The Battle in Seattle Against a Charter School Invasion

seattle

Originally published on The Progressive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local citizens protested at the construction site.

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

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

Dora Taylor

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Following the charter school cash in the Washington State Primary: The latest money scheme

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UPDATE: Two mistakes have been corrected from the original post.

Voters for Washington Children spent $15,000 in digital ads AGAINST Luis Moscoso in the District 1 Senate race. In addition, Voters for Washington Children spent $10,000 AGAINST Branden Durst in the Legislative District 29, Representative race.

Our sincerest apologies to Luis Moscoso and Branden Durst.

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Nowhere is the chasm between the hard reality of our political system and the American ideals of merit, choice, and freedom more on display than during an election cycle.

Money matters – a lot.

The challenge for large money donors is how to spend big on your candidate(s) without offending the voters you’re trying to persuade. Voters understand politics is a dirty game, but they still believe in the idea that democracy should work for everyone.

Big donors have come up with a practical two step solution to this problem:

  1. Keep the money moving through various PACs.
  2. When it’s time to spend the money, use independent expenditures to further mask the source.

Openly supporting charter schools is a still a risky position for many politicians in Washington State. Let’s take a look at how pro-charter PACs supported their preferred candidates through the use of a PAC with a different name and independent expenditures.

The Name Game

Between July and August of 2016, three PACs contributed $265,500 dollars to Voters for Washington Children. They were:

Stand for Children Washington PAC

7/14    $76,000

7/25    $10,000     

Total: $86,000

Washington Charters PAC

7/15   $70,000

7/25   $27,500

7/25   $10,000

8/03   $15,000    

Total:$122,500

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) Washington PAC

7/14   $40,000

7/18   $  7,500

7/25   $10,000    

Total:$57,500

The Independent Expenditure Shell Game

Voters for Washington Children contracted with a group called RALLY in San Francisco to produce digital ads and mailers for the candidates Stand for Children, DFER, and Washington Charters PAC supported.

Never heard of RALLY?

Their clients include: Teach for America, Inc. (TFA), TFA-Bay Area, the Green Dot charter chain, National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), Students Matter (of the lawsuit Vergara v. California), and Act Now for Washington Students.

Remember the charter school ads that ran during Seahawks games last year? RALLY was behind them. They also bused kids to Olympia to testify for the charter bill and coordinated all of those heartfelt cards and letters sent to the state Legislature.

From RALLY’s website:

The Washington State Charter Schools Association, along with coalition members Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), Stand for Children, the League of Education Voters, and leaders from the business community, partnered with RALLY to find and drive a solution that saved the existing schools and reinstated the will of the voters. RALLY developed and managed a high-impact legislative advocacy campaign that forced legislators, especially elected Democrats, to confront the prospect of being held responsible for closing public schools that serve a racially and economically diverse student population – or taking action to support their constituents.

To deliver our message, RALLY created a campaign that truly put parents and students front and center. We built, encouraged, and supported a strong grassroots advocacy team that made more than 1,000 calls per week to elected officials, flooded legislative offices with homemade postcards and letters, and brought hundreds of people to Olympia for multiple rallies to keep schools open. A statewide petition activated 20,000 new public charter supporters and created a backbone for a strategic digital effort that augmented the on-the-ground tactics.

Grassroots efforts were coupled with an aggressive paid media campaign designed to make it impossible for state leaders to ignore the plight of public charters. RALLY produced four television ads, which aired during Seattle Seahawks games and nightly newscasts. Additionally, voters in key swing districts around the state received a series of direct mail, robo-calls, and targeted earned media. Statewide, every major newspaper endorsed saving the schools and called on Democrats to stay true to their social justice roots. These tactics were combined with a PAC fundraising effort, a relentless online digital presence, and a robust social media strategy.

RALLY’s Independent Expenditure Ads and Mailings

How did the candidates supported by the pro-charter PACs do in the primary? Let’s take a look at the races where RALLY’s services were put to use:

Legislative District 29-State Representative Pos. 1

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.38.27 PM

David Sawyer, Democrat, Representative, 29th District

7/26   $10,000 for digital ads AGAINST Branden Durst, Democrat

7/27    $10,000 for digital ads

Total: $20,000

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.12.30 AM

Legislative District 1-State Senator

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.41.00 PM

Guy Palumbo, Democrat, State Senate, District 1

7/21   $10,925 for digital ads

7/23   $11,714.55 for mailing

7/26   $15,000 for digital ads AGAINST Luis Moscoso, Democrat

Total: 37,639.55

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.29.17 AM

Legislative District 5-State Senator

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.45.42 PM

Mark Mullet, Democrat, State Senate, District 5

7/21    $10,658.19  direct mail

7/23    $16,189.83  two mailings

7/26    $11,525.07  direct mail  

Total: $38,373.09

Legislative District 41-State Senator

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.48.20 PM

Stephen Litzow, Republican, District 41, Senate

7/22    $4,000  digital ads

7/25    $19,930.28  direct mail

7/26    $16,782.63  direct mail

Total: $40,712.91

Not to be forgotten, 0n 7/27 RALLY was contracted to produced $30,000 worth of digital ads for Steven Hobbs, Democrat, who ran for the Lieutenant Governor position during the primary. Hobbs ended up coming in fourth after Cyrus Habib, Marty McClendon, and Karen Fraser.

Conclusion

Besides the Lieutenant Governor’s race, every campaign where RALLY’s services were engaged resulted in one of Voters for Washington Children’s candidates advancing to the general election.

Seems like Stand for Children Washington PAC, Washington Charters PAC, and Democrats for Education Reform Washington PAC got a solid return on their investment.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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

Male Hand Holding Stack of Cash Over Clouds and Sky

Per a previous post titled, “Before you can fund the charter school, you have to fund an advocacy organization that can create a climate for the charter school to exist”, Bill Gates has been busy for several years funding established organizations or creating new ones to funnel cash into a push to establish charter schools in Washington State and around the country.

To follow is a list of organizations and schools that have received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The organizations and schools with figures shown in bold relate directly to charter school promotional activity in Seattle and surrounding areas. For the amounts given to all other recipients, go to Google docs.

Stand for Children: $9,000,000 +/- (I got tired of counting and recounting)

Aspire Charter Schools: $21M +/-

National Council of La Raza : $32M +/-

Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle (CPPS): $159,440 (per the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website , “Purpose: to develop a strategic plan for building a dynamic parent network that can embrace and catalyze change within Seattle Public Schools”, meaning integrating charter schools into Seattle, particularly in the minority communities.)

Charter School Growth Fund: $5M

University of Minnesota

New York Charter School Resource Center Inc

Chicago Charter School Foundation

Success Academy Charter School: $400,000

Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund

St. HOPE Academy

Local Initiatives Support Corporation

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: $7M

New Schools Fund dba New Schools Venture Fund: $93M +New Schools Fund dba New Schools Venture Fund: $93M +/-

Progressive Policy Institute

University of Washington Foundation: $1,089,761 (Lot of papers and “studies” came out of the UW supporting charter schools. Also a Teach for America, Inc. training ground was set up in the School of Education.)

GreatSchools, Inc.: $9M +/

Perspectives Charter School

Noble Network of Charter Schools: $2M +/-

California Charter Schools Association: $6M +/-

NCB Capital Impact

Progress Analytics Institute

High Tech High Foundation

Keys to Improving Dayton Schools, Inc.

Cesar Chavez Public Policy Charter High School: $1.6M +/-

Pacific Charter School Development Inc.

Charter Schools Policy Institute: $200,000

Charter School Leadership Council: $800,000

Illinois Network Of Charter Schools: $1.4M +/-

Stanford University: $12M +/- (Charter school “studies” were produced here. Unfortunately for Gates, the most well known study Stanford produced, the CREDO Report, stated charter schools were either the same or lower performing than public schools.)

RAND Corporation: $7.5M +/-

National Alliance For Public Charter Schools: $12.5M +/-

Green Dot Public Schools: $9,675,588 (One  was approved for Seattle.)

KIPP, Inc charter schools.: $10,000,000 (KIPP charter schools were touted by state legislators as the best thing since sliced bread. Sad day for them, they’re not and none were approved for Washington State.)

Institute for Research and Reform in Education Inc.: $11M +/-

Marquette University

Aspira Inc of Illinois

Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools: $670,000 +/-

Charter Fund Inc dba Charter School Growth Fund: $57.5M +/-

California Charter Schools Association: $6.5M +/-

New Schools for New Orleans Inc: $8.6M +/-

Houston Area Urban League Inc

District of Columbia College Access Program

Newark Charter School Fund, Inc.: $3,595,070

National Association Of Charter School Authorizers: $15M +/-

Trustees of Dartmouth College

Local Initiatives Support Corporation

Texas Charter School Association: $1.6M

FSG, Inc.

New York City Charter School Center: $4.7M +/-

Friendship Public Charter School

New Visions for Public Schools, Inc: $73.5M +/-

School District of Philadelphia

Denver School of Science and Technology Inc

The Arizona Charter Schools Association: $200,000

New York Charter Schools Association Inc: $204,988

Partners for Developing Futures Inc.

Mastery Charter High School

Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools: $650,000

League of Education Voters (LEV) Foundation: $2,586,378

Colorado Education Initiative

Black Alliance for Educational Options Inc.

100 Black Men of America, Inc.

Colorado League of Charter Schools: $818,471

The Boston Educational Development Foundation, Inc.

E.L. Haynes Public Charter School

The King Center Charter School

Rocketship Education: $200,000

Georgia Charter Schools Association Inc.: $250,000

Jumoke Academy Inc

Denver Public Schools: $4,001,999 (The Seattle Public School board members took a trip to Denver a few years ago to visit charter schools. They came back with rave reviews about KIPP charter schools.)

Hartford Public Schools

Spring Branch Independent School District

Achievement First Inc.

Philadelphia Schools Project

Boston Private Industry Council Inc

American Federation Of Teachers Educational Foundation: $10M The AFT had Bill Gates as their main speaker when their convention was in Seattle.

Harvard University: $33.6M +/- (Lots of papers and “studies” favorable to charter schools were produced at Harvard for Eli Broad and Bill Gates.This number is based on grants tagged for K12 education and doesn’t include community grants)

Washington State Charter Schools Association: $10.5M +/-

Mississippi First Inc.

CHIME Institute

Seneca Family of Agencies

Summit Public Schools: $8,000,000

Spokane School District #81: $525,000 

Children’s First Fund, The Chicago Public School Foundation

LEAP Innovations

East Lake Foundation, Inc.

New Schools for Chicago

Low Income Investment Fund

Fund for Public Schools Inc

Friends of Breakthrough Schools

Puget Sound Educational Service District: $27.5M +/- (See CCER, the Road Map Project and the loss of student privacy)

Franklin-McKinley School District

Craft3

The list above does not include Teach for America which Bill Gates granted $2.5M to open an office in Seattle and the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) that came to town with their dog and pony show bashing teachers and trying to make way for Teach for America. Bill Gates has granted that group $12M+/- between 2009 and 2013.

Also see The Fordham Institute and the National Council on Teacher Quality: Manipulating Teacher Layoffs (& Union-Busting?).

It is also interesting to note that the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recently received $1,743,064.

For the list with all of the numbers see Google docs. The list was put together by a Parents Across America Portland member using information provided at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Awarded Grants website.

So, if Gates paid his fair share of taxes in our state rather than be the man behind the curtain, would it help us fund public schools adequately?

My guess is “YES!”.

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

Check out Mercedes Schneider’s post to find additional expenditures made by Bill Gates pertaining to charter schools:

Who Does Gates Fund for “General Operating Support”?

 

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

bill-gates

People around the state are receiving robo-calls from a (Gates backed Teachers United) teacher who was declared “Teacher of the Year” by The Office of the State Superintendent (OSPI) which is headed by the State Superintendent Randy Dorn. Mr. Dorn is also on the board of CCSSO which is an organization receiving $84M from Bill Gates to promote the Common Core Standards. Do you see where I’m going with this? Lyon Terry representing “Ready Washington” declares in his unsolicited call the virtues of the Common Core Standards and the importance of the SBAC test. So who or what is “Ready Washington”?

We did a quick search and oh, what a surprise, a coalition of the bought. Here’s the list:

Ready Washington Coalition:

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)

Partnership for Learning, the education arm of the Washington Roundtable. From the Gates Foundation website. received $499,492 “to support the Ready Washington Coalition and stakeholder groups to improve communications and outreach around the Common Core State Standards”.

Stand for Children Washington (Gates)

Washington STEM (Gates)

Excellent Schools Now, from their website, The steering committee of Excellent Schools Now consists of: League of Education Voters, Partnership for Learning, Schools Out Washington, Stand for Children Washington and Tabor 100. Received money through the League of Education Voters to the tune of $1,499,543 for the “Purpose: to continue public engagement and action project to advance the policies and priorities of A+ Washington through the Excellent Schools Now (ESN) Coalition.

Washington State PTA (Gates money)

Council of Presidents State Board for Community and Technical Colleges

Department of Early Learning: $6M+ from Mr. Gates

League of Education Voters (Gates)

ReadyNation (Gates)

Democrats for Education Reform (Gates and corporate money)

Puget Sound Educational Service District (Who brought us Race to the Top and data mining of our students’ information)

Washington State Board of Education (populated with a few of the usual suspects. Dorn, Deborah Wilds-Gates and Peter Maier)

The Parents Union (Gates)

College Spark Washington

Schools Out Washington (Gates-$2M+)

Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (Gates- $1M+)

Washington Association of School Administrators

Washington Student Achievement Council (Gates)

Washington Roundtable (Big business money)

Renton Technical College (?)

Consider the source.

Most of these faux roots organizations and even some who are not, including the Washington State PTA, receive money from Bill Gates.

Check out How to create a faux grassroots ed reform organization!

images Dora Taylor

The Proposition 1B “Preschool for All” Wheel of Fortune: Same players, new game

Wheel

Proposition 1B “Preschool for All” Wheel of Fortune

(Click the image for a better view. Click the title for a pdf.)

 

“Quality Preschool for All”. It sounds so right, just what we want for all of our children. But first, it depends upon what you define as “Quality”.

If you mean preschool that is student oriented and allows for individual growth, this is not the definition of “Quality” by the proponents of 1B.

If “Quality” to you means standardized and scripted lesson plans and assessments (nice word for tests), then you and Bill Gates are in agreement THAT is quality, at least for other people’s kids. See The Building Blocks of a Good Pre-K.

Rumors have been circulating that the same people who pushed through charter schools in our state to the tune of $10M are doing the same with Proposition 1B. Well, they’re right, with the exception of the Walton’s who have not gotten on the Universal pre-K bandwagon as their cohorts have.

The first time I heard about the preschool program, which is an offshoot of Universal pre-K,  was in June of this year when I was asked to attend a presentation given by some “experts” flown in from Boston to tell us what we already knew about children and the importance of preschool. I haven’t figured out who footed the bill but it will pop up somewhere. As soon as I saw the “suits”, I became suspicious, particularly because most of the people in the audience were also suits. See Race to the Tots: Universal (for profit) Pre-K, DFER and the suits for more details on that meeting.

The next time I was in a council meeting regarding Proposition 1B, people were able to provide testimony. Many of the people who gave testimony were teachers. It wasn’t until later that I found out all of the teachers who spoke were members of the union busting, charter loving Teachers United. Teachers United (TU) has received a total of $942,113 from Bill Gates over the last few years and is run by Chris Eide. See http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database/Grants/2013/06/OPP1085805 and http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database/Grants/2011/09/OPP1035367 for the details.

For more on TU and Chris Eide see Anti Teachers’ Union Activity in the State of WA: Chris Eide and Northwest Professional Educators.

Note: 10/31/14, Teachers United is calling for volunteers to canvas for Prop 1B this weekend. Gates will get his money’s worth out of them at some point.

That’s when I decided to follow the money.

A solid line on the diagram means cash was contributed. A dashed line means public support and personal time has been contributed to Proposition 1B campaign.

To follow are the major players in terms of cash outlay and those who are paid in one form or another to sing their tune.

 

“I actually worked with Jackie Bezos at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Dallas to pass a resolution for universal preschool,” noted (Seattle Mayor) Murray, referring to the mother of Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. She is the president of the Bezos Family Foundation, a Seattle-based nonprofit. –Seattle Times, October 22, 2014

 

Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation

Just in case 1B fails, Gates has hedged his bets by offering a grant of $750,000 to Seattle Public Schools (SPS) to set up a preK-5 program at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School in Seattle. Gates doesn’t do anything without attaching lots of strings such as assessments and data gathering. The most worrisome part is that he is now trying to extend his influence into 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grades through the proposed preschool program.

The Gates Foundation put on quite a show apparently for a selected few on Universal pre-K. Gates, along with Bezos, also provided scholarships for those invited to go on a field trip to Boston to see Universal perK programs this year.

You might have noticed there are two empty circles coming off of Bill Gates’ bubble on the diagram. That’s because I’m fairly certain that I, or someone else, will find another largess that has been given to someone to further his agenda. It’s just a matter of time to discover who else is part of his shell game.

Bill Gates is also a big supporter of charter schools. See Funding “Education Reform”: The Big Three Foundations.

Seattle Times and the Education Lab blog

Gates provided $700,000 to the Seattle Times to create the blog “Education Lab”. See Seattle Times’ Gates-funded Education Lab Blog Experiment.

The Times has come out in support of 1B. No surprise there because they have also supported over the last few years merit pay (teachers evaluated using student test scores), Teach for America and charter schools, all part of the Bill Gates plan for public education.

Crosscut

Also received a largess from Gates to the tune of $800,000 in 2010 for “Special Projects”. They have come out for 1B. See Gates Foundation quadruples Crosscut grant for additional information.

Seattle Foundation/Norm Rice

Bill Gates has given the Seattle Foundation at least $4M over the last several years, see the Lines of Influence in Education Reform for the specifics. Norm Rice was the President and CEO of the Seattle Foundation until July of this year and is the spokesperson in the Proposition 1B television ad. The Seattle Foundation supports whatever Bill Gates desires including charter school and Teach for America.

An organization called Save the Children Action Network paid for the 1B television ad. What money went to this organization to run the TV ad is still a question mark as shown on the diagram.

Bezos Family and Foundation

Talk about a shell game! It took some research to find information on the Bezos family and their donations. Thanks to PAC’s, folks with money can hide their political support in the weeds. It’s called “Dark Money”.

Each member of the Bezos family contributed as much as they could legally as individuals, then their foundation kicked in some cash. The Bezos also contributed money to the League of Education Voters PAC, Education Voters Political Action Fund, which supported the charter school initiative.

The Bezos along with Gates provided “scholarships” to those who were invited on the field trip to Boston to see preschool programs but required financial assistance.

The Bezos, along with Gates, were huge financial supporters of the charter school initiative. See Bezos Family Funds Four PACs in Charter Schools Shell Game

From Diane Ravitch’s blog:

Jeff Bezos: Another Billionaire for Privatization of Public Education

Last fall, Bill Gates collected $10 million from his friends to push through approval of a referendum to permit privately managed charter schools in Washington State, which voters had turned down three times previously. Among the friends of Bill Gates who helped make charters possible was the Bezos family, the parents of Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos is the founder of amazon.com. He is a billionaire many times over, one of the richest men on the planet.

Yesterday he bought the Washington Post.

An article in the Washington Post today describes his interest in education.

It reads:

“Like Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham, Bezos has shown support for efforts to change education policy, including the creation and expansion of public charter schools.

The Bezos Family Foundation — whose board includes Bezos, his parents and other family members — gave more than $11 million in 2011 to an array of national organizations such as Teach for America, Stand for Children and the KIPP Foundation, according to tax filings. The foundation also gave grants to scores of individual schools around the country as well as several charter school chains, including Uncommon Schools, which operates schools in New York and Massachusetts.

Bezos’s parents, Mike and Jackie, were active in a fierce battle last year to allow the creation of public charter schools in Washington state. Washington had been one of a handful of states that did not permit charters, which are publicly funded schools that are privately run and largely without unions. Teachers unions opposed the ballot measure, which narrowly passed with financial backing from Mike and Jackie Bezos as well as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Netflix founder Reed Hastings.”

In short, Bezos is no friend of public education.

Live Wire

…is funded by the Bezos and is part of the Seattle Times.

Live Wire and Microsoft recently sponsored an event titled See what happened at The Case for Early Learning with guests Mayor Ed Murray, Representative Ruth Kagi (see below), and others extolling the virtues of the Mayor/Burgess preschool plan.

Do you see where this is going?

Matt Griffin

$100,000 in total contributions to Proposition 1B and a big supporter of charter schools. He also contributed money to the Seattle Foundation to bring Teach for America to Seattle.

He also contributed $30,000 to the Great Seattle Schools PAC to support School Board Director Stephan Blanford (see below) and Sue Peters’ opponent Suzanne Estey who was defeated.

Christopher Larson

Microsoft millionaire Chris Larson contributed $100,000 to the Proposition 1B campaign and was a financial supporter of the charter initiative even though he doesn’t have any children in the Seattle Public School system.

He is also on the Board of Directors for the League of Education Voters.

Nick Hanauer

$30,000 contribution to Proposition 1B. Hanauer is also on the Board of Directors of the League of Education Voters and big supporter of charter schools.

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce PAC the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy

Contributed to the Proposition 1B campaign and to the coffers of Councilmember Tim Burgess and the Alliance for Education. They also paid for a nasty attack ad about McGinn during the mayoral campaign. See Pro-Murray PAC Uses Battered Women as Pawns in Deceptive Smear Campaign.

The Alliance for Education

The Gates Foundation has over the last several years basically been the Alliance for Education‘s bank. Whatever the Alliance needs, it seems that the Gates’ Foundation just cuts another check by providing a grant for a specific purpose. See The Lines of Influence in Education Reform for the details.

The Alliance for Education, along with the Great Seattle Schools PAC, supported Stephan Blanford in his bid for Seattle School Board Director. Six months before Burgess formally presented his preschool initiative to the Seattle School Board, Blanford told the Levy Oversight Committee that SPS was in full support of the initiative.

Sara Morris, CEO for the Alliance for Education, recently sent out a letter on Alliance for Education letterhead endorsing Proposition 1B . Was that Kosher? I think not, unless the Alliance has another status other than a 501c3, they are not to participate in any political campaigns or actively support a candidate.

Washington State Director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Lisa Macfarlane:

Ms. Macfarlane gave a personal donation to the 1B campaign.

An excerpt from the post Lisa Macfarlane with WA DFER wins the Walton Award for privatization:

According to the PR Newswire, Lisa Macfarlane, formerly with the League of Education Voters (LEV) and now Director of Washington State Education Reform Now/Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), received a $10,000 grant from the Walton’s as an “Education Reformer to Watch” for her work on pushing charter school initiative 1240 in the state of Washington.

And what does Ms. Macfarlane plan to do with the cash? Ensure that charter schools open in the state of Washington of course.

Per DFER Watch:

Democrats for Education Reform is a political action committee supported largely by hedge fund managers favoring charter schools, merit-pay tied to test scores, high-stakes testing, school choice (including vouchers and tuition tax credits in some cases), mayoral control, and alternative teacher preparation programs.

Diane Ravitch describes DFER in her post Follow the Money.

If you want to know why so many politicians think so highly of charters, there is a basic rule of politics that explains it all: Follow the money.

The most visible organization promoting corporate reform is called Democrats for Education Reform, known as DFER (commonly pronounced “D-fer”). DFER is the Wall Street hedge fund managers’ group. It always has a few non-hedge funders on the board, especially one or two prominent African-Americans, to burnish its pretentious claim of leading the civil rights movement of our day. Kevin Chavous, a former council member from Washington, D.C., fills that role for now, along with the DFER stalwart, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark. DFER has its own member of the U.S. Senate, Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado. It has also raised money generously for Congressman George Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and Labor Committee.

This group bankrolls politicians, woos them, raises campaign cash for them, and persuades them of the advantages of turning the children of their district over to privately managed schools. Watch their website to see which politician they favor this month and scan those they have recognized in the past.

In New York City, Hakeem Jeffries, DFERs’s candidate for U.S. Congress, announced his support for tax credits for religious schools on the day after he won the election.

For more on DFER, go to https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/democrats-for-education-reform-also-known-as-dfer/.

School Board Director Stephan Blanford

Stephan Blanford spoke to the Levy Committee six months before the 1B Initiative was formerly introduced to the board and stated that Seattle Public Schools ( SPS) would have no problem with supporting Burgess’ plan*. School Board Director Stephan Blanford also went on the field trip to Boston sponsored by the Seattle Chamber of Commerce to look at preK programs in Boston. His trip was paid for by the League of Education Voters (LEV). The expenses for all other SPS staff who went on the trip, and it was a selected few, were paid for out of Seattle Public School funds.

Blanford has been bought and paid for by the following contributors:

Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess, the champion of 1B

Don Neilson– The Godfather of Education Reform in Seattle

The Ballmer’s

The League of Education Voters

Matt Griffin

The Hanauer’s

Christopher Larson

The Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (Seattle Chamber of Commerce PAC)

Peter Maier (twice). Remember him?

School Board Director Sherry Carr

Director Carr has received campaign donations from Matt Griffin and has shown support for 1B.

Ms. Carr showed up at a 46th District meeting where Burgess presented Prop 1B without providing members an opportunity to speak up against it before it was endorsed. Ms. Carr did not speak but was standing in the back with Burgess, Harium Martin-Morris and the 1B campaign manager.

She is also one of the School Board Directors who voted for all things ed reform when Broad Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson was in power including bringing Teach for America to Seattle. Hmmm, I wonder why? Well, let’s look at her sponsors:

Civic Alliance for a Sound Education

Matt Griffin

Christopher Larson

The Ballmers

K & L Gates PAC (Bill Gates Sr. law firm is K&L Gates)

Mary Jean Ryan of the Community Center for Education Results (CCER) Gates backed organization

School Board Director Harium Martin-Morris

Director Harium Martin-Morris has spoken publicly in support of 1B. He also showed up at a 46th District meeting, even though it’s not his district, to give moral support (?) to Burgess who made the push for 1B even though no one was allowed to speak against 1B.

By the way, over the years, Harium has received campaign donations from Matt Griffin, Christopher Larson, the Ballmer’s, Bill Gates and Lisa Macfarlane.

Legislative Representative Ruth Kagi of the 32nd District

Representative Kagi is a fierce supporter of 1B but does not represent a Seattle district. Could it have anything to do with the fact that the Bezos’ have contributed to her campaigns?

Those who didn’t get on the Wheel of Fortune chart but are of interest are:

Mimi Gates- $5,000

William Gates, Sr.- $5,000

Microsoft- $10,000

Lucy Gaskill-Gaddis, Families and Education Levy Committee member $500

 

And who contributed to Ed Murray’s campaign?

Leslie Hanauer  $700

Nick & Leslie Hanauer Foundation $700

Nick Hanauer  $700

Christopher Larson  $700

Strategies 360  $700, see Seattle School District hires staffer from Strategies 360 – the political marketing firm that misused private student contact info to push ed reform agendaand Loose Ends – Strategies 360, Susan Enfield, Crazy Talk & Quakes.

Tim Burgess  $700

Matt Griffin $700

The Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy Contributed $10,000 to People for a New Seattle Mayor.

The People for a New Seattle Mayor ran the domestic violence hit pieces against McGinn. See Pro-Murray PAC Uses Battered Women as Pawns in Deceptive Smear Campaign.

And who stands to gain from Proposition 1B passing?

So far:

Acelero: A business enterprise that privatizes Head Start programs. See Seattle PreSchool for All Proposition 1B: Acelero, the fox watching over the hen house.

KIPP, the charter school chain: See Race to the Tots: Universal (for profit) Pre-K, DFER, KIPP and the suits.

Teach for America, Inc.:  “Pre-School for All” in Seattle, student information sharing, Jump Start, Teach for America and more. They’ve already got their hooks into Detroit.

In the 1B lanaguage it states:

The City will work with local colleges and universities to develop an alternate route program for teachers with Bachelor’s Degrees in fields other than Early Childhood Education. The City will also develop an alternative process through which experienced, high-quality lead teachers — as defined in the Implementation Plan — may be granted waivers.

When it is stated that way, it means Teach for America, Inc. recruits. UW established a program where TFA recruits can do their five weeks of course work to “prepare” them to teach our children. Trust me, that is the plan here.

Also, Gates gave $1M to Teach for America, Inc. a few years ago to open an office in Seattle.

Pearson: The educational publishing company being bandied about to develop lesson plans and tests for the preschool program.

Mayor Ed Murray: Murray tried to pass legislation while a State Senator for mayoral control. This is a subject for another post that will be to you shortly but suffice it to say for now that to have a Department of Education as Murray has just declared will happen in Seattle, you have to have programs to oversee to show how well a politician can run a school district.

For more detail on mayoral control, see Mayoral Control: The short of it.

New Note: A New York hedge fund PAC and a few other notables donated to the 1B campaign during the last week before the election. For the details, see New York hedge fund managers jumping onto the Seattle Preschool Proposition 1B gravy train.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

What’s happening in Seattle is happening around the country. Watch Bill Moyers’ segment:

Who’s buying our midterm elections?

 

Post Script:

A big thank you and shout out to all who sent me information and prodded me to keep following this money trail. This could not have been done without the diligence and hard work of others who have helped me with research or sent me information they found to be of interest and noteworthy.

Keep those cards and letters coming!

 

Notes:

There is a pdf of the Wheel of Fortune here that can be downloaded and printed.

*I asked for the Families and Education Levy meeting minutes because they are not all posted on the website. After two weeks, they have yet to appear. These minutes have provided great insight on how the levy committee has been working behind the scenes on this issue and this information needs to be available for the public to view.

 

 

 

 

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

bill-gates-thinking

Bill Gates will be bringing yet another grand experiment onto public school children in Seattle soon in the form of a charter school “Sierra” which is part of the Summit charter school chain.

Remember the small high school experiment that Gates subsidized? Fail.

The Common Core Standards? On the brink of a major fail.

Merit pay? Bad idea from the beginning. It didn’t work at Microsoft, why should it work with teachers?

Charter schools? Every time we hear the trumpets blow about a charter school that is successful, we find out that there was a lot of behind the scenes shenanigans going on…students being counseled out or expelled if they can’t make the grade, a demand of cash or an inordinate amount of volunteer time required of the parents (see below re: Summit), long application forms that weed out those parents who might not know English, ELL students need not apply, and other parents who don’t have the bandwidth, for whatever reason, to fill out the form.

So let’s look at Summit.

What caught my attention about Summit initially was an article in the Philanthropy News Digest that was sent to me. Here’s an excerpt:

The (Gates) foundation also awarded $4 million to Summit Public Schools and $4.2 million to Green Dot Public Schools, both California-based charter management organizations looking to expand into Washington. Both organizations have been engaging with communities in the western part of the state, where they hope to adapt their existing models to the needs of local communities.

Green Dot Public Schools, both California-based charter management organizations looking to expand into Washington. Both organizations have been engaging with communities in the western part of the state, where they hope to adapt their existing models to the needs of local communities.

So I got on the horn with my fellow edu advocates, writers, activists and educators and received a plethora of information.

These are some of the responses I received.

Regarding Bill Gates and Summit:

… in 2011 the Gates Foundation gave $50,000 to Summit Institute: “TO ACCELERATE THE IMPACT AND QUALITY OF THE CLASSROOM ROTATIONAL BLENDED MODEL OF INSTRUCTION FOR 208 9TH GRADE STUDENTS AT SUMMIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS: RAINIER AND TAHOMA IN SAN JOSE CALIFORNIA”

“Blended learning”, by the way, means putting a student in front of a computer with 40 to 50 other students and one teacher and calling it “education”. See “Online (Blended) Learning” for additional information on the subject.

According to Summit’s own report titled Washington State Fundraising Summary which was sent to me by a parent in California who has been looking into Summit:

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

Funder Information: Have funded Summit through a variety of channels over the last 3 years- $150,000 total for Optimized, $450,000 from NGLC, have requested funding for Personalized Learning and more this year.

Current Proposal: (The Gates Foundation) Have requested a proposal from Summit for $8M for 4 Summit schools in WA, as well as access to a newly formed Gates Facilities Fund.

The report goes on to mention the usual set of donors who like to fund all things ed/corporate reform including the Bezos Family Foundation.

Bezos Family Foundation

Funder Information: Run by (Amazon’s Founder and CEO) Jeff Bezos and his parents and other family members. They funded KIPP and Stand for Children, and donated $975,000 to the most recent 2012 charter school measure in WA as well as to previous attempts to introduce charter schools in WA.

Current discussion: Molly and Megan attended a breakfast with Diane and Diego, and have indicated an interest in further discussion around funding.

According to the report, Jim Spady of Seattle’s Dick’s Burgers has pledged $50,000 to the cause. Chris Korsmo with the League of Education Voters offered to connect Summit with “prospective funders in Washington”.

Connie Ballmer, whose husband was CEO of Microsoft, and Tonya Dressel with Partners for our Children were also on the list.

Regarding Meg Whitman and Summit:

From a parent in San Francisco:

El Cerrito is just north of Berkeley, which is just north of Oakland.

Summit’s petition was rejected by the local school district (West Contra Costa Unified) on August 12th so Summit submitted its petition to the county ed agency (Contra Costa County Office of Education) for approval.

In California, charter school authorizers may be 1.) the local school district, 2.) the county office of education, or 3.) the state board of education. This allows charter school operators to go from agency to agency as they seek their authorization (“authorizer shopping”).

Meg Whitman is on Summit’s board. She ran against Jerry Brown during CA’s last gubernatorial race and spent more of her own money than any other self-funded political candidate in U.S. history. She also turned down Warren Buffett when he asked her to join the Giving Pledge (billionaires commit to donating half of their money to charity).

Dell, Inc.,  Brad Bernatek (remember him?) and Summit

dell-logoYou know there was a money interest in all of this, didn’t you?

The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation paid for a glossy report on online learning, oop’s, “Blended Learning”, and Summit is a  featured school.

Michael Dell is founder and CEO of Dell Inc. Dell, Inc. is a multinational computer technology company based in Texas where the foundation is located. Dell, Inc. “sells, repairs and supports computers and related products.”

Oh the web of edu/corporate reform.

Adding another string to the web is Brad Bernatek’s involvement with the report. (His name is on the cover of the report.) Remember him? He was the Broad graduate who our former Broad superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, brought in as a “Broad Resident” to watch over the hen-house as Director of Research, Assessment and Evaluation. He was also put in charge of implementing the MAP test for the superintendent who was on the NWEA board that produces the MAP test.

Brad played around with some numbers for Goodloe-Johnson. Those numbers were used to push the Broad agenda for Common Core Standards, a review of the teachers’ contract and ultimately charter schools.

To follow is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Seattle Times, The Truth Needle | False: Seattle Public Schools underestimated students’ college-readiness:

False

“In a presentation used at community meetings in 2008, for example, the district said only 17 percent of its graduates “met the entrance requirements for a four-year college.”

It’s unclear whether district staff oversimplified the explanation, misunderstood what Bernatek was trying to do or misused it in their zeal to convince the public and potential funders of the need for the changes outlined in the five-year plan.

What is clear: At least one School Board member raised questions about the figure from the beginning. And the district didn’t publicly correct it, even after it pulled the figure from some of its own reports.”

The percentage was actually 46%

For more on Bernatek, see Oops, I Did It Again! and Seattle Schools data guy has resigned – a casualty of 17 Percent-Gate?

Now back to Summit charter schools.

What Summit demands of parents: (Which probably weeds out a lot of students. This is called “cherry picking”.)

According to the Everest Parent Organization website which is the parent organization associated with Summit-Everest, it is required that parents or guardians put in 30 hours of volunteer time with the school each year, 50 hours if you have two students attending the charter school. That’s a lot of time if you’re working full-time or holding down two jobs as many are doing to make it through these difficult financial times. It also helps keep the school’s cost down. Yes, parental involvement is important and ideal but many parents hardly have the time to work, return home, make dinner and help with homework. As a working single mom while my daughter was in school, I know what that’s like that firsthand.

Along with volunteer time, they ask that parents “donate” $500 for each student attending this charter school.

I truly wonder what the Charter School Commission was thinking when they approved this school for Seattle. Did they actually read the website?

The Summit charter school in Seattle is to be located in the south end of Seattle and supposedly drawing on minority students who live in the area.

How many parents do you think in the low-income area will be able to  come up with $500 per student and at least 30 hours of volunteer time?

And they call themselves a “public school”?

What this does is eliminate impoverished families and families who are holding down two or more jobs. This is termed “cherry picking” and one way to ensure high test scores, a qualification for a charter school to remain open.

About Summit’s AP classes:

From a parent in Oakland:

Summit claims that all its students take several AP classes. Since AP classes are designed for exceptional students only, of course their claim is that they’re taking a full cross-section of students and turning them into exceptional students. Since that’s obviously not possible in real life, either their selection process is screening for students capable of taking AP classes or they’re watered-down AP classes, in name only. Or the whole thing could be a lie, of course — that’s always possible with the ever-slippery charter sector. 

Summit’s attrition rate:

Summit Prep lost 18.86% of its class of ’13 between freshman year and the beginning of senior year — I don’t have information on the number who graduated. It lost 26% of its Latino students (the most significant nonwhite group) in that time. Again, we don’t know how many graduated.

Standard charter practice is to push out the less successful students before graduation and then tout the percentage of the remaining number who graduate and go to college, so even though not all of them presumably do that, those claims have no credibility whatsoever and should just be shrugged off.

Also, by the way, when “Waiting for ‘Superman'” trashed Woodside High School (with a false portrayal) to aggrandize Summit Prep Charter, there was HUGE pushback from Woodside parents. They bought a big banner and put it across the outside of the school — I’ll have to go look at the wording, but it was something like “We love our teachers — man, you’re super!” It was there for a long time and may still be. 

Summit’s rollout plan for Washington State:

In a field report titled “Greenlighting 2015” that was sent to me regarding Summit’s plan for our children’s future and was discussed at a Summit board meeting, their plan is to establish four schools in seven different districts in Washington State, two in the fall of 2015 and two in 2016.

The facilities will be paid for by Gates through the Washington State Facilities Fund and leased to Summit at “sustainable rates”.

Eric Premack
Eric Premack

Eric Premack with the Charter School Development Center is being funded by Gates “to look at Washington State and prepare the groundwork for entry”.

According to this field report, Summit has questions about how much of the Seattle  school levy budget they will receive. “The thinking is that the first charters approved will be the first ones to get access to the levies.”

Bill Gates is spending $8-$10 million on bringing charter schools to Washington state per the report and the Washington Charter Schools Association has paid for “all trips”, approximately $3.75M, to fly charter groups into our state to check out the terrain, and Premack is the main figure in all of this.

They see Teachers United as helping the cause of establishing charter schools in our state. (Long story about Parents United. For now, know that it was established with Gates money, is anti-union and they are all about all things ed/corporate reform.)

The Charter School Commission didn’t do their homework on vetting Summit charter schools but maybe that isn’t the point of the commission.

Submitted by:

Dora Taylor with a lot of help from Parents Across America members and other education advocates.

Post Script: Please read the first comment below written by a Summit charter school parent. It is very revealing.

The Weekly Update: The corporate empire of public education and where that leaves the rest of us, ALEC, Gates and charter schools

So much news, so little time.

From Real News:

U.S. Student Homelessness Up 10% Since Last Year

 Highest increases of homeless children seen in states like North Carolina where austerity policies predominate.

All those people we come in contact with daily, the sales clerk, that friendly person at the bank, the barista…they’ll all hurting, quietly, and I never knew they were in such pain, not until the strikes began to happen. Then I realized that these workers get paid so little that we are subsidizing the overhead of the 1% by providing workers with food assistance and healthcare, ensuring that the wealthy few can maintain their standard of living while the rest of us stoically suffer:

From the Real News, 1 out of 3 Bank Tellers in NY on Public Assistance

New report finds bank executives receive big bonuses, while 39% of frontline bank employees must rely on welfare because of insufficient wages

Remember that many of these employees have families, children in school, and they are barely able to make ends meet.

On the other hand, from Mother Jones:

defense

Can’t touch this

  • The Army uses more than twice as much building space as all the offices in New York City.

  • The Pentagon holds more than 80 percent of the federal government’s inventories, including $6.8 billion of excess, obsolete, or unserviceable stuff.

  • The Pentagon operates more than more than 170 golf courses worldwide.

  • 70 percent of the value of the federal government’s $1.8 trillion in property, land, and equipment belongs to the Pentagon.

…the Pentagon has once more gotten a reprieve from the budget ax: Under Murray and Ryan’s congressional budget deal, the Pentagon will get an additional $32 billion, or 4.4 percent, in 2014, leaving its base budget at a higher level than in 2005 and 2006. (The Department of Defense expects its total 2014 budget, including supplemental war funding, to be more than $600 billion.)

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost $1.5 trillion, about twice the cost of the Vietnam War when adjusted for inflation. Those funds came entirely from borrowing, contributing nearly 20 percent to the national debt accrued between 2001 and 2012. And that’s just the “supplemental” military spending passed by Congress for the wars—the regular Pentagon budget also grew nearly 45 percent between 2001 and 2010.

One out of every five tax dollars is spent on defense.

Too big to audit

Where does the Pentagon’s money go? The exact answer is a mystery. That’s because the Pentagon’s books are a complete mess. They’re so bad that they can’t even be officially inspected, despite a 1997 requirement that federal agencies submit to annual audits—just like every other business or organization.

The Defense Department is one of just two agencies (Homeland Security is the other) that are keeping the bean counters waiting: As the Government Accountability Office dryly notes, the Pentagon has “serious financial management problems” that make its financial statements “inauditable.” Pentagon financial operations occupy one-fifth of the GAO’s list of federal programs with a high risk of waste, fraud, or inefficiency.

Critics also contend that the Pentagon cooks its books by using unorthodox accounting methods that make its budgetary needs seem more urgent. The agency insists it will “achieve audit readiness” by 2017.

 Defense_4Web.indd

To read this article in full, go to Mother Jones.

Teachers2

So what does the 1% do with their money? Well, they would like to rule the world, at least control what they haven’t gotten already.

One of the vehicles used to do that is through ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Let’s see what they’re up to now.

From Education Alchemy:

“Big Brother” Has an Ugly Corporate “Big Stepsister”!

alec5

There’s a lot wrong with ALEC legislation, now, in the past, and undoubtedly into the future. I could fill volumes of pages of such concerns. But for the sake of focus, today’s blog drills down into their most recent “model” legislation aimed at selling our schools to the edu-tech industry. It’s so blatant it’s painful. I would have expected more subterfuge from ALEC. They’re getting lazy. Or their getting bold. Their agenda is too clear. Kind of disappointing really. They took all the fun out of having to dig for it.

I am pasting snap shots of their latest rounds of policies. The rest speaks for itself.

From the “Early Intervention Act”

“…to provide interactive computer software for literacy or numeracy instruction, or both, and assessments for students in kindergarten through grade 3.”

Really? Because nothing screams “developmentally inappropriate” like putting a five year old in front of a computer in lieu of a real live caring and experienced teacher during the most vulnerable and formative stages of cognitive development. But of course, this is a boon for the software industry!

In order to receive the early intervention funds for the “enhanced kindergarten program” described in this model bill, a school district must agree to contract with software companies to provide online learning programs.

“In addition to an enhanced kindergarten program described in Subsection (B), the early intervention program includes a component to address early intervention through the use of an interactive computer software program.”

To read this post in full, go to Education Alchemy

And speaking about the 1% buying what they want, for Bill Gates it’s the privatization of our schools by way of charter schools and the standardization/homogenization of our children through Common Core Standards and all those tests.

Recently Gates provided the League of Education Voters with $4,200,000to build capacity for a state-wide public charter school support organization in Washington State”.

burning bucks

Continuing on  the theme of privatization, there is this from The Nation:

Ted Mitchell, Education Dept. Nominee, Has Strong Ties to Pearson, Privatization Movement

Ted Mitchell, the chief executive of the New Schools Venture Fund, was nominated in October by President Obama to become the Under Secretary of the Department of Education.

As the administration continues to reshuffle its team, and confront new regulatory challenges, some view Mitchell’s nomination as a move towards greater privatization. In the coming months, the Department of Education will release “gainful employment” rules to rein in for-profit colleges, an experiment in proprietary education that many see as an unmitigated disaster.

As head of the NewSchools Venture Fund, Mitchell oversees investments in education technology start-ups. In July, Zynga, the creators of FarmVille, provided $1 million to Mitchell’s group to boost education gaming companies. Mitchell’s NewSchool Venture Fund also reportedly partners with Pearson, the education mega-corporation that owns a number of testing and textbook companies, along with one prominent for-profit virtual charter school, Connections Academy.

Jeff Bryant, a senior fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future, says it seems likely that Mitichell will “advocate for more federal promotion of online learning, ‘blended’ models of instruction, ‘adaptive learning’ systems, and public-private partnerships involving education technology.”

Mitchell did not respond to TheNation.com’s  request for comment*.

His ethics disclosure form shows that he was paid $735,300 for his role at NewSchools, which is organized as a non-profit. In recent years, he has served or is currently serving as a director to New Leaders, Khan Academy, California Education Partners, Teach Channel, ConnectED, Hameetman Foundation, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Silicon Schools, Children Now, Bellwether Partners, Pivot Learning Partners, EnCorps Teacher Training Program, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the Green DOT Public (charter) Schools.

In addition, Mitchell serves as an adviser to Salmon River Capital, a venture capital firm that specializes in education companies. Mitchell sits on the board of Parchment, an academic transcript start-up that is among Salmon River Capital’s portfolio.

Salmon River Capital helped create one of the biggest names in for-profit secondary education, Capella University. “As a foundational investor and director, [Salmon River Capital’s] Josh Lewis made invaluable contributions to Capella’s success. From leading our landmark financing in 2000, when Capella was a $10 million business operating in a difficult environment, through a successful 2006 IPO and beyond, he proved a great partner who kept every commitment he made,” reads a statement from Steve Shank, founder of Capella.

The Minnesota-based Capella heavily recruits veterans and has received $53.1 million from the GI Bill in the past four years. The Minnesota attorney general is currently investigating several unnamed for-profit colleges in her state.

To read this article in full, go to The Nation.

nsvf

By the way, Bill Gates provided the New Schools Venture Fund with $30M recently to support  NSVF in their “Efforts to Provide 200 High-Quality Charter Schools for 100,000 Low-Income Students”.

And while on the subject of the Gates/Gates Foundation investments, check out this article from grist:

The Gates Foundation’s hypocritical investments

With an endowment larger than all but four of the world’s largest hedge funds, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is easily one of the most powerful charities in the world. According to its website, the organization “works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” So how do the investments of the foundation’s $36 billion investing arm, the Gates Foundation Trust, match up to its mission? We dug into the group’s recently released 2012 tax returns to find out.

gates-01

 The Gates Foundation did not respond to requests for comment; however, its investment policy says the trust’s managers “consider other issues beyond corporate profits, including the values that drive the foundation’s work.”

gates-02

gates-03

In its most recent annual report to investors, private prison company GEO Group listed some risks to its bottom line, including “reductions in crime rates” that “could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences,” along with immigration reform and the decriminalization of drugs. Military contractor DynCorp, meanwhile, has faced allegations of fraudmismanagement, and even slavery from the Middle East to Eastern Europe.

gates-04

Moving on to charter schools, what Bill Gates and the Waltons want for the rest of us, from alter net:

Major Charter School Chain’s Classrooms Look Like Cubicles for Telemarketers

As Bill Gates once said, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”

The Rocketship chain of charter schools is hoping to expand across the country. It’s backed by some of the biggest names in the tech world and claims high test scores.

Rocketship leaders brag that they think outside the box. Teachers, for instance—who needs them? The company says it saves half a million dollars a year by using fewer teachers, replacing them with non-certified instructors at $15 per hour.

These instructors monitor up to 130 kids at a time in cubicles in the schools’ computer labs. Rocketeers, as students are called, sit looking at computer screens up to two hours per day, supposedly learning by solving puzzles.

Business leaders such as Bill Gates often stress the need to train kids for the jobs of the future—digital animators, nanotech engineers? But it looks more like the Rocketeers are being prepared for online “microtasks” at Crowdflower, which contracts out data categorization and de-duplication.

According to a recent wage and hour lawsuit, these microtaskers are often paid as little as $2 an hour.

Overall, the growth these days is not in skilled, middle-class jobs like public school teaching—which is shrinking, thanks to charter chains like Rocketship—but in low-wage jobs.

It’s no coincidence that Rocketship employs the same kind of de-professionalized, non-union workforce it seems to be training. Half its teachers have less than two years’ experience; 75 percent come from Teach for America.

Screen Time

Critics of the Rocketship model cite the American Association of Pediatrics, which recommends less than two hours of screen time per day—total.

When you figure in that kids will be on computers and phones when they aren’t in school, too—they spend on average seven hours a day on various devices as it is—it raises a red flag.

Skeptics say the Rocketship test scores just demonstrate the schools are focusing on test preparation at the expense of arts, languages, and real learning.

Rocketship’s board and advisors represent the Gates, Walton, and Broad Foundations—familiar faces in corporate “education reform.” Benefactors include Facebook, Netflix, and Skype.

Rocketship’s schools are in California, Wisconsin, and Tennessee with plans to expand into Indianapolis, D.C., and New Orleans: 25,000 students by 2017.

Guinea Pigs

Rocketship targets low-income students, making them the guinea pigs for the cubicle model of education.

Who doesn’t like their kids being experimented on? As Bill Gates once said, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”

In fact, the chain is already scrapping the 100-cubicle learning labs for its older students, fourth and fifth graders. Students weren’t always engaged, and sometimes were just staring at the screen and guessing.

To hear their enthusiasm, you might imagine the tech elites would be dropping their kids off every day for these cutting-edge education experiments. But instead, many Silicon Valley leaders send their kids to private schools like Waldorf Peninsula—whose philosophy is to avoid computers, arguing that they hurt children’s development and attention spans.

Those who can afford private schools choose those that offer creative, hands-on learning, small classes, arts, and teacher-student interaction. But apparently the cubicle is good enough for everyone else.

Somehow, it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that these business leaders’ model spends public education dollars on their own products. Education is a half-trillion-dollar industry. See here for another example: L.A. schools give every student and teacher an apple—an iPad, that is.

money7

And this from Scathing Purple Musings (listen up Seattle):

Shaky Grant From For-Profit Charter School Ensnares Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores

Auditors say both the grant and a problematic lease they scrutinized are evidence of a larger issue created when the independent governing boards tasked with overseeing charters share close ties with the companies paid to run the public schools, often for a profit. In the Doral case, several board members of the school and college serve in various other capacities for charter school giant Academica, which manages both schools

Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) never met a piece of legislation that benefited the for-profit charter school industry she didn’t like. Just pay no attention to the little matter that she works for one. This week’s revelations that the one she works for  received a tax-payer funded grant marks the beginning of another episode in the shady relationships between Florida legislators and the for-profit charter school industry. Miami Herald reporter David Smiley reports:

Fledgling Doral College got a $400,000 windfall two years ago that helped the small start-up open its doors. The “grant” came from Doral Academy Charter High, a publicly funded school run by the same company.

The deal helped Doral College stay in the black and furthered a joint effort with the charter school to establish an in-house dual-enrollment program. But the transaction also caught the eye of Miami-Dade school district auditors, who have spent the last year questioning why and how a school funded by the state could hand hundreds of thousands of public dollars to an unaccredited, private college.

“The authority and legality of said expense is also not clear to us,” investigators wrote in an audit presented Tuesday.

Auditors say both the grant and a problematic lease they scrutinized are evidence of a larger issue created when the independent governing boards tasked with overseeing charters share close ties with the companies paid to run the public schools, often for a profit. In the Doral case, several board members of the school and college serve in various other capacities for charter school giant Academica, which manages both schools.

Academica president Fernando Zulueta declined to comment Tuesday when approached by a reporter.

But in a biting response to the audit, an attorney representing the school said the grant was a legitimate transaction between partners in education, which existed under the same company when the charter school first set aside the $400,000 for the college. The district’s critical audit, attorney Eleni Pantaridis argued, omitted crucial facts and was the flawed work of a biased investigator who “does not support the charter school system.”

“They’re picking and choosing the facts that benefit them and ignoring the facts that don’t,” she said Tuesday during a hearing

To read this post in full, go to Scathing Purple Musings.

Today, I will leave you with Bill Moyers and Henry Giroux Zombie Politics.

Giroux touches on the subject of education quite a bit in this discussion.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Lisa Macfarlane of WA DFER, and now Suzanne Estey, with their conspiracy theories

funding2

Update, October 31, 2013: Suzanne Estey has sent out a new flyer stating that Sue Peters’ and I have created some sort of theory out of the blue on the connection between big money and public school policy.

I don’t know where Estey’s been besides on the CCER Board, an organization solely funded by Bill Gates, but maybe she can’t see the forest for all those trees, or is it for all those bucks?

Estey is referring to our Lines of Influence post that went up three years ago and has been read and resonated with parents, teachers, students and concerned citizens around the country and put our blog on the map.

Read the post for yourself and make your own determination.

Dora Taylor

Lisa Macfarlane, Director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) for Washington State, who received a $10,000 grant from the Walton’s as an “Education Reformer to Watch” for her work on pushing charter school initiative 1240 in the state of Washington and former Director of External Affairs with the League of Education Voters (LEV), just sent out an e-mail regarding the Seattle school board race.

In this e-mail, Ms. Macfarlane said that Sue Peters’ was a conspiracy theorist because of the connections that Sue and I made a few years back between Bill Gates and Eli Broad and their agenda regarding public education that was described in our post The Lines of Influence in Education Reform.

Funny thing is, Ms. Macfarlane is probably the only person in the US and beyond who thinks that the relationship between Gates, the Walton’s, members of ALEC and Eli Broad, et al, and the privatization push is some kind of theory and nothing more. It’s ironic that the same person who is living off of corporate money is the only individual so far that’s saying it’s all just some big story that the rest of us have made up.

Wow.

First, let’s consider the source of this accusation.

From my post, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) candidates in Washington State

According to DFER Watch:

Democrats for Education Reform is a political action committee supported largely by hedge fund managers favoring charter schools, merit-pay tied to test scores, high-stakes testing, school choice (including vouchers and tuition tax credits in some cases), mayoral control, and alternative teacher preparation programs.

Diane Ravitch describes DFER in her post Follow the Money.

If you want to know why so many politicians think so highly of charters, there is a basic rule of  politics that explains it all: Follow the money.

The most visible organization promoting corporate reform is called Democrats for Education Reform, known as DFER (commonly pronounced “D-fer”). DFER is the Wall Street hedge fund managers’ group. It always has a few non-hedge funders on the board, especially one or two prominent African-Americans, to burnish its pretentious claim of leading the civil rights movement of our day. Kevin Chavous, a former council member from Washington, D.C., fills that role for now, along with the DFER stalwart, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark. DFER has its own member of the U.S. Senate, Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado. It has also raised money generously for Congressman George Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and Labor Committee.

This group bankrolls politicians, woos them, raises campaign cash for them, and persuades them of the advantages of turning the children of their district over to privately managed schools. Watch their website to see which politician they favor this month and scan those they have recognized in the past.

In New York City, Hakeem Jeffries, DFERs’s candidate for U.S. Congress, announced his support for tax credits for religious schools on the day after he won the election. His support for charter schools was already well known.

And from The Daily Kos:

DFER and Education Policies

So, what happened and who were those “small but vocal younger, reform minded advocates that supported Obama” but hated Darling-Hammond? In August 2008 a pre-convention Democrats for Education Reform seminar, billed as “Ed Challenge for Change” previewed a coming attack from within the Democratic Party on teachers and especially their unions. David Goldstein of the American Prospect reported:

“It was sponsored by a coalition of foundations, nonprofits, and businesses supporting the charter-school movement, including Ed in ’08, the advocacy group founded by Bill Gates and real-estate mogul Eli Broad. The evening provided a truly unusual spectacle at a convention: A megawatt group of Democrats, including Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C., and former Gov. Ray Romer of Colorado, bashed teachers’ unions for an hour. Amid the approving audience were Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, an icon of the civil-rights movement; Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, (in)famous as a high-profile African American Hillary Clinton endorser; and Mayor David Cicilline of Providence, the reformer of that once-Mob-ridden New England city. Cicilline took avid notes.” It was from this crowd that Darling-Hammond was receiving her harshest criticism and where the non-traditional (meaning no education background) leader of the Chicago school system, Arne Duncan, was championed as the next Secretary of Education. The loudest voices were those of a new organization calling themselves Democrats for Education reform (DFER), led by young extremely wealthy hedge fund operators from New York City.

In the May 31, 2007 issue of New York Sun there was a report about one of the first victories of DFER: “A money manager recently sent an e-mail to some partners, congratulating them on an investment of $1 million that yielded an estimated $400 million. The reasoning was that $1 million spent on trying to lift a cap on the number of charter schools in New York State yielded a change in the law that will bring $400 million a year in funding to new charter schools. The money managers who were among the main investors in this law — three Harvard MBAs and a Wharton graduate named Whitney Tilson, Ravenel Boykin Curry IV, Charles Ledley, and John Petry — are moving education-oriented volunteerism beyond championing a single school.

Before joining DFER in our great state, Ms. Macfarlane represented the League of Education Voters (LEV) in Seattle, another favorite organization of mine that doesn’t have members, just one big sponsor, guess who.

Regarding LEV during Macfarlane’s tenure as Director of External Affairs, from A Look Back at the League of Education Voters:

In 2007, LEV started to receive serious money from Gates, $835K “to support capacity building for education advocacy programs”. In October of 2009 LEV received $1.5M “to support the research, public engagement, policy development and coalition work in early learning, college ready and postsecondary”.

In June of 2010, the Gates Foundation gave $40,000 to the League of Education Voters “to support a series of education-related speakers in Seattle” and the same year received another $105K “to support raising awareness of educational attainment issues in King County”. In 2011 LEV received a total of $215K from the Gates Foundation. All of this information can be found at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website. (Note: The Gates Foundation has taken down this information on their website after this article was posted.)

In the fall of  2010 the League of Education Voters offered up a who’s who of charter school franchise CEO’s  to speak as part of LEV’s imaginary “revolution”, “Voices from the Education Revolution Speakers Series“ featuring:

Richard Barth, CEO of the KIPP Foundation which does not hire union teachers, Steve Barr, Founder & Emeritus Chair of Green Dot charter Schools another charter franchise that does not hire union teachers and moderated by Don Shalvey, former CEO and founder of Aspire Charter Schools and Board member of the Greendot charter franchise neither of which hires union teachers.

Also arriving in town that year complements of LEV was Kevin Johnson, Sacramento mayor and backer of a charter school in his state.

For more on LEV, see A Look Back at the League of Education Voters.

I'm not cynical

In Ms. Macfarlane’s e-mail, she also mentions school board candidate Stephan Blanford, another big business favorite. Blanford’s and Estey’s campaigns are being funded by the Great Seattle Schools PAC which has received money from the usual cast of characters including DFER, who has contributed $10,000 to the PAC. See A vote for Sue Peters is a vote for the rest of us for the details on who is funding DFER’s favorite candidates.

For more on Estey, see The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates, a national data bank, Wireless Gen…and FERPA?

The gloves are coming off with these corporate reformers and they’re showing their true colors.

Let’s not allow them to take over our schools in Seattle.

A vote for Sue Peters is a vote for the rest of us.

Diane Ravitch calls Sue “A champion for public education”.

For more on Sue Peters and her campaign, go to Sue Peters for Seattle School Board.

For further reading on Bill Gates, big money and how it’s influencing education policy, see Bill Gates tells us why *his* high school was a great learning environment, a compilation of all things ALEC in education, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a compilation of articles regarding Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation, the awesome website ALEC Exposed, from The Nation: Why Do Some of America’s Wealthiest Individuals Have Fingers in Louisiana’s Education System? and Diane Ravith’s latest book Reign of Error which describes Gates’ influence in detail.

For additional information on the Walton’s and their influence on education policy see:

Why are the Walton’s spending so much money on charter school Initiative 1240?
More information on the Walmart Walton’s and charter school initiative 1240
Walmart Walton’s: The movie

Submitted by Dora Taylor

corporate capitolism

Initiative I-1240: The money and the lies

Bill Gates is cranking it up a notch with his enablers, the League of Education Voters and Stand for Children. He and some other donors have put money into the pot to put a charter school initiative on the ballot this fall, Initiative 1240.

The money so far has been contributed by:

Mike and Jackie Bezos: $250,000

Bill Gates: $200,000

(Update: Bill Gates recently contributed an additional $800,000 to his cause and the Waltons recently contributed $600,000.)

Paul Allen: $100,000 (can someone give this guy a clue?)

Katherine Binder: $100,000 (who also contributed to Senator Patty Murray)

Nick Hanauer: $25,000

Gates provided $53,000 in in-kind contributions for surveys, etc. Other in-kind donations came from the League of  Education Voters, Stand for Children, and Democrats for Education Reform, for expenses.

That’s the money, now for the lies.

With the court’s approval on June 15th, signature gatherers took to the streets last weekend in an attempt to get enough signatures to put the charter school proposal on the fall ballot.

Several people, including myself, have gone up to these paid signature gatherers ($14 per hour plus a weekly bonus) to hear their pitch. To follow are the lalapalooza’s:

“They’re cheaper than regular schools.”

“This initiative would lower class sizes.”

I-1240 is just a “pilot” program for charters.

“It’s for low-income families.”

One signature gatherer said that they should sign so “40 non-profits could create schools.”

And my brief exchange with one of these pitchmen in Capitol Hill this weekend was the following.

“If you’re for public schools then you need to sign this.”

I shook my head.

“What? You’re not for public schools?!” he said mockingly.

“Don’t you want to just get this on the ballot!?” again asked with mocking disbelief.

I just said “Heck no!” and walked away.

This guy was being paid so getting into a conversation with him would have gone nowhere. He really didn’t care about education or what people might be signing, that was apparent.

I came across this signature gatherer at the Seattle Pride Fest. There were two young men on one corner and three on the same block stationed at another corner. Apparently these paid pushers were out in force this weekend.

   “Don’t Feed the Greed!”

“Decline to sign!”

So let’s take a look at this initiative that Bill Gates wants everyone to sign.

To follow are the highlights:

Charter Schools. Most charter schools are nonprofit charities described in Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). As nonprofits, charter schools often obtain certain benefits including exemption from federal and state income taxes, property tax, and sales tax. As nonprofits, charter schools also qualify for federal and state educational funding.

Must be nice to make a buck and not have to pay taxes for it.

A recent example of folks taking advantage of this potential largess is Eva Moskowitz with Success Academy. As Juan Gonzalez writes in his article Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Schools network rolling in money but still wants 50% increase in management fees from state:

Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Schools network rolling in money but still wants 50% increase in management fees from state:

Even in public education, the rich keep getting richer.

That’s the message the trustees of the State University of New York will send Monday when they vote to approve a huge 50% increase in the per-pupil management fee of one of the city’s wealthiest, biggest-spending and most controversial charter school operators.

The Success Academy Charter Schools Inc., run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, applied in April for an increase from $1,350 to $2,000 in the annual per student payment it receives from the state to run 10 of its charter schools.

SUNY postponed the vote following a public outcry over the agency’s failure to disclose any details beforehand.

Not until Friday morning did the agency finally release some documents to justify the increase.

Among them is a May 22 letter from Moskowitz that claims her network has been heavily subsidizing “shortfalls” in its management costs for years through outside donations and grants.

Those high costs have been a result, Moskowitz said, of a “quality and intensity of services that is far higher than nearly any other (charter operator) in New York City,” yet she has continued to augment her services despite insufficient fees from the schools.

But with the “deficit … increasing every year,” Moskowitz says, “the current situation is simply unsustainable.” In 2010-11 alone, she states, her network’s “shortfall” reached $4.7 million.

This will all come as a huge surprise to anyone who has bothered to examine Success Academy’s financial reports or who has witnessed firsthand its almost limitless spending .

The Success Network, in fact, is a fund-raising colossus, having received $28 million from dozens of foundations and wealthy investors the past six years, and millions more in state and federal grants.

On its annual tax forms, it has continually reported huge year-end surpluses for both itself and its individual schools. Those combined surpluses currently stand at more $23.5 million.

Last year alone, the network spent an astounding $883,119 on “student recruitment” – much of it for glossy flyers mailed to hundreds of thousands of parents; bus stop and Internet ads and an army of paid recruiters to go door-to-door soliciting student applications.

Hardly the picture of financial woe.

And from Diane Ravitch on the subject of Success Academy, How Charter Schools Get a Bad Reputation:

Whenever there is a public hearing about closing schools, hundreds of Success Academy children and parents are bused in–all wearing identical T-shirts–to insist on closing more public schools so that Success Academy can take their space and open more charter schools. Why would charter students demand more charters? They are already enrolled in one and they can only attend one school. They are used. You can imagine the opprobrium that would be heaped on a public school principal if he or she hired a bus to take children to public hearings to demand more space or more funding. The principal would be called out, rightly, for using the children and would be fired.

Today Success Academy will appeal for more public funding. It gets whatever it wants from city and state officials (Eva’s charter PAC–called Great Public Schools– made a $50,000 contribution to Governor Cuomo’s campaign).

So much for the term “non-profit”.

Also in the initiative is either a stealth-like play on words or someone didn’t double-check this initiative before it went out.

First:

Allow a maximum of up to forty public charter schools to be established over a five-year period as independently managed public schools operated only by qualified nonprofit organizations approved by the state;

Then:

Require that there will be annual performance reviews of public charter schools created under this measure, and that the performance of these schools be evaluated to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed;

So, with these two statements, the state of Washington is “allowed” a maximum of 40 charter schools over a five-year period but on the other hand, that maximum can be raised. Hmmm.

And the next phrase of interest:

Require that teachers in public charter schools be held to the same certification requirements as teachers in other public schools;

This is interesting because just last year Teach for America, Inc. recruits were raised to the level of “highly qualified teachers” within the Seattle Public School district and also by the Federal Government through pressure put on legislators by the millionaires and billionaires who have bought them out.

So then what does “same certification requirements” actually mean these days? Anyone with a pulse can teach?

As an aside, the idea that recruits with five weeks of training can be considered “highly qualified” has been recently overruled by a Federal Appeals panel.

And now for the next phrase:

Require that public charter schools be free and open to all students just like traditional public schools are, and that students be selected by lottery to ensure fairness if more students apply than a school can accommodate;

This idea of a lottery is a sales ploy with all of the hype of a state lotto. Unfortunately it creates the idea of winners and losers which is an abhorrent way to treat our children. Within the option school system in the Seattle Public School district, if there are more students who want to enroll than seats in the classroom, which happens often with our progressive alternative schools, a waiting list is created and eventually every student is able to enroll. My daughter had to wait one semester to enroll into Nova but it was well worth the wait.

This is what Diane Ravitch has to say about the charter school lottery system on her blog Diane Ravitch’s Blog:

A while back, I read a story in the New York Times that really bothered me.

It explained that neighborhood public schools are now compelled to “market” themselves because of competition with charters. In Harlem, charters are omnipresent, and the city administration has closed many public schools to make way for charters. New York City Department of Education officials make clear their preference for charters, leaving no one to fight for or defend the public schools against their competitors. If charters want public school space, they get it, usually over the opposition of the parents and community.

But what was so striking about the story–and you have to read to the end to find this–was the contrast between the resources of the public school and the invading charter. The public school had $500 or less to market itself, with flyers, brochures, volunteers. The charter–in this case, Harlem Success Academy–spent $325,000.

Wow. How can a public school compete when the charter can expend $325,000 to persuade people to participate in the lottery?

This story made me realize that the lottery isn’t really about admission to the school. The lottery is a marketing device. By whipping up interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm, all that money produces large numbers of applicants for the lottery. The lottery is an extravaganza with balloons, the turning of the wheel, the announcement of the winners, the disappointment of the losers. The daughter of a hedge fund manager in Connecticut, who is deeply involved in the charter school “movement,” produced a documentary called “The Lottery,” to promote charters.

Marketing is part of the business plan. Public relations is part of the business plan. Promoting the idea that charters are a cure for the ills of poverty is part of the business plan.

So much for the lottery system. You can strike that item off the initiative list.

And the next phrase:

Require public charter schools to be authorized by a state charter school commission, or by a local school board;

Thanks to the Seattle Education Association (SEA) unwittingly signing on to the MOU for Creative Public Schools, they have now set a precedence for no school board oversight for any schools within the Seattle Public Schools district (SPS). No wonder Micheal DeBell, School Board President, was so pleased after the school board meeting when the Creative Approach schools proposal was passed.

Of note is that City Council member Tim Burgess also attended that same meeting. Tim Burgess? Who I have not known to ever attend a school board meeting? Some say that he’s gunning for the mayor’s seat in the next election, but why would he be at that specific meeting?

Allow public charter schools to be free from many regulations so that they have more flexibility to set curriculum and Code Rev/SCG:crs 4 I-2563.1/12.budgets, hire and fire teachers and staff, and offer more customized learning experiences for students; (So how’s that argument working out for ya SEA?)

One of the arguments that SEA  leadership gave for signing on to the Creative Approach Schools proposal was that it would deter the powers that be with the money from pushing chatter schools at least in Seattle. A very weak reason but one that was given. So how is that working out for you now SEA? Bill Gates and his poverty pimps still want charter schools in our state. Unless every member of SEA is willing to knock on doors and explain to the voting public what the plan is, this MOU in terms of saving us from charter schools is worthless.

The MOU basically states the initiative phrase written above because Creative Approach schools are Innovation Schools which are charter schools in sheep’s clothing.

Charter schools being free from regulations is a debacle waiting to happen. Some of examples of this are:

Charters ‘nix 23% of kids: Boys will be boys, but nonpublic schools are quick to expel average little rascals

Loopholes In Florida Law Mean Little Oversight of Charter Business Deals

State looks into loss of funds by start-up charter schools

I encourage everyone to talk to your friends, get the word out on Facebook, talk to your children’s teachers and even pass out a few flyers to let people know what this initiative is really all about.

Dora

Innovation Schools/Creative Approach Schools and ALEC

Last year legislation was pushed through referred to as the Innovation Schools bill.

Sue and I called this bill a charter school bill in sheep’s clothing.

Then, our district’s union leadership decided to take this on to show that we could have innovative schools in Seattle and therefore didn’t need charter schools even though we have “Option Schools”, which are progressive alternative schools, Montessori, STEM, the IB program and other schools and programs that could be considered “innovative schools”. There were objections to the term “Innovation Schools” because that was too close to what charter schools were so the leadership renamed it “Creative Approach Schools”. Same difference. It’s still a charter school in sheep’s clothing.

According to the, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Seattle Education Association (SEA) and the Seattle School District, there is to be no oversight by the school board and teachers lose their collective bargaining rights that are usually shared under one umbrella. In exchange for that, the staff can develop their own curriculum. The sad part about this is that the option schools including STEM were already receiving waivers from the straitjacket of curriculum alignment so this was completely unnecessary. The other very sad part is that the Seattle Education Association (SEA) led the way with this plan, marching down the path of ed reform with their membership following blindly behind them with the exception of a few teachers who have filed a lawsuit regarding this approach.

And the very worst of it is that it plays right into the hands of ALEC.

At the website ALEC exposed there is a list of bill templates that can be used in several different categories including education that have been developed by members of ALEC. One of the templates is for  Innovation Schools and parts of this template are word for word what the district is doing to itself. There is also one for charter schools by the way. For the people driving ALEC, it’s all about union busting and the privatization of all aspects of American life.

What makes it even worse (yes, it does get worse) is that some brain trust added no school board oversight  of these schools in the agreement. That goes beyond what even ALEC dreamed of! I don’t know whose idea it was to add that verbiage but inquiring minds do want to know. That will determine whether it was just plain stupidity or a willful action on the part of a community member who is on board with corporate reform.

When there is little to no oversight of regulations, students and parents lose their right to appeal to what they consider unfair treatment and there is no adherence to requirements such as enrollment of any and all students. This is what happens in charter schools. Students, for instance, are kicked out of the school and the student has no right to appeal because either the parent signed a form relinquishing all rights or the charter school claims that it is not a public school and therefore doesn’t need to follow the rules and regulations that a public school must adhere to.

This path that SEA and the school board has chosen is a slippery slope down a very steep hill.

You can compare the ALEC template to the original Innovation Schools bill proposal that was presented in Olympia.

By the way, Eric Pettigrew who dropped the charter school bill this year, was one of the sponsors of this bill. He’s also very chummy with the League of Education Voters (LEV) being a part of some of their events and featured in  a pamphlet distributed by LEV.

Here are parts of the ALEC template for Innovation Schools:

(2) A description of the innovations the public school would implement, which may include, but need not be limited to, innovations in school staffing; curriculum and assessment; class scheduling; use of financial and other resources; and faculty recruitment, employment, evaluation, and compensation;

(1) On and after the date on which the state board designates a school district as a district of innovation, any collective bargaining agreement initially entered into or renewed by the local school board of the district of innovation shall include a term that allows each innovation school and each innovation school zone in the school district to waive any provisions of the collective bargaining agreement identified in the innovation plan as needing to be waived for the innovation school or the innovation school zone to implement its identified innovations.

(2) For an innovation school, waiver of one or more of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement shall be based on obtaining the approval, by means of a secret ballot vote, of at least 60 percent of the members of the collective bargaining unit who are employed at the innovation school.

(3) For an innovation school, waiver of one or more of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement shall be based on obtaining, at each school included in the innovation school zone, the approval of at least 60 percent of the members of the collective bargaining unit who are employed at the school. The innovation school zone shall seek to obtain approval of the waivers through a secret ballot vote of the members of the collective bargaining unit at each school included in the innovation school zone. The local school board for the innovation school zone may choose to revise the plan for creating an innovation school zone to remove from the zone any school in which at least 60 percent of the members of the collective bargaining unit employed at the school do not vote to waive

(4) If a local school board, in collaboration with the innovation school or the public schools included in the innovation school zone, revises the innovation plan as provided in Section 10 and the revisions include changes to the identified provisions of the collective bargaining agreement that need to be waived to implement the innovations that are included in the innovation plan, the local school board shall seek such additional waivers or revision or revocation of the existing waivers of provisions of the collective bargaining agreement as are necessary to implement the revised innovation plan. Any changes to waivers, or additional waivers, of the identified provisions of the collective bargaining agreement shall be subject to approval in the same manner as provided in Paragraphs (2) and (3) of this Subsection (A) for the initial approval of waivers of provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

Any revisions to the innovation plan shall require the consent of a majority of the teachers and a majority of the administrators employed at and a majority of the school advisory council for each affected public school.

And finally:

Section 12. {Safety Clause} The [State] Legislature hereby finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.

Approved by the Education Task Force on July 16, 2009.

Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors on August 27, 2009.

The next step is to find out who dropped the Innovation Schools bill originally in Olympia.

Dora

Post Script:

For more on ALEC and their goal to have no democratically elected schools boards see:

A Smart ALEC Threatens Public Education

Coordinated efforts to introduce model legislation aimed at defunding and dismantling public schools is the signature work of this conservative organization.

“Common throughout the bills are proposals to decrease local control of schools by democratically elected school boards while increasing access to all facets of education by private entities and corporations….(ALEC’s proposals) reduce the influence of or eliminate local school districts and school boards (Ladner, LeFevre, & Lips, 2010, p. 96) to be carried out through model legislation such as Charter Schools Act, Innovation Schools and School Districts Act, Open Enrollment Act, Virtual Public Schools Act, and Next Generation Charter Schools Act.”

A legislative contagion seemed to sweep across the Midwest during the early months of 2011. First, Wisconsin legislators wanted to strip public employees of the right to bargain. Then, Indiana legislators got into the act. Then, it was Ohio. In each case, Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures had introduced substantially similar bills that sought sweeping changes to each state’s collective bargaining statutes and various school funding provisions.

What was going on? How could elected officials in multiple states suddenly introduce essentially the same legislation?

The answer: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Its self-described legislative approach to education reads:

Across the country for the past two decades, education reform efforts have popped up in legislatures at different times in different places. As a result, teachers’ unions have been playing something akin to “whack-a-mole”—you know the game—striking down as many education reform efforts as possible. Many times, the unions successfully “whack” the “mole,” i.e., the reform legislation. Sometimes, however, they miss. If all the moles pop up at once, there is no way the person with the mallet can get them all. Introduce comprehensive reform packages. (Ladner, LeFevre, & Lips, 2010, p. 108)

ALEC’s own “whack-a-mole” strategy also reveals the group’s ultimate goal. Every gardener who has ever had to deal with a mole knows that the animals undermine and ultimately destroy a garden. ALEC’s positions on various education issues make it clear that the organization seeks to undermine public education by systematically defunding and ultimately destroying public education as we know it.

To see this article in full, go to Education Week.

Decline to Sign: The charter school initiative

A charter school initiative was submitted by the League of Education Voters, Stand for ChildrenDFER (Democrats for Education Reform)  and Republican State Senator Steve Litzow yesterday and will require 250,000 signatures by July 8, 2012 to be on the ballot in November.

This piece was written by Parents Across America, Tacoma member Jennifer Boutell.

Charter Schools Initiative Introduced Today, First Analysis

A charter school initiative introduced today will be on the November ballot, if supporters are able to gather 250,000 signatures by July 6th.  I did a quick read through today, to see how it compared to the very problematic bill introduced in the last legislative session.

Some initial thoughts:

While this past session’s bill limited the establishment of charter schools outside of “at risk” communities, this initiative explicitly doesn’t:

“Authorizers shall give preference to applications for charter schools that are designed to enroll and serve at-risk student populations; provided, however, that nothing in this act shall be construed as intended to limit the establishment of charter schools to those that serve a substantial portion of at-risk students or to in any manner restrict, limit, or discourage the establishment of charter schools that enroll and serve other pupil populations under a nonexclusive, nondiscriminatory admissions policy.”

In other words, while the initiative is worded as though charters are intended to serve at risk kids, there’s nothing stopping wealthier communities from establishing them.

Like the last bill, this initiative creates a right of first refusal for charters, for any surplus school building.  This creates a problem for districts to balance enrollment in under-enrolled neighborhoods (making it more likely neighborhood schools will close.)

Issues also carried over from the last bill:

  • The initiative allows “conversion charters” with a parent or teacher trigger but establishes no particular framework for how the petition process will take place.
  • Charters can be authorized by an appointed charter schools commission (in addition to school districts) in which case school districts will have no authority over their budgets or enrollment.
  • Collective bargaining units are limited to a single charter school even if the charter is authorized by a district.
  • Charters can only be closed for poor performance following a lengthy process including a right to counsel, and to call witnesses (a right that public schools facing closure do not have).

Changes from the last bill:

  • No transformation zone section, no involuntary charters (thankfully);
  • explicit prohibition against contracting for educational services with other than non-profit entities;
  • charters can only be authorized by a district or the charter schools commission, no universities/colleges;
  • limited to 40 charters in the first five years.

This was a quick first impression, I’m sure other issues will come to light as others read the initiative.

Jennifer Boutell

For a brief description of charter schools, check out Charter School Myths.

For additional information regarding the Parent Trigger, see:

Parents Across America hails defeat of Florida’s Parent Trigger bill

Ben Austin and His Parent Trigger, Now in Seattle

Ben Austin’s Antics, Continued

For additional information on DFER, check out:

LACDP Statement on the Democrats for Education Reform’s Response to LACDP’s Cease & Desist Letter

DFER Watch

John Walton: DFER Catalyst?

Peas in a pod: Koret Foundation, The Hoover Institution, and Democrats for Education Reform

Dora