in the context of all that, probably the biggest education session in our history, I’m not surprised it’s taken more than 105 days. But we, we certainly want to keep supporting them as they as they get to that inevitable place where they have to give up things in order to get compromise. And that is, that is a tough word in America right now, but it’s necessary here.

Jenkins: How concerned are you that whatever compromise they come to, ultimately will, will fall short of the court mandate, and creating a constitutional system.

Reykdal: Well based on the size of the proposals that have been put forward on both sides, and again, you know in your intro you point out that they take a pretty different approach on how to pay for it, but the size and the magnitude of those investments for the state’s contribution, again, not considering local levy opportunity, they’re relatively similar. You’re talking about adding a couple billion dollars. That’s gonna be remarkable progress that the court can see is evidence of completing the task by next year.  It may not be down to every penny, but I believe there will be such inertia in the final deal that you will, you will sit here and say that’s, that along with some economic growth and a few changes next year, will get us there. Part of that is do they lump all the money in the second year of the biennium so that (byways?) into something significant and fully funds McCleary, or do they kind of spread that out over two years and have quite a task next biennium. That’s, those small decisions seem kind of technical, but they matter a lot.

Jenkins: Yeah, your predecessor Randy Dorn often used a number, a dollar amount, that he was looking for that he considered full funding. And he was always on the high side, I mean, above the governor, above just about anybody else, rolling in a lot of things. But when you ask the, the lead plaintiff’s lawyer on the McCleary case, whether either the house plan or the senate plan are sufficient, he’s skeptical. Is there a number that you’re using, and a number that your office has identified as the right target number for increased funding at least over the next two years?

Reykdal: Yeah, but I’m gonna be clear that there’s the absolute minimum in order to meet a court interest, which I think is sort of the least common denominator in this debate. Just satisfying the court is not our real purpose. But that number to me and based on what we have to do to ensure that compensation is covered by the state…

Jenkins: Maybe I should stop you there and maybe just explain that the key thing left to do, that the court has identified is for the state to take over, paying the full freight, for teacher and staff and administrator salaries, and benefits, some of which right now are being handled by local levies.

Reykdal: Right, and I think, our analysis of that number and we’ve refreshed those numbers in the last week, we think that a minimum, that’s a billion and a half dollars a year, so three billion a biennium, just to comply with the technical direction of the court, which is to pick up basic ed costs with the state. I think the reason the number gets higher for folks, and it ought to, is that’s gonna be the technical definition, but won’t fundamentally change our level of investment for special education. So you might technically argue that that number covers basic ed, but we know we’re underfunding special education. We know we don’t have career and tech ed programs funded to where they need to be. You have a dropout rate that persistently hangs at 20 percent. That doesn’t change the intervention strategies per se. So if, if we’re here to fund an education system and get better, and help students and close gaps, and help our business community, that number begins to get to 2 ½ or 3 billion dollars a year, and the metric that I use to just say well, what would be an objective thing that democrats and republicans can’t really argue with, and that is the level of investment of our economy that we put back into our public schools. And the rest of the country it’s 3.6 percent of the economy, in our state it’s about 2.9 or 3 percent. It seems small, but if you moved another ½ percent of GPD in our state into education, you’d be looking at about 3 billion dollars a year, six billion a biennium, twice as much as the technical number, to meet the court interest. And I think they ought to be shooting for that over the next couple biennium.

Jenkins: So, I know, asking you again to put your former lawmaker hat on, what would you do if you were in the legislature? How would you fund, at that level you’re talking about, which to your way of thinking is the optimal and right level?

Reykdal: Well I do think the answer sort of sits in front of them. I think between the house and senate they have the right combination. There’s no scenario where you don’t utilize some property tax in there, because, and I and I say this with a little bit of crystal balling, you have to at some point adopt something in a bi-partisan way that, that then potentially the voters say, well we want our say through referendum. The one tax in the state constitutionally dedicated public schools that you can make an absolutely crystal clear statement to the voters, we’ve raised this tax and it will be spent on it, is the state property tax.

Jenkins: And point in fact, the republican plan does create a new state property tax levy for this purpose.

Reykdal: It does indeed and so I think that’s part of the solution. But unfortunately, on balance it’s a significant tax shift and so to my earlier comments, if you’re here to do multiple things, not just fund schools, but tax fairness and all the rest of the the ambition, you can’t just lower taxes in some communities and raise them in others and say we’re good to go. So I think the house democrats have big concepts that should win out in the end. We should be collecting all of our sales tax in this state, tax fairness, and if somebody is being exempted for reasons we can’t quite justify anymore, internet sales, people in Oregon and Idaho purchasing, we ought to be doing that as well. So I think there’s a compromise here that really works.

Jenkins: And that is one of the proposals on the table that house democrats have come up with, a pretty significant tax package, including a new capital gains tax, changes to the B and O tax, but there is also talk of, I think they call it the Marketplace Fairness Act, which was thought to have, to be something that the feds would do, or congress would do, to capture internet sales. But now there’s some thought that the state could do it. So, one of the criticisms of the senate republican plan is that while they create this new property tax levy, they eliminate local levies. And then a question, the question becomes how much, what’s the net new dollars to my system, or is it just a a shift? How concerned are you about the elimination of the local levies?

Reykdal: Yeah, I’m I’m actually very concerned about that. Because again, you can meet the technical interest of the court and not add much new resource, and then we’re not actually changing results for kids and we’re not being more effective in public education. So, the court never said you had to lower local levies. That is a political desire, if you raise state property tax to fully fund, it’s a political interest to then say, and we’re gonna offer you tax relief over here, completely understandable. Again, I think there can be some of that. We probably don’t need 24 and 28% levies if you’re gonna add a billion and a half or two billion dollars to the state side. But I think 10% is too low, and that was their number. I would suspect in the end they might get awfully close in satisfying the court and leave the debate open to the final days and weeks of some special session on how much local levy they’re gonna allow. I would leave that number quite high actually. I don’t think it’s appropriate to ever tell a local community that you cannot, through a vote of the people, support your kids more. I think that’s a strange and artificial Olympia constraint that we ought not put on local communities.

Jenkins: Of course you occupy a non-partisan office today. You were, you are a former democratic state lawmaker. What do you say to your, to to democrats about the idea…’cause you mention this this notion that whatever they pass might be subject to a referendum. Either, I mean the senate republican plan actually calls for a a referendum clause, and voter approval on this property tax approach. It’s possible that voters who don’t like what they see could also force a referendum, on whatever comes out of this this legislature. What, what’s your message to democrats with respect to this idea, like a new tax, something like the capital gains tax which has been criticized as volatile, not necessarily reliable, perhaps doesn’t meet the test that the Supreme Court has set, which is amply fund, with a reliable source of funds?

Reykdal: Well it certainly can be volatile. I think they’ve got a notion that helps it out a lot. They only presume a certain percentage of that in the base, and then there’s some, some dedication of that volatility over time. That’s exactly the kind of resource though that if this state’s really serious about tax fairness, and and not sort of the President’s one pager he put out yesterday, but real substantive change in Washington, you gotta start walking down that path given that virtually all other states have something like that, it makes sense. It will be hard. It’s part of that compromise process. And I don’t worry about the voters rejecting something if it’s gone through really rigorous debate. In particularly if you get a bipartisan deal in the end. And there’s democrats and republicans and labor and business supporting the final package. That will carry the day. They will, they will make clear through their channels, the importance of this in the larger scheme of Washington’s tax code, not just supporting schools. So I, my advice to both sides is be courageous and be bold and stay at the table, and take risk, and listen to each other, and get a deal that you can both support, so that universally, you know, from the Idaho border to the Pacific Ocean, we can tell voters, this is really good for kids.

Jenkins: Let me ask you about the skepticism I sometimes hear among members of the public. And it just happened last week. I was talking with somebody who was here in Olympia, lives up in Seattle. And, and just made an off-hand comment about, oh, they’re gonna put a bunch more money into education and we’re not gonna get, essentially we’re not gonna get much for that, for those dollars. It’s this notion that we pay for inputs but not outputs. You were starting to get to this a little bit in terms of what you think the system needs to elevate all students. But but stepping back from that even. There is a skepticism out there among some people that we are investing in a system that produces results. How do you respond to that?

Reykdal: Well a couple things. On the political front I would say, look at our levy passage rate around the state, folks in our state love their schools, they trust their local schools, which is why as much of this has to be in local controls hands as possible. The the further you get from people on the ground the more skeptical they get. So they’ll tolerate a package in Olympia that supports schools but gives their districts the ability to have some flexibility. The further up you go the less they’re gonna trust that for one. The other thing is we’re doing things very differently in this state. I I mean I wish we could spend an hour on your show going through twenty years of education reform to talk about what we’re doing: more math, more science, more English language arts, more rigor in the curriculum, more expectation of teachers, a better evaluation system, a school rating system, our achievement index. All of that by the way is getting reimagined right now because we owe a consolidated accountability report if you will to the federal government by September. And we’re writing that plan now. You’re gonna see variables in that achievement index where we, where we look at schools way beyond test scores, which we oversimplified. You’re gonna see things like chronic absenteeism and whether or not they’re at this critical benchmark, 9th grade success…and whether they’re getting dual credit for courses in the 11th and 12th grade. We are doing things very differently in public schools. I would argue a little humorously, most of the cynics of reform have not stepped in a classroom. If you go into a classroom today and see what’s happening, from a, from a third grade teacher, all the way to a high school science teacher, you would see a very different experience than when you went to school.

Jenkins: But it sounds like one of the areas that you are very concerned about is that you don’t think the supports are sufficient.

Reykdal: That’s exactly right. We’re we’re running the numbers now again and and the good news stories, our students are taking more core credits than they ever have, and why wouldn’t they? The new high school diploma requires that. Even our high school drop-outs are taking more math, science, and English language arts. The system is responding as policy makers have wanted, and we still have a 20 percent or so drop-out rate, and now we’re learning that two-thirds of those drop-outs are in the senior year. We keep them longer than we ever have, they take more of the classes that folks have asked them to take, and we still lose them in their senior year. That’s not because they’re cognitively struggling per se. They get to this place where they say, I’m not sure the relevancy of this. Or I gotta get to work because my family cannot afford to not have me doing that. There are wraparound services for kids that are the difference in their lives. Which is why I’m so sympathetic to the house democrats who say, yes this is hard work, but it shouldn’t just be revenue neutral, and it shouldn’t be cut everything else in state government just to fund K-12. It’s a move all of this together to support students.

Jenkins:  Well, let me ask you about that though because it, you’ve led to the next question that was in my mind. And I know the resistance, especially among many state lawmakers, to writing a state budget in comparisons to a home budget. But everybody gets the idea that every month, if you own a house, the first and foremost thing you have to do is pay your mortgage. And then after that, you kind of go from there, right? And if you have kids, sort of at that bottom of that list is there anything leftover for some summer camp, or for some, you know, music lessons, or for some extras, right? But you’ve gotta carry, you’ve gotta deal with the fundamentals first. The the state constitution, and the McCleary decision, in no uncertain terms say, the state’s paramount duty is to fund, amply fund basic education. Why can’t the approach be as, for budgeting, to do that first? And then, have a conversation about what else state government should do, and how we’re gonna pay for that, and perhaps ask tax payers what they’re willing to pony up in addition. It seems like that’s a logical approach and conversation, and yet when you ask that question, especially of democrats, no no no no no, we can’t do it that way. Why not?

Reykdal: Mmmmhm. Well actually I’d argue that the first obligation’s debt (laughing). There’s big consequences if you don’t pay debt service in this state…

Jenkins: Which I guess is sort of like paying your mortgage…

Reykdal: Right. Like paying your mortgage.  And then what do you do, you feed your family,right?

Jenkins: Right.

Reykdal: You do those basic essentials at home. So there is some appropriate comparison here. And education is the paramount duty. I mean, you’re not gonna get an argument here from me as state school superintendent. But it’s just naïve to believe that that the future of our state is to continue to grow that bucket at the expense of everything else, when we’re reaching record economic growth in our state.

Jenkins: But if, but if, as a former democratic office holder, again, now residing in a non-partisan role, when you think about talking to voters, why do democrats not wanna, or why are democrats so resistant to talking to voters about raising taxes for non-education items? Which actually if you think about it, at the local level, is usually the conversation. Were gonna pay for police and fire. If you want mental health, if you want to help the homeless, we’re gonna ask you to pay a little bit more. If you want mass transit…

Reykdal: Yeah.

Jenkins: …we’re gonna ask…right? But at the state level, if we’re gonna raise taxes, it’s always to pay for education.

Reykdal: I won’t speak for all democrats who want to raise taxes for some reason, nor will I speak for all republicans who wanna cut taxes in the middle of economic boom. I will say that there are communities all around the state who go directly to their voters and say, help us raise resources for homelessness or food programs, or supports, and the voters willingly do that. I would say it’s more an argument about the era of media, and maybe, and maybe this is a little bit on on you all, about the level of mistrust that accumulates in a voter, the further that decision gets away from them. They’ll support this stuff at the local level, they get more cynical in Olympia, and they’re absolutely cynical about the feds being able to solve problems. So you know, that’s, that’s for the politics of today to figure out, and and maybe there’s an appetite for it in a different way in the future. It’s also part of positioning. And that’s what democrats and republicans do, they they represent their base, and they come with their best argument. And right now this is I suppose where we are.

Jenkins: Let’s hit a few more issues here. One thing that the senate republicans do in their plan is they propose to move away with, from what’s been called the prototypical school model, where you fund the prototypical school. We won’t get into details about how you define that. They want to move to a per student funded model. I think ala Massachusetts. You get a base amount per student, and then students who have extra needs, special needs, homeless, would get additional dollars, based on those needs. Again, it seems like something that people can get. If you, if you tell the average member of the public, prototypical school model, or your kid gets this amount of money plus extras for their extra needs. Which one do they understand best? That one. Yet I’ve heard a lot of resistance to it. What, what are your thoughts on the, on the best approach?

Reykdal: Yeah, sometimes the simple message is the right one for politics, but probably not the right one for good policy. It is simple to say, hey every kid gets the same amount of money. The truth is it’s not even close to the Massachusetts model. In Massachusetts they start with the ability of the locals to raise money, so in Boston, in some of the urban areas with high values, the entire budget’s born by local voters. And then in the rest of the communities, the state’s picking that up, which is also a tax on those local or urban voters. And so the challenge in Massachusetts and this idea that, oh we love how simple it is because everyone knows their dollar amount, is is actually born back in that tax conversation. It’s because urban livers in Massachusetts are massively subsidizing folks in rural communities out there. And that might be the approach that some folks want. I mean the senate gets closer to that concept. I don’t think that’s the Washington way. I think our court has a very different expectation, our constitution does as well. It says it’s the state’s responsibility to amply and fully fund our paramount duty which is public education. So right or wrong we we have to work on solutions that the state picks up. And in that regard, the protypical school model kinda works. If you think about it. It does tell you how much money you’re getting in your school. And we are able to translate that down to per student. Now I think where the senate has a really important angle they’ve taken here is there’s so much conversation around English Language Learners, or special education students, or career and tech ed, or homeless youth, these things that we want to do, that are very targeted, where we wanna see a result and better accountability for the money. Having that be a factor, some percentage of basic ed, is not common sense. Telling students, if you are in this camp, your school’s gonna get an extra 500 dollars or thousand, or five thousand. People do, do understand that for that targeted reason, and I think that’s the compromise that’s coming.

Jenkins: Okay. We do have a teacher shortage in this state, and the governor just signed a bill aimed at addressing that. And it it deals with creating new, alternate pathways for someone to become certified to teach. As I understand it a board will actually be working on what those paths should be. But what optimism or confidence do you have that this, this new law will allow the state to start to address this shortage.

Reykdal: It’s part of the solution. And there’s no question we want really talented folks to come to the classroom. I I stand with lots of people on both sides of the aisle, that you still have to have a lot of rigor in that process and really competent folks, and the ability to evaluate them out if it doesn’t work out. Just because you’re a great software engineer, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna come to public school and be a great math teacher. Those are different skill sets so… But opening up the pipeline, and considering this, particularly people who are already working in schools, they’re support staff, they’re paraeducators, I think they demonstrate the passion and the want, and they see excellent teaching and so it’s a good pathway. The truth is, the market is broken. And if it were a private sector business, back to the private analogy, and you couldn’t keep employees, you’d say, I have a market problem, and the first place you’d look is compensation. So getting the state to solve McCleary and pick up the bill, is a big step, but if it’s just neutral, it doesn’t change that market reality for the teachers. So we have to go beyond that. Starting pay has to go up a lot, and we have to continue to create financial incentives for educators, particularly with the booming economy of the Puget Sound. Yes people leave high school today, it is not top of mind the way it was twenty years ago to become a teacher. And we have to change that through market.

Jenkins: So, that gets back to this house and senate plan. Both of which, which would raise pay, but they approach pay for more experienced teachers very differently. I think senate republicans have said they don’t feel like the salary schedule is broken. They say that they haven’t seen evidence that overall we’re not paying enough. What are you looking for in a final plan in terms of compensation and and, a a salary structure and model?

Reykdal: I’m looking for them to first and foremost define basic ed compensation. They have a definition of basic ed for lots of other things the court was able to point to. This was an area where the court looked and said, we’re not sure what basic ed compensation means. Which is why they essentially said every dime being paid by local levies must be basic ed. I don’t necessarily believe that’s true. So they need to define basic ed very clearly. They need to amply fund it. Which means have the entire cost of basic ed compensation born by the state. And then they need to recognize though hat there are reasons for local communities to want to pay more, or add more. And the analogy I always use is that the formulas are driving five kindergarten teachers in your community, but your voters and your school board want to lower class size even further, we should absolutely allow you to raise local levies to hire a sixth kindergarten teacher.  Is that kindergarten teacher basic ed? Probably not. Because the formula’s told us what basic ed was. But we shouldn’t get in the way of local communities. And I believe this is what’s coming. Is the definition of basic ed compensation that’s much clearer for the court, I believe they will amply fund that, and in the end they’re gonna have a long political debate about how much resource to leave local communities, and I think they should leave them a lot of local levy authority. And make clear that if you’re gonna pay additional compensation, or you’re gonna hire additional staff with that money, that’s outside of basic ed.

Jenkins: But on the flip side, the court has also been very clear, that one thing that the that the legislature in the state needs to do, is to to pick up the cost of salaries and compensation, and to fund those salaries at a level that allows you to recruit and retain competent educators. So what does, what does that look like? Aside from what the local levies might be…

Reykdal: Yeah. I think it’s…

Jenkins: Do they need to blow up the salary schedule?

Reykdal: Well I don’t think they need to blow it up. In fact I think they need some salary schedule. Because local collective bargaining is a right of workers, and I support that. I think it’s gotta be simpler, lots of those schedules locally that are bargained, are driven by this complex 16 by 12 schedule or whatever it is at the state. I think the governor had the right idea here to really skinny that down, have four or five simple steps. The bottom line is, is you gotta have a higher starting salary, and from there you’ve gotta have slightly higher tiers to create that incentive for folks to come in. The other benefit of having higher salaries early in career, besides recruitment, is that it’s a significant benefit to Plan 3 retirees, those younger folks who come in and pick a market based retirement plan. They…

Jenkins: As opposed to a traditional pension?

Reykdal: Right, they want their resources early in their career for lifetime earnings. And so there’s a lot…

Jenkins: Well…

Reykdal: …a lot of wins here.

Jenkins: Is 45,000 dollars a year for a base starting salary, which I think both sides are proposing…

Reykdal: Yeah…

Jenkins: …sufficient?

Reykdal: I think they’re in the right ballpark, again for that state defined basic ed. And then you’ll have communities who say, that’s not quite enough for us, they should have the authority to go higher.

Jenkins: Except for those districts who could still be starting at 60, or 55, right?

Reykdal: Right.

Jenkins: With those add-ons. Okay. You had briefly touched on a moment ago, the chronically absent students, and how that can lead to lots of troubles, including dropouts. But a statistic that came out in April, that really surprised a lot of people, is that Washington was recently ranked 2nd worst in the nation for its number of chronically absent students. Washington State? How is this possible? How did that happen?

Reykdal: (laughs) Two things: A, we think there is a big problem and the research is really clear. So we’re building an achievement index, and an accountability data system that every voter, every person in the state can go look at their school district, and hopefully eventually their school, and drill in on those things that really matter. Kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading, and ninth grade failure, chronic absentee, we’re gonna give them the best thinking in education, so right down to their school they can see how they’re doing. Specifically to that issue, the one thing I would caution about is there is fifty different state definitions of what absent is, and even in our state there’s some big differences. So if, if in your school you’re ten minutes late, we say, hey, you’re absent from that class. In another school we go, ahh, our policy is fifteen minutes, you’re on time. We have a lot of definitional alignment to do in the next couple of years, and and we know there are states who say, if you’re on a school-sanctioned field trip, if you’re, if you’re at the Science Center on a school field trip, that’s not an absence. And in our state, we count that as an absence, for reporting. So, so I’d be careful of the ranking, but do not walk away from the importance of that data metric, and I think the legislature’s all over this. I think they’re gonna help us attack this problem. And you’re gonna see us keep putting resources into getting students there. And I know it sounds simple, but the old adage is, half the battle’s showin’ up.

Jenkins: Yeah. Well, so, in some places I think, you know a truancy officer will show up at your door. You come up with a slightly different approach. A call from one of your favorite Seahawks players. Let’s listen to, what some students who are missing school, are missing class, are hearing on their telephones. (plays audio clip)

    “Wake up, it’s Jermaine Kearse from the Seattle Seahawks. Get up and get to school. Don’t be left on   

     the sidelines. The future is all yours. All you have to do is show up. “


So this is a voicemail call that’s a robo-call, that you can send out. What’s the thinking here?

Reykdal: Well our schools, once again, have used technology in innovative ways to reach parents, almost real-time, when their student isn’t showing up. So that we don’t have that long gap. Remember when you were a kid and you didn’t show up, maybe your parents knew and maybe they didn’t? Maybe they got home at the end of the day and listened to a message. We have these real time systems now that are really powerful, that connect parents to school. And in this case, you know, we find somebody who’s got name recognition and and Jermaine’s really passionate about this. He’s a Washington kid, went to Lakes High School, Seahawk. And he’s helping us be one of many systems that say to kids, this is a big deal. They may not think it’s a big deal if it’s just the vice principal recording the message, but when a Seattle Seahawk calls you and says, you know, get to school, it matters, we think it has impact and we’re gonna keep doing more of that.

Jenkins: Okay, I know that, kind of, you are completing, like a lot of new elected office holders, your first hundred days. And you spent a lot of time on the campaign talking about career technical education, and a a need to give students avenues and pathways that may not entail a four-year degree. What have you been able to accomplish, in your first hundred days toward that goal.

Reykdal: Yeah, so one of the exciting things at OSPI is we we have new leadership in our CTE team and we’re actually merging that and our teaching and learning team, or learning and teaching team, depending on who you ask. Because we think CTE has this pathway of huge importance that needs to be elevated but it also has to be integrated well. We can’t see it as this separate thing, or this lesser thing. So we’re merging it with the team that’s really focused on high math standards and English standards and other standards. And so we think we’ve gotta get our house in order a little bit. We’re also partnering a course with the public and private sector on core plus and these other things where we are building certifications for students while they’re in high school that tells the employer community, and the higher ed community, this student is ready with a different set of skills than they’ve ever had and it’s industry and standards based. So that’s happening on the private sector side. And then in the legislature we’re continuing to say to them, you you you do have a test problem in this state. (laughs) We can have lots of debates on the weight of tests. It’s too much, quite frankly. We’re one of only a couple states with a comprehensive, high stakes exit exam. And the biggest problem isn’t that it drives students away in the end, which it does. Its biggest problem is that much earlier in their in their school career, they all believe that they are one-size-fits-all, and they must follow the same math pathway, the same ELA pathway, the same science pathway. And you’re losing students who’d say, I’d stay in school if you’d put me in a consruction trades program. I still wanna take math, but I want it applied to my job. That’s really not a viable pathway for kids. So we still have a legislative effort to get this straightened out.

Jenkins: Okay, and just in the last minute we have, what is the biggest surprise or lesson you have learned, as a candidate for office, you sort of had these visions of what it might be, but now that you’ve actually occupied the office for 100 days, what surprised you, or struck you.

Reykdal: Well what hasn’t, the good news is that I was in higher education for a long time in a state agency, so I understand a little bit of that culture. And then being a legislator, I get their world. So that’s been a really nice marriage to put to work right away. The surprise honestly is how receptive folks are to change that matters. They don’t just want you to spin the wheels because someone’s new in the seat. They want to see evidence, and and the employees at OSPI are so good at what they do, but they have high expectations that we connect this to better outcomes for kids. And that’s where the pressure is on me everyday, and I love that. They are really a remarkable group and I think we’re making big change fast.

Jenkins: Have you hit any barriers?

Reykdal: Well you do in a legislature, because you want the resources to flow. You want flexibility. And you wanna go up there with data and say this is the answer. But politics doesn’t always use empirical answers. Sometimes they use very political answers and so, it’s a barrier but it’s one I understand because maybe I was guilty of that myself at one point in time. So it’s, it’s okay though.

The F-word of Ed Reform — and its unholy alliance with right-wing union-busting

I came across this post that Sue wrote last year that I believe needs to see the light of day again as a reminder of just how far people will go who think that they know better than we do about how our children should be educated. And mind you, these folks are not educators and most, if not all, do not have children in public schools and yet they consider themselves the authorities on the subject of education. It’s amazing what money can buy.


There is a word for this kind of anti-democratic collaboration between business and government, but we haven’t used it much since the 1940s: fascism.” – Diane Ravitch


Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Union-busting has traditionally been considered the blood sport of right-wing corporatists. But Democrats, including the current president, have joined the fray.

There is no greater example of bipartisan union-busting and attacks on middle and working class citizens right now than what’s being done in the name of “education reform.”

President Barack Obama - Why should teachers vote for him in 2012?

All the celebrity names of corporate ed reform are collaborating in this pile-on:  Arne Duncan, Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush, Bill Gates and his foundation’s “ed reform” grantees. The Eli Broad-trained school superintendents are indoctrinated with this cut-throat corporation uber alles mindset. New Mayor Rahm Emanuel is squawking the same anti-labor dogma in Chicago (Emanuel backs crackdown on teachers, Chicago Sun-Times). And one of the key targets is teachers.

And yet, faithful Democrat activists blindly seem to think their own party has nothing to do with these efforts. I recently received this email from Bob Fertik,  at

Dear S.,

Are you outraged by the Republican class war against unions, teachers, and the entire middle class?

Yes, Bob, but I’m even more outraged by the Democrats’ complicity in it, including President Obama.

Though this may seem a Republican agenda, Democrats have done their bit to support these assaults on workers and middle class rights. For example, before new Republican Governor Snyder in Michigan recently signed into law a bill that gives the state treasurer the right to hand over unprecedented control of cities and school districts to “emergency financial managers,” the previous Democratic Governor, Jennifer Granholm, appointed a corporate Broad Foundation slash-and-privatizer Bob Bobb to financially manage and pillage  Detroit’s Public Schools.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Wrote Rick Ungar in Union Busting: Michigan Style, Forbes March 9, 2011: While the nation has been focused on the contretemps in Wisconsin, the Badger State’s neighboring Wolverines have taken a more novel approach in the effort to defang its public employee unions.

A bill that is expected to pass the Michigan Senate today will give the state’s treasurer the ability to appoint emergency financial managers with broad powers to take over the operation of cities and school boards facing a financial crisis.

Not only can an emergency manager wipe out collective bargaining agreements, he or she can literally push aside duly elected city officials and prevent them from doing the job they were elected to do.

Clearly, this raises some questions of constitutionality and state overreach.

Today we have a Democratic president whose education policies target unions and workers. After all it’s Obama’s ed reforms, spearheaded by his basketball buddy and former Chicago School District “CEO” Arne Duncan, powered by the endless wallets of billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad, that have taken aim at teachers, unions, seniority, job security, professionalism and teacher pay relentlessly these past few years. This assault has taken the form of promoting privately run, publicly funded charter schools, which are predominately non-union, handing out taxpayer favors of $50 million to enterprises like Teach for America, Inc., which sends fresh college grads with a scant five weeks’ training to do one of the most important jobs in our society, thus effectively deprofessionalizing the teaching profession. These “reformers” are pushing for “alternative certifications” of teachers,  no longer rewarding teachers with advanced degrees for their dedication and scholarship, and tethering teacher evaluations to standardized test scores, a discredited policy that stifles both teaching and learning.

Obama is a big cheerleader of charter schools (despite their checkered record)  and has tried to strong-arm states into allowing more of them through his “Race to the Top” bribery scheme (even though 83 percent of them perform no better than traditional public schools). Most charter schools specifically hire non-union teachers. In fact, many are staffed with short-term Teach for America novices instead. TFA, Inc. which sends young college grads with no background in education and no commitment to the field beyond a two year stint, is bankrolled by major corporations and the Obama government, using taxpayer money.

In the name of ed reform, teachers have been fired en masse for specious reasons (Michelle Rhee in D.C. was legally forced to rehire many of those she summarily defamed and dismissed), their collective bargaining rights threatened, a so-called newspaper of record, the L.A. Times has declared itself expert on evaluating the worth and skills of teachers and created a McCarthyite list of teacherstwice — publicly naming names of those it deems “ineffective” (possibly driving at least one beloved teacher to suicide). President Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, has endorsed the L.A. Times‘ vile, ethically bankrupt efforts.

Even here in Washington, stealthy attempts to allow “alternately credentialed” teachers, eliminating seniority or weakening collective bargaining rights have slipped into numerous “ed reform” bills  (for example, HB 1443 –since renamed HB 2111  or HB 1546) – supported, I am sorry to say, by the feckless or misleading PTA leadership (not the members themselves, who are largely unaware of what’s going on in Olympia in their name), and organizations with names like “League of Education Voters” which is truly only in league with the Gates Foundation which funds it, along with its privatizing agenda.

In the realm of public education policy right now, in practice, there is no distinction between the anti-union, anti-worker policies of the Republicans and the Democrats. And there is no separation of corporation and state. The Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation – pro-privatizers both – lard the Department of Education with their former employees or members, and have not only Obama’s ear, but are apparently writing and dictating his education policy. The so-called Broad Prize for Education is kept in the Department of Education in D.C.. These billionaire reformers are also pushing for standardized testing that will lead to standardized and online curricula, or — Gates’ latest brainwave — “educational” computer games aligned with the Gates-backed “Common Core Standards” (Gates to help schools adopt common core standards, April 27, 2011 ). Great, just what our kids need — computer games at school, as well as home, to transfix them. All ed reform roads lead to software, it would seem.

The corporate ed reformers’ agenda has little to do with what’s best for our children and everything to do with what’s best for the business of education. And that’s why unions, to these corporate-obsessed ed reformers, are considered an obstacle. Experienced teachers with rights cost more and are more likely to stick up for themselves and their students.

Which leads us to another uncomfortable word: plutocracy.  Who elected Eli Broad and Bill Gates to dictate our nation’s education policy? No one. Yet, right now, national education policy is being dictated by those with the most money.

These are troubling times we live in. There are eerie parallels to other  disturbing times in history not that long ago. To quote  education historian Diane Ravitch: “There is a word for this kind of anti-democratic collaboration between business and government, but we haven’t used it much since the 1940s: fascism.”

Here are more thoughts from Dr. Ravitch on this anti-worker, anti-teacher fervor that is inflaming this nation:

The fight in Wisconsin now is whether public sector unions should have any power to bargain at all. The fight is not restricted to Wisconsin; it is taking place in many other states, including New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, and elsewhere. The battle has already been lost in other states.

I have been wondering if advocates of corporate school reform, such as Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and Michelle Rhee will come to the aid of the teachers in Wisconsin. I have been wondering if President Obama and Secretary Duncan, who were quick to applaud the firing of teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island, will now step forward to support the teachers in Wisconsin. I have been wondering if Secretary Duncan, who only a few days earlier had led a much-publicized national conversation in Denver about the importance of collaboration between unions and management, will weigh in to support the teachers. I am ever hopeful, but will take care not to hold my breath. – “An Age of Hypocrisy.

A final thought: It’s difficult to imagine the teachers unions or teachers in general, once stalwart allies of Democrats (hence their targeting by Republicans, along with other non-conservative operations like Acorn and NPR) casting a single vote for Barack Obama in 2012.

President Obama cannot make the case that he has treated teachers much better than the Scott Walkers and Rick Snyders of the country. He and his minions have waged – or enabled and encouraged — a constant attack on teachers since he got into office. This will go down as one of the greatest disgraces of his presidency — that he carried water for this extreme right wing attack on some of the most important workers in this country: our teachers.

At this point, I believe Barack Obama can kiss the rank and file teachers’ vote goodbye. And that of many parents like myself who are appalled by his punitive and destructive education policies and his abrogation of  leadership to  billionaire barons  of real estate and software with zero expertise in education. Democrats need to wake up and demand true democracy from their leadership. Better yet, seek new leaders.

President Obama’s acrimony should instead be focused on those who are truly doing damage to our country and genuinely exacerbating the “achievement gap” (opportunity gap) that he and his reformers claim to care about – the Wall Street bankers and hedge funders whose schemes and greed have bankrupted our nation and the future of our children, 21 percent of whom already live in poverty.

But, of course, how likely is it he’ll do that, when he’s made many of these same people part of his administration.

–Sue p.

And in Utah, they are simply bypassing negotiations with the teachers’ union altogether.

That just makes things so much easier for the ed reformistas.

From the Utah News, Utah Teachers Worry About Precedent Set by Ogden District:

Some Utah teachers worry that the Ogden School District is setting a precedent for other districts by skipping negotiations with its teachers union and phasing out pay based on experience.

At least one influential lawmaker says he hopes it will lead to similar reforms statewide.

The district sent notices to teachers last weekend, telling them that it is not negotiating with the Ogden Education Association for a collective 2011-12 contract. Teachers are asked to sign and return an individual contract by July 20 or their jobs will be advertised as open for hire. The district also announced that over the next six years it aims to replace “steps,” the profession-wide standard of giving raises based on years of experience, with merit-based pay.

Ogden teachers feel that their voices aren’t being heard, and, though their union is not opposed to the idea of merit pay, they are wary of agreeing to a system that has not yet been designed. Sen. Howard Stephenson, chairman of the Education Interim Committee, however, applauded the changes Thursday, saying they could help bolster the case for paying teachers statewide based on factors such as how much they improve student performance.

The Ogden Education Association is planning a rally July 14 at Ogden’s Liberty Park on the matter, and the Utah Education Association (UEA) is inviting other local associations and the public to attend, said Mike Kelley, UEA spokesman. The leaders of several local associations said Thursday they and their members plan to be there to support Ogden.

“It makes us very nervous,” Ross Rogers, president of the Canyons Education Association, said of the situation in Ogden.

The district and CEA have been locked in a dispute over whether the district will continue to negotiate some policies that it feels are unrelated to employee compensation. The Canyons teachers union declared an impasse three weeks ago, but the district has invited them back to the bargaining table on Monday, Rogers said. In an email to CEA this spring, Canyons Superintendent David Doty hinted that other policies could become non-negotiable in the future.

What is happening in Ogden, Rogers said, “sets a precedent that we do not want to have in the state.”

The Big Picture: Privatizing Education (Part One of Three)

The Big Picture: Privatizing Education (Part One of Three)
By Kristin

The  “education reform” sweeping the nation right now isn’t reform at all. It’s privatization and deregulation. This three-part article explains what privatization is and who benefits from it. The forthcoming Part Two will explain the strategy being used, and Part Three will show how the different aspects of  “education reform” work together as a process — and how it can be stopped!

Part One: An Introduction to Privatization
Since the 1800s, public education has been free and available to everyone. It held the promise that allowed people to strive for equal education and equal opportunity for everyone. But there is now a strong push to privatize every element of our public education system, including our schools, teachers, and curriculum. By the time my children graduate high school, will it still be universally available? Will it even be called “public education” any more?

The parents, teachers, and students who support public education can fight privatization through widespread, coordinated, and sustained opposition.

But there’s one big obstacle standing in the way of this opposition: the process is big, complicated, and sneaky. It involves a lot of money going a lot of different places – including but not limited to, lobbying dollars, propaganda in the mass media, and “astroturf”, fake grassroots groups – and supporting a lot of seemingly unrelated education policies.
To fight privatization, we need a holistic understanding of the process. To that end, this article provides a short overview of the privatization efforts currently underway, who’s behind them, and how the privatization process works. The results may surprise you!

What is Privatization?
Privatization is a process of shifting the ownership and management of public services from the public sector (the state or government) to the private sector (businesses that operate for a private profit and privately funded nonprofits). Proponents claim that by encouraging competition, privatization can improve the efficiency of public services. But there can be serious drawbacks. For instance, before fire departments were publicly run, groups of firefighters sometimes set fires just to earn money by putting them out!

Another drawback is that privatization also takes away democratic public control of our public services. If government officials mismanage public services, we can vote them out of office. But when private corporations mismanage them, we can’t. Only the shareholders have the power to fire the CEOs. Even worse, privatization undermines the basic fabric of our democracy for years to come by putting rote learning ahead of critical thinking.

Yet another drawback is that privatization opens the door for deregulation, which is the lifting of restrictions that provide for health, safety, and quality control. Whenever a private corporation runs an industry, it has a strong financial incentive to lobby the government to deregulate. Recent examples include the deregulation of the mortgage industry, which led to our current financial crisis, and the deregulation of the oil industry, which led to the catastrophic Deepwater oil spill.

A final drawback is that privatized and deregulated schools are neither required nor expected to create equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of race, creed, or color. That’s why the UCLA has reported that charter schools are increasing segregation in the United States.

Charter schools can also do an “end run” around requirements to provide special education for high-need students. They can serve a special few while ignoring the greater good.

Despite these drawbacks, the rich and powerful have been pushing for privatization of a wide number of public services, such as public utilities, national parks, universities, and even social security. The push to privatize public education has been going on for decades and includes school choice, vouchers, charter schools, the privatization of curriculum, and more. There are also efforts underway to deregulate schools and teaching, replacing protections with the illusion of quality control through standardized testing.

Who Benefits from Privatization?
The business that takes over the public service benefits directly from privatization. Billionaires and large corporations also benefit, if it means the government will cut taxes for the rich. Politicians and bureaucrats with connections also benefit through kickbacks.

Who’s Pushing for Privatization?
Billionaires (such as the Walton family, the Koch brothers, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Eli and Blythe Broad) and corporations are pushing heavily for the privatization of education and other services, both for financial reasons and ideological ones.
From the point of view of billionaires, the free market is ideal. It made them rich, after all. To the extent that they want to improve education, they want to remake the system in the image of a corporation, with top-down management, competition, decreased spending, and a focus on results. Of course, the view from the top is nothing like the view from the bottom. How can billionaires who have never gone through the public education system have any idea of the challenges that teachers and students actually face?
As for corporations, they don’t “want” anything in particular. They can’t; they’re not human beings. They are essentially machines whose primary goal is to maximize profits. To further that goal, corporations have an interest in lowering taxes. They also have an interest in directly controlling exactly what is taught to tomorrow’s workforce. They do not have a need for equal opportunity in education, because not all workers in tomorrow’s economy need to think for themselves or to read beyond basic literacy.
Finally, there are companies that simply profit off education, taking taxpayer and grant dollars to produce a product. This includes charter schools, teacher preparation programs, online learning systems, standardized tests, and test prep curriculum. Privatization helps them because it creates new markets. Opening a charter school, for instance, means that brand new teachers can be hired and brand new curriculum can be sold. (Of course, this also means that existing teachers must be fired and curriculum thrown away.)

Next up:
Part Two of this three-part article will continue by explaining the strategy that billionaires are using to push for privatization and deregulation: using nonprofits.

Heads up, Tacoma teachers! Don’t be fooled by the “Vibrant Schools Tacoma Coalition”

Connecting the dots… Yet another ed reform Astroturf organization emerges out of nowhere

A new Astroturf group has just emerged in Tacoma, WA, that sounds a lot like the one that was fabricated in Seattle last year, with the same mission: to influence the upcoming teacher’s contract negotiations. More specifically, its goal is to impose an outside corporate ed reform agenda on teachers by tricking them into believing there is broad public support for these (discredited) reforms when in fact there isn’t.

Astroturf alert!

This latest entity is called the “Vibrant Schools Tacoma Coalitionand it emerged in late April.

Just like in Seattle, someone hired an outside marketing company (EMC Research) which apparently conducted a push-poll that pushed the same union-weakening, ed reform agenda we saw touted in Seattle, disguised as “teacher support.”  Out of this it created a “platform” and has been announcing itself to the Tacoma media, all in an effort to influence the teachers’ contract negotiations.

The initial VSTC press release has a misleading headline that implies the purpose of the group is to help teachers: “Community coalition seeks increased support for teachers as part of Tacoma teacher union negotiations.” In fact, the purpose of the organization is to seek increased  influence by national political lobbying groups like Stand for Children and others at the bargaining table in order to weaken the teachers’ contract. A Stand for Children member/teacher is even quoted in the release.

Though these surveys include a few positive suggestions like promoting more collaboration time for teachers, if you dig a little deeper you see that what it’s really pushing is for a new evaluation system that ties teacher pay to student test scores, and the elimination of seniority.  In other words, what entities like VSTC are really supporting is the elimination of job security and arguably, due process, for educators — hardly an act of “support” for teachers.

So far, the Tacoma media seems to have failed to investigate the origins of this effort. (For example, who hired EMC Research to conduct that survey?) They really should take a closer look.

Here’s why.

This scheme was attempted here in Seattle in 2009/2010 when the Alliance for Education hired political marketing firm, Strategies 360/DMA Marketing (for about $10,000) to conduct a push-poll “survey” which pushed for elements of the corporate ed reformers’ wish list,  including bringing  short-term, crash-course Teach for America, Inc. novices to Seattle to replace fully credentialed teachers.

DMA/360  also used an illegally obtained list of private contact information of 10,000 Seattle Public School children and teachers to conduct this survey which outraged many parents. See Should the School District Be Allowed to Give Our Kids’ Phone numbers, Addresses and Photos to Every Tom, Dick and Pollster?

(The Alliance for Education in Seattle claims to be independent, but is in fact heavily involved in school district policy. It manages grant money awarded to the Seattle School District from organizations like the Gates and Broad foundations to impose their brand of corporate ed reform on the school district. The Alliance has become increasingly and politically involved in influencing policy in the district, and allied with corporate ed reform forces. It acts as both a public relations extension and banker — arguably the corporate ed reform policy launderer — for the school district.)

Strategies 360/DMA then created a fake ‘coalition’ from this which it called the “Our Schools Coalition,” and tried to intimidate teachers into believing it represented the true voice and will of the community, when in fact it was a political contrivance of the Alliance for Education.

Just like the “survey” done by Strategies 360/DMA Marketing for the “Our Schools Coalition” in Seattle, the Tacoma survey was written in such a way as to direct respondents to the answers the pollsters wanted to get, in order to push a specific agenda. The questions aren’t even questions, but skewed statements.

See: Vibrant Schools Tacoma Coalition Survey Highlights.

See: Our Schools Coalition research.

Here are some sample statements from both surveys — note the similarities and biases:

(These statements target seniority, last in first out, and try to conflate budget-induced RIFs with teacher evaluations.)

VSTC survey: 24. Seniority is the primary factor for a range of decisions about teachers, including layoffs. That means a teacher who has been around longer would keep their job even if they aren’t as good. Evaluations should be the primary factor so we keep the best based on performance.

OSC survey: 6. Teacher performance, as opposed to seniority, should be the predominant factor in staffing decisions, including placement, transfers and layoffs.

(These  push for “alternative credentialing” of teachers = deprofessionalizing of the teaching profession, and open the door to short-term, crash-course Teach for America, Inc. recruits):

VSTC survey: 27. Teachers are found mostly through the college system. Tacoma should pursue new programs to recruit teachers, which will help increase diversity among teachers & bring teachers with new & different talents into our school system.

OSC survey: 9. The teaching profession in Seattle should be opened up to attract additional talent, including programs such as Teach for America.

(These statements push for merit/performance pay and linking teacher evaluations to student test scores  (aka “performance,” which = high-stakes testing):

VSTC survey: 23. School principal observations are the primary factor in evaluations. We should use a variety of ways to evaluate teachers, like assessments from other teachers, student performance, & parent feedback to identify our best & help all improve.

OSC survey: 5. Currently in Seattle Public Schools, principal observations are the primary factor in teacher evaluations. Instead, student academic growth should be used as the primary factor in teacher evaluations.

The VSTC survey (of a mere 501 people — a pretty small sample) is a little less blatant than the OSC survey. It doesn’t mention the controversial Teach for America as its endgame, for one thing. But the core goals, misleading wording and dishonest methods are the same.

There is nothing organic about these efforts. They are a concerted effort by outside forces to change the teachers’ contract, and part of a national union-busting trend that has made headlines in Wisconsin and Michigan and is supported by major ed reform players like Eli Broad and Bill Gates.

What’s more, the changes they support are discredited “reforms” that would be harmful to both the teaching profession and to kids.  For example, tying teacher evaluations to student test scores (“performance”) narrows curriculum, results in teaching to the test, and does not improve teaching quality — to the contrary.  Regarding seniority, keeping the most experienced and knowledgeable teachers on staff in times of budget-induced layoffs is the most stable solution and a common practice in other professions. If there are unskilled teachers on staff, it is the principals’ duty to address the matter as it occurs, and not wait for RIFs as an excuse to layoff an unqualified teacher.

Further revealing its corporate, anti-union bias,  “Vibrant Schools'” membership includes Stand for Children (an Oregon-based, national corporate ed reform, political lobbying enterprise, funded by Gates and others) and the League of Education Voters (a Gates-funded, pro-corporate ed reform group).

Tacoma public school teachers should not be bullied by this group into bargaining away their rights or believing that this new entity truly represents their community or genuine community support for these “reforms.”

It’s telling that these surveys do not ask honest questions that would allow respondents to truly think through both sides of each issue. If they did, and if a true sampling of actual parents, teachers and community members were taken, I doubt these organizations would get the answers and consensus they are looking for. That’s why they resort to manufacturing  consent through their dishonest push-polls.

See: Education Push Polls: 9 Fake Questions Versus 9 Real Questions

Also see: How to Create a Faux Grassroots Education Reform Organization

–Sue p.

SIDEBAR: The corporate ed reformers’ MOs for influencing teacher’s contracts and weakening the teacher’s rights and unions:

1. Hire a political marketing firm to conduct a “survey” that is in fact push-poll pushing a predetermined union-busting ed reform agenda.

2. Use the contrived “data” from this poll to create a “platform” or petition of demands.

3. Create a fake Astroturf organization with the name “alliance” or “coalition” in it, whose goals are based on this contrived survey.

4. Get other existing, preferably diverse, minority, organizations to sign on (who may or may not fully know what the organization truly represents). Also get local politicians with aspirations for higher office to sign on.

5. Pretend this fake organization/coalition represents a unified, grassroots community and public opinion and announce your presence to the media (be careful not to reveal the true genesis of your operation). Get some op-eds written by your “members” published in the local paper.

6. Then try to pressure the teacher’s union with this organization and its demands, to cow them into giving up their rights, like seniority or collective bargaining, and accept “performance” pay (and other discredited concepts).


Education Push Polls: 9 Fake Questions Versus 9 Real Questions

Seattle, remember that push poll that the Broad and Gates backed Alliance for Education did last year just before contract negotiations began between our Broad-trained superintendent and the teachers’ union? There were several interesting comments made about it on the Save Seattle Schools blog last year.

Since then we have discovered that this sort of manufacturing of consent has happened in several parts of the country when the corporate reform groups want to swoop in and takeover schools, turn them into charter schools and bust the teachers’ union so that the charter franchises can then hire cheap labor, many times in the form of Teach for America recruits, to staff their schools.

David Spring, M.Ed., founder of the Fair School Funding Coalition and a Parents Across America, Seattle member, has put together the following Fake/Real poll question sheet. I think that you will find it interesting and remarkably reminiscent of the poll that citizens in Seattle were subjected to by Strategies 360 which was funded by the Alliance for Education.


Wealthy multinational corporations are using a variety of techniques to manipulate the public into supporting their privatization and destruction of our public schools. One of the techniques they are using is Push Polls – which ask questions more intended to brainwash the public than to get their opinion.

The following are some of the questions they are asking on their Push Polls followed by fairer questions which would expose the propaganda of these corporate pollsters. If we are going to save our public schools, it is important that all parents become more aware of the fact that they are being manipulated into supporting the destruction of our public schools.

Fake Poll Introduction: I am going to read you a list of recommendations suggested by some people for improving our Public Schools and the quality of education they offer. For each one, please tell me if you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the recommended change.

Real Poll Introduction: Hi, I am being paid by the same wealthy corporations who refuse to pay their fair share of State taxes which is why school funding in our State is now 47th in the nation. They are out to privatize our public schools to increase corporate profits. These corporations have written a series of questions carefully designed to manipulate you. So listen carefully and see if you can find the questions in this poll that are pure corporate propaganda.

Fake Poll First Three Questions:
1. Teachers should have increased collaboration time with peers.
74% strongly support, 19% somewhat support. TOTAL SUPPORT: 93%

2. Teachers should have increased classroom preparation time.
72% Strongly support 19% Somewhat support. TOTAL SUPPORT: 92%

3. Our Public Schools should expand its mentoring and coaching programs for teachers.
50% Strongly support 33% Somewhat support TOTAL SUPPORT: 88%

Real First Three Questions:

Corporate Marketers will tell you that the key to manipulating customers into agreeing with you is to begin by getting them to say YES three times. This breaks down their resistance to manipulation and increases the chances you will be able to sell them something they otherwise would not buy. Note that all three of the first questions were non-controversial and intended to draw an affirmative response. Note also that none of the above questions explained where the money would come from to pay for each of the changes mentioned. Here are three questions which more fairly indicate the trade offs of changing our education system:

1. Should we fire some teachers so that schools would have more funds so that our remaining teachers could have increase collaboration time with their peers? 

2. Should we reduce the school day for students by one hour so that teachers could have an additional hour of classroom preparation time?

3. Should we raise the sales tax so that schools would have the funding needed to expand mentoring and coaching programs for teachers?

Fake Poll Propaganda Question #1:  There should be a four-tier teacher performance evaluation scale, as opposed to the satisfactory/unsatisfactory evaluation currently used.
Strongly Support: 42% Somewhat Support: 35% TOTAL SUPPORT: 77%

Real Poll Question #1: There is currently a ten-step teacher performance evaluation which includes multiple observations by peers, principals and administrators as well as numerous written documents that results in a satisfactory/unsatisfactory rating. Should we expand teacher evaluation and reduce teacher time with students in order to change to a four tier teacher performance evaluation scale?

Fake Poll Question #2: Currently in our Schools, principal observations are the primary factor in teacher evaluations. Instead, student academic growth should be used as the primary
factor in teacher evaluations.
Strongly support 28% Somewhat support: 37% TOTAL SUPPORT: 65%

Real Poll Question #2: Currently in our Schools, principal observations are one of many factors used to evaluate teachers. Many studies have shown that student high stakes testing fails to measure actual student growth and has almost no relationship to teacher competency. For example, 30% of the teachers who are in the top third one year are in the bottom third the next year – even though they used the same teaching methods – simply because they have a different group of students. Should we ignore the scientific research on the lack of reliability of high stakes testing and instead use it to fire highly competent teachers?

Fake Poll Question #3: Teacher performance, as opposed to seniority, should be the predominant factor in staffing decisions, including placement, transfers and layoffs.
Strongly Support 52% Somewhat Support: 27% TOTAL SUPPORT: 79%

Real Poll Question #3: Teaching is such a difficult profession that half of all teachers quit within their first five years. Teachers also make far less than those who hold equivalent degrees in the private sector. Should we add unreliable high stakes testing and reduced job security to the long list of obstacles teachers must overcome in order to gain the experience needed to become effective teachers?

Fake Poll Question #4: Currently, the process to remove ineffective teachers can take 18 months or longer. Instead, the lowest performing teachers should be removed in less than 12 months.
Strongly support: 62% Somewhat support: 20% TOTAL SUPPORT: 82%

Real Poll Question #4: Currently union contracts protect teachers by requiring due process and objective evidence before a teacher can be fired. This process typically takes only a few weeks and has been carefully crafted over the years to protect teachers and students and tax payers. Should we eliminate the right of teachers to collective bargaining and expose our teachers to being fired at will?

Fake Poll Question #5: There should be opportunities for increased compensation for teachers based on performance, additional responsibilities, subject matter expertise in hard-to-staff areas
and placement in high-need schools.
Strongly support: 64% Somewhat support: 26% TOTAL SUPPORT: 90%

Real Poll Question #5: Currently we pay teachers based upon factors such as experience and educational training which can be fairly, reliably and objectively measured. Because of individual student differences from year to year and class to class, it is impossible to objectively and reliably measure “teacher performance.” Should we abandon our current objective and fair factors used to pay teachers and replace them with factors which are neither objective nor reliable?

Fake Poll Question #6: The teaching profession should be opened up to attract additional talent, including programs such as Teach for America.
Strongly support: 31% Somewhat support: 29% TOTAL SUPPORT: 60%

Real Poll Question #6: Historically, to receive a Provisional Teachers Certificate to be considered qualified to teach in our public schools, requires 4 to 6 years of training including a 3 month practical experience under the guidance of a currently certified school teacher. Teach for America (TFA) is a program which recruits college graduates with no training in education or child development and gives them 5 weeks worth of “boot camp” training, pays them starvation wages and then tosses them into classrooms. The turn over in this program is extremely high. 90% of these recruits are no longer in the teaching profession 3 years later. Due to billions of dollars in budget cuts during the past three years, we now have thousands of highly qualified teachers with many years of experience who are unemployed. There is no shortage of highly experienced and highly qualified teachers. However there is a financial incentive for school boards to fire highly qualified and experienced teachers and replace them with lower paid TFA recruits. Should we fire highly qualified, highly trained and highly experienced teachers and replace them with poorly paid TFA recruits who have only 5 weeks worth of “training”?


20 years ago, we were told that privatizing our health care system would result in lower costs and better service. Instead, privatization led to skyrocketing cost increases of more than 400%, huge corporate windfall profits, bankrupting small business and local governments while depriving nearly half of all Americans from any kind of health care and causing tens of thousands of needless deaths. Privatization of essential public services is not the solution to our problems – it is the cause of our problems.

This same corporate short-term thinking is now being directed in an extremely well funded attack on our children and our public schools. The focus of this attack is our teachers unions – which historically have been the primary defenders of our public schools. Bring down the unions, destroy the rights of teachers to collective bargaining and the billions of dollars we spend educating our children can be diverted away from schools and into the pockets of wealthy multinational corporations.

The problem with our public schools is not bad teachers. It is a lack of funding caused by the failure to pay taxes by the very same corporations who are now attacking our teachers.  Just one of these corporations (Microsoft) is evading a BILLION dollars per year in State taxes. This is money now being used to fund a campaign to privatize our public schools. These people are now using their windfall profits (our tax payer dollars) to take over our public schools.

To learn more about school funding in Washington State, you can visit the Fair Funding School Coalition and the Real Washington School Budget.

Thanks David, I don’t think that the irony has been lost on us in Seattle regarding Microsoft and Gates.