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

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In March of this year, my co-editor Carolyn Leith and I interviewed the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Candidate Erin Jones. In preparation for the interview we noticed several of her donors were pro-charter school individuals and organizations who Ms. Jones referred to as her “friends” during the interview.

As I wrote in an introduction to the conversation we had with OSPI candidate Erin Jones:

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

During the interview we questioned her about her donors and after the interview, Carolyn and I sent Erin Jones information on LEV, SFC and other Gates’ backed groups assuming her to be naïve about the corporate reform movement. Apparently, Ms. Jones chose to either ignore the information or felt it was to her advantage to accept the money and therefore the influence of these individuals and groups.

Since the interview, Erin Jones has hired  SFC lobbyist Jim Kainber to assist her with generating  campaign donations.

To follow is what we have collected as of the date of this posting of money flowing into Erin Jones’ campaign from people and groups who are spending millions of dollars on privatizing the public school system of Washington State.

A big thank you goes out to people who have been working behind the scenes, gathering the information that is published in this post.

You can peruse her list of campaign donors here.

To follow is a breakdown of some of her contributors:

Stand for Children (SFC)

For information on Stand for Children, see Stand for Children Stands for the Rich and the Powerful…, For or Against Children? , Bain Capital, Stand for Children and Initiative 1240 and Parents! Know the truth about Stand for Children.

SFC contributed $168K for mailers for the Erin Jones for OSPI campaign.

And speaking of SFC, check out another contributor to SFC, Howard Behar.

Behar has contributed about $41,000 to Stand for Children. He has also donated to individuals that seek to privatize our education system such as Washington State pro charter school representatives Steve Litzow, Chad Magendanz and Guy Palmbo.

He also contributed money to the No on 1098 campaign. Initiative 1098 was a push to establish an income tax in Washington State. Washington State has one of the most regressive state tax systems in the US relying solely on a sales tax to support all state and public services including schools.

Behar has donated $2,000 to Erin Jones campaign.

Another major contributor to Stand for Children is David Nierenberg who has donated a total of $60K over the last several years to Stand for Children and donated $6K to Erin Jones’ campaign.

Evelyn Rozner, married to Matt Griffin who is a big supporter of charter schools and Teach for America and tried to buy the Seattle school board, contributed $1K to Erin Jones’ campaign,  contributed $5,000 to Stand for Children.

 Tom Alberg

Alberg is a venture capitalist who is not into paying a state income tax, which would inevitably support public schools, contributed $800 to the Erin Jones’ campaign and $35K to Stand for Children.

He also contributed $25K to the anti income tax campaign No on 1098.

For those who have been following this blog for a while, an interesting note that Alberg is also on the Investment Committee of the Seattle Foundation.

The League of Education Voters (LEV) and the LEV PAC, the Education Voters Political Action fund

To learn more about LEV, see A Look Back at the League of Education Voters and The Charter School Bill 1240 and the 1%: An Analysis. LEV has been heavily financed by Bill Gates who has been spending millions on various campaigns to have charter schools established in Washington State.

LEV has been very supportive of Erin Jones, featuring her as a keynote speaker at one of their events in 2014 and then for a LEV fundraiser as a featured speaker this year in Seattle.

Jene Jones, a lobbyist for LEV, who’s name keeps popping up when researching supporters of Erin Jones, spoke in Olympia in favor of a bill that would have elaminated  levies which is a way for districts to raise money for public schools. This may have to do with the fact that charter schools, which are still unconstitutional in our state, cannot receive tax levy money.

Starve the beast, feed the monster.

The LEV PAC is endorsing many charter school proponents to serve in the Washington State House and Senate this year.

Kelly Munn, a Field Director with LEV, who Erin Jones considers one of her “friends”, contributed $250 to Jones’ campaign fund.

The Education Voters Political Action fund include contributors such as Christopher Larson, who contributed $20K, and Steve Sundquist, a former Seattle school board member and disciple of our former Broad Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson.

Christopher Larson also contributed to the YES on 1240 campaign with $10K to establish charter schools in Washington State. Larson has donated $2,000 to the Erin Jones campaign.

To see the correlation between Yes on 1240 contributors and Jones’ donors, you can peruse the Yes on 1240 pdc list.

Rena Holland

Clyde and Rena Holland contributed $4K to Jones. Holland is a developer who has contributed to Republicans in Washington State and those with a right wing agenda.  Holland provided Tim Heyman with enough cash to push forward an initiative that requires a 2/3 majority of votes in the State House and Senate rather than a simple majority to approve bills.

This makes it more difficult for schools to get approval for much needed state funding.

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)

For more on DFER, see Democrats for Education Reform also known as DFER and The deets on DFER, Democrats for Education Reform.

As stated in The deets on DFER post:

The Democrats for Education Reform have initiated a shameless war on public education, even as they claim to support children, teachers, and schools.

Dan Grimm, who is on the Board of Advisors for DFER, hosted a fundraiser for Erin Jones at the Asian Pacific Center on October 3, 2016.

To see the list of contributors to DFER, check out their pdc file.

Ruth Libscomb

Ruth Lipscomb, a self-proclaimed “education activist”, made a $500 contribution to the Erin Jones’ campaign. Lipscomb also contributed $3K to DFER and $7,500 to LEV’s PAC, the Education Voters Political Action fund.

Jamie Lund

Jamie Lund, the Senior Policy Analyst with of the anti-union Freedom Foundation has contributed to Erin Jones’ campaign.

Amy Liu

Amy Liu sits on the board of Summit charter school. Liu has contributed to the Erin Jones campaign as well as Yes on I 1240 and DFER.

Rainier Prep charter school

Maggie O’Sullivan, who is the founding principal of Rainier Prep charter school, a charter school that Erin Jones testified in favor of, contributed $350 to Erin Jones’ campaign.

SOAR charter school

Thelma Jackson of SOAR charter school, contributed $250 to Erin Jones campaign.

Pearson

David Yunger, a Vice President at Pearson, contributed $1,000 to the Erin Jones campaign and listed himself as an “entrepreneur”.

All these people, many who were contacted by Stand for Children’s Lobbyist Jim Kaimber requesting donations, want to see Erin Jones elected and the reason is clear. They see Jones as a way to gain entry and influence over education in Washington State.

Dora Taylor

 

 

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An interview with Larry Seaquist, candidate for WA State House of Representatives

01w Larry Seaquist

… We are going to have to opt out, and in my view…we are going to have to lawyer up, go into federal court, and sue the feds to remove the testing requirement, the whole ESSA…My view is that we should plan right now to opt out as a state and to go to federal court and sue the feds on the grounds (that) their own ESSA tells the states that they are to resume local control, but it (the state) can’t implement its own provisions. So I think we’re going to have to start by opting out as a state, now, and then go to court, and make that stick.

My co-editor, Carolyn Leith, and I are interviewing the OSPI candidates and this second interview is with Larry Seaquist.

The first interview we did was with Erin Jones. See An interview with Washington State Superintendent Candidate Erin Jones.

Recently Mr. Seaquist was asked to run for the State House of Representatives for the 26th District and decided to file but we decided that what Larry Seaquist had to say was substantive and of value during this campaign season. It is apparent he has given issues facing our state a great deal of thought and are worthy of review.

Mr. Seaquist is a retired Naval Captain who served as a State Representative for the 26th Legislative District for four terms. While in the House, he was the Chair for the House Committee on Higher Education.

Looking through his PDC, we could not find the usual corporate reform suspects and feel certain he is not beholden at this time to any Gates/Bezos/Nielson/ALEC/Walton/DFER/LEV/Stand for Children/TFA, Inc. related financial backers.

Mr. Seaquist developed the Apple Action Plan which includes restoring trust in educators, adding up “the full price of McCleary” which includes “A detailed accounting of exactly what state resources each district needs to fully deliver ample and basic education to their student population without local levies”, delivering education equity to all students and removing “intrusive laws and regulations”.

His full interview can be found here. I suggest, after looking at the following excerpts, that you take a moment to read through the transcript. I found his answers to be well thought out and deserve a careful read. I also thought Seaquist’s time in Olympia would have given him the knowledge and know-how to get things done for our state’s students.

We hope the best for Seaquist and he has our full support as a candidate for the 26th District.

To follow are excerpts from the interview.

Question:

In 2013 8.6% of Washington’s revenue came from the federal government. It included the acceptance in the past of programs such as No Child Left Behind where the money received from the federal government did not cover the total cost of its implementation. The state has also taken on the Common Core Standards, which is basically an unfunded mandate that is costing each district millions of dollars to implement….

As superintendent, what would you do to stop the legislators from voting for programs that cannot be adequately funded by the federal government or the state?

Seaquist:

The constitution says it is the paramount duty of the state to provide an ample education. That’s all of us. Politically, my view is that the way to make the legislature move is to mobilize the public. How do you do that? I believe you use this year’s OSPI campaign, make it the marquee race of the state. Get the whole state immersed in the questions like this one that revolve around our educational system. So that, after November, we not only have a new superintendent, but we have a state that is recommitted on a state-wide basis to moving forward.

Question:

Part of your action agenda is to cut local costs with a better budget and you propose adding consultation with districts at the front end. Would you please explain what your thinking is on that?

Seaquist:

…I walked in and asked Randy Dorn’s budget director, a very smart woman, how do you build your next year’s budget, your next fiscal budget. And she said, we take last year’s budget and ask Randy what he wants to do. Now I tell you, as a professional career budget guy, I am just stunned. This is not process. What I would do, and I would do this if I’m fortunate enough to be elected, the day after the election…I would immediately, in November, ask our ESDs around the state, to convene local budget hearings and let everyone show up and talk about budget priorities. And then rebuild that budget…now in the formal process, that the legislature goes through, for the governor to deliver a budget to the new legislature, OSPI sends over his budget proposals, argues with the governor’s staff, Office of Financial Management…they make the final decisions, and package the governor’s budget. So my second departure from that, I would do well in representing us inside that budget building process that happens in November and December, but I would also independently, because the superintendent is independently elected. I would independently deliver to the legislature the complete…McCleary, 100% with no levies required, budget to the legislature.

So my view is that the superintendent should not only play a more full…well-organized role inside the budget hearing process in Olympia, but then again, we can connect that back, to the public and to the education system.

One more point, hearing over just a week ago as we were all sitting on pins and needles waiting to see… a final budget deal, we didn’t know what was going to be inside that budget deal…

Dora, something that enrages me, is this back room budget making, where a couple of guys, one Republican Senator, one Democrat from the House, maybe somebody from the Governor’s office, make deals about what’s going to happen in a more than 30 billion dollar budget and then roll it out. What I would like to do, what you certainly can do, is to keep the public and the education system fully informed about what’s happening in Olympia, and make sure the Olympia legislators understand what those public views are. That’s an inherent part of being a legislator…legislators representing your constituents…in this case my constituents would be everybody in the state.

There is something, another very important change in the way I believe we should do budgets. This is a major proposal of mine. Right now, as you know, budgets are made on a two-year bi-annual basis, and the legislature’s timeline is always out of sync with the school district’s timeline. Here’s how we can fix that. You can have the legislature do their two-year budget, but have for the schools, the operative budget being the second year of the two-year budget. So that when the legislature finally in the late spring of the odd numbered year, delivers its new two year budget, the school districts have actually got what they have in front of them, the numbers that they can plan to start their own budget process.

Then how you get into the first year of the two-year biennium, you caseload it forward, and let the next legislature tweak that, we do that automatically anyway… What that would do is give every one of our districts enormous planning ability…You would not have teachers being fired, rehired, you would not have the legislature changing the deadline on how long you’re going to wait to tell your teachers that you’re going to pretend to fire them this year. Just imagine the savings in the effectiveness in your school district budgets and school district operations by doing it.

Now is that practical? You’re darn tootin’ it is! It’s practical. And, notice that on Republican trends, they use this phrase, “fund education first”. In part that’s a political slogan, but to the extent that there is some merit to that content, this does exactly that. And it allows the legislature to be a legislature with a two-year biennial budget, and it allows the districts to plan on where they’re going. The final thing I’m going to add to that is a six-year projection. I always liked the fact that the federal system, we plan budgets out six years. The Congress knew where we proposed to be… and giving us money for the first year…in the state’s case, the first biennium, that money is being enacted in that budget. But we all need to know where every district, where the whole system, is planning to go, in the next six years. School districts are big operations, and they need a better planning process.

Dora:

Okay, next question. There’s a person, Peyton Wolcott in Texas, who is helping school districts become more transparent with a check register online. So the public is aware of all the expenditures. Would you be willing as superintendent to do the same for expenditures made by OSPI?

Seaquist: Yeah, that’s an interesting…I hadn’t thought about…here’s what I had thought about. That sounds like a very interesting idea, and the answer is, my belief, all of this stuff should be made public. If the official can see it, the legislature can see it, then the public needs to be able to see it in real time. We’ve got computers, we’ve got websites, so there should be no mysteries in where money’s going. So as a general principle, I’m not familiar with the Texas check register technique, but as a general principle, I totally agree with you. And, as I suggested earlier, my view is that the superintendent OSPI needs to do a much better job of not just being transparent too, but making sure that you’re proactively providing everybody, all the educators, all the schools, and the public, with information about what’s going on.

That touches on something that’s really important, Dora …we have to get to 100% totally funding McCleary. That is not an option, that has to happen. That’s in the constitution, it’s in the court case… All we have to do is get the totals right, make sure where the border is, and double check those totals with the low-income minority kids. But to do that… if you are then going to turn to the taxpayers and say, I want you to save more money in this new arrangement, where rather than spending, voting on local levies, now your money is going to go to Olympia, and you can trust that it will come back. We need a system in which those taxpayers…both know where that money is, and they can see it coming back (with) …openness (and) transparency… we will have to create, a new level of public trust for the voters, taxpayers.

Question:

Getting back to unfunded mandates and SBAC and what the SBAC requirements are doing to our teachers and students, a school in the Bethel School District in Washington State punishes students who opt out of the SBAC test by taking away a student’s privilege to participate in orchestra or band. What do you think, what are your thoughts on school districts punishing students and families for opting out of the SBAC?

Seaquist:

…I’m in favor of the opt outs to be clear. In fact, the state… needs to opt out… right now.

It is perfectly clear, and I’m talking about the new ESSA. The new ESSA left us stuck with a federal testing requirement, and it left us stuck with the 95% participation rule.

… We are going to have to opt out, and in my view, Dora, we should, the superintendent, who by the way needs to hire some more lawyers, to work with both the Attorney General, who does the lawyering for the agencies and hire in a new internal law staff…we are going to have to lawyer up, go into federal court, and sue the feds to remove the testing requirement, the whole ESSA…My view is that we should plan right now to opt out as a state, and to go to federal court and sue the feds on the grounds (that) their own ESSA tells the states that they are to resume local control, but it (the state) can’t implement its own provisions. So I think we’re going to have to start by opting out as a state now and then go to court and make that stick.

Question:

The Common Core has an insidious way of creeping into school life with the SBAC testing, and is being used for admittance into AP programs, to receive a GED and soon to be a graduation requirement. The SBAC test has not been judged to be valid or reliable and there’s also an anticipated failure rate. What are your thoughts on requiring the students to “pass” the SBAC to graduate from high school or receive their GED? You’ve already answered that, but do you have anything to add?

Seaquist:

So how do we get out of the Common Core? And the problems with the Common Core are multiple. This idea that the 12th grader, or high school graduate, is essentially a twelve-story high building…we add up, piece by piece, kindergarten through 12th, we add all the little things to build a twelve-story building… Children are not like that…The whole central idea of Common Core, as an architecture of increasing skills to me, doesn’t make any sense. Obviously there are levels…teachers want to have standards, they want to be able to move students forward, but that architecture of Common Core itself…it looks at children as simply uniform buildings and you want every one of them to look alike.

The second thing is, there is no feedback. It’s not our standards, they were forced on us. We didn’t have any say in them and there’s no feedback loop. I was thinking, for example…if you get on an airplane, your pilot has got standards about how to take off, how to check in, but… if there’s something in those procedures and those checklist isn’t right, they fix it. They improve, they change the process. Nothing in Common Core can be fixed now. It’s simply frozen.

Year after year, we went from the WASL, the HSPE, we keep changing these things, and we have to take the step forward to our standards that are very high quality and managed by us, in a very careful way so we don’t drive these teachers, and their students, and their families crazy, with another whiplash. So, once again, I would turn to the educators and say, okay guys, move forward from the Common Core Standards, simplify those things, make sure they truly are at the altitude we could be at, that they are ours, simple, and adaptable, and let’s transition to that stage.

… (And) it’s statistically nonsense. Those numbers are absolutely meaningless…These teachers, every day, are doing tests, they’re measuring their kids, they’re adjusting, that’s what teachers do. Along the way they are generating a lot of information. Frankly, I believe that we could use big data analytics, and sampling…we could sample at random, we could sample schools with these drop-by exams once in a while that you couldn’t prepare for it…I would give a state-wide measurement stop, by analyzing the river of data that the teachers are already producing. Now we need to go back to teacher colleges… and make sure that we’re equipping our teachers with the analytic skills…I think there are ways to generate the metadata, without tying yourself on to… this crazy high-stakes testing that has done so much damage to our schools, and to our kids. And our teachers.

Question:

About the teacher shortage, how would you attract teachers back to the profession?

Seaquist:

I was thinking, if there was one thing that I would like to be known for, it would be that the climate around being a teacher had changed.

If we’ve got great teachers, we will have great results. And our teacher crisis is really, really serious. It’s more serious than the legislature is understanding. They didn’t bother to do anything.

As I travel around the state, and I have looked at this corp of…more than 80,000 teachers…we have all, our professional educators, all the counselors, we’ve got all of the people who do lunches and buses and maintenance. Those are educators too, all of those people. We’re not treating them as a corp of career professionals.

I went to SPEEA, the aircraft engineer’s union, and the Boeing engineer’s SPEEA does a very good job of not only being a union, but being a professional association, of looking at how many young engineers are we bringing on… are we doing things in our mid-career, people who are in their 30s and 40s staying really energized, fresh, updating themselves. When are people retiring?

We need to build the ability to manage our educators, the teachers and these other corps of education professionals, in a much more intelligent way. And so what I would do…is something where…at one of our colleges…we’ve got 22 teacher colleges in the state, have them combine and have a real center where that kind of analysis, that kind of questioning… We would interview, why did you leave? What could have made the difference? So a lot of much more thoughtful career management would help.

Yes, money is important. We are simply going to have to radically increase the amount of income…Is $35,000 for a starting teacher fair? The starting pay for a state trooper is $54,000, $19,000 higher, and our state troopers can’t hire people to do that… job, they can’t even survive at $54,000. So frankly, I say that no teacher should start at anything less than the starting pay of a state trooper, and that number has to go up.

…One more thing I’d like to mention…if we don’t have good teachers, if we don’t have high quality teachers, it doesn’t make any difference what else we’re doing. We have got to restore a sense of trust in our teachers. You do that with public affairs, by making sure, this is something OSPI can do, that we’re making sure the public understands the competence, the skills, the expertise, and the successes of our teachers, and that we restore that trust in being a teacher, in being a school counselor, in being a principal…that we’ve got not just admiration for, but trust in our educators.

Question:

Where do you stand on charter schools?

Seaquist:

I’m still in the same place I was when I voted against the charter school bill, I’m a “No”.

My expectation is that the governor’s action of letting that fix through will be quickly found by the court to be insufficient and that the court will confirm that the system set up in the state is unconstitutional and has to be stopped. My view is that the real answer for creativity, these charter school people are coming to us, saying, your schools are not giving my kids enough options…every teacher that I know, every class I’ve been in, those teachers are full of creative ideas. They are just overloaded with too many students, too many bookkeeping requirements, these unfunded mandates…you know, they are crushed by the workload…they have neither the resources to be creative, nor the time to do that. And if we fully fund McCleary, restore trust, the answer to the charter schools business is… our schools are perfectly creative. We’ve got lots of creative schools here. So I would not let the charter movement into the state and, by the way…we know darn well that there are big money forces behind some of these charter school moves, to try to actually move in and try to capture some of the revenue from our schools and this includes Pearson, all the testing. We have got to cut those budget relationships off and get those big corporate interests out of our schools.

So, my assumption is A, the court will find this summer that the fix was unconstitutional and that will be the end of charter schools. If it turns out that somehow the court allows the charter schools to move forward, then I will do two things, if I’m fortunate enough to be elected in November, I will follow the law. If the law says in the constitution that the court says it’s legal, then I will make sure that we’re following that law, and that we’re doing it in public. They’ll be no backroom deals, no clever ways of slipping money into charter school hands that is actually state money.

By the way, I’m enraged by the fix, they came up with, once again going to the lottery money and saying, okay, now we’ll put the lottery money over to charter schools. My constituents here, and I served in the legislature eight years, every constituent I’ve got is angry that the original deal, that lotteries are supposed to fund schools, the legislature keeps screwing around with it. And that is not going to set well with our voters, that once again, the legislature is playing footsie, with the lottery money. Now, if that’s the law, I’ll follow the law but A, I will go to that law staff and write a new bill and take it to the legislature, to get rid of charter schools in the state. If the court doesn’t do it, I will.

Here’s the fix that they (the state legislators) left us in. Because the legislature didn’t do their homework… year after year, it is now no longer possible to do the McCleary deal this year. None of the essential homework has been done. We haven’t fixed the teacher crisis, we haven’t even added up the total cost of McCleary. We haven’t removed the old regulations. We haven’t (completed) that list of things that we need to do, including career and tech ed kind of things, we haven’t done any of that and we urgently need to do that homework so… then we can climb the McCleary mountain and make this grand bargain where a lot more money is going to go into the state’s education system, that there will be no more local levies, that the local districts will be able to trust the legislature to deliver the money, the legislature will know that they have the money.

…We’ve got to do our homework, and we need to do that in public. So I invite you, and everybody else in this state who’s interested in these things…if you haven’t got other work lists, to look at my 12-point agenda. We all need to go to work.

…Don’t just wait for the next legislature. The paramount duty is ours and…this year’s election gives us the opportunity to act.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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