The latest cash grab : Teacher/charter school villages



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

TFA: The New Gentrifiers

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

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

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

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


So how does this work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. It’s Where the Money Is

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

In the next paragraph, the reporter writes:

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

Per New Jersey Business:

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

Teachers Village now has three charter schools.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to a report published by Goldman Sachs:

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

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

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

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

In Baltimore, per Urban Land magazine:

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

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

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

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

And in San Jose:

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

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

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

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

Dora Taylor

*Post Script:

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

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

Homesight and Regional Equity Network (REN):

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


Recommended articles:


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

Why Are Community Development Lenders Financing Charter Schools?

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

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

Who Will Live In Newark’s Teachers Village? TFAers

TFA: The New Gentrifiers

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

Projects Couple Affordable Teacher Housing With New School Construction

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

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




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










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

this one.jpg

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

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

This was Mr. Reykdal’s response:

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

He continued:

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

(The underline is by Chris Reykdal.)

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

OSPI -TFA and Charter Career Fair.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more on charter schools, see:

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

The NAACP calls for a moratorium on charter schools

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

What is a charter school?

Firing Day at a Charter School


For more on Teach for America, Inc. see:

Teach for America

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

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

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

10 things you should know about TFA corps member realities


-Dora Taylor


The scoop on Chelsea Byers, Seattle public school board candidate


Chelsea Byers is running against School Board Director Betty Patu, a champion of public education advocating for equity in education for all.

Ms. Byers, on the other hand, is a former Teach for America (TFA) recruit who taught in a school without any formal training for two years in Oakland, California in what I imagine was a charter school. Most charter schools are staffed by poorly paid and under qualified Teach for America recruits and are rarely hired by a pubic school district when it is between a TFA recruit and a certified teacher with a background in education.


As I wrote in the article titled The scoop on Seattle School Board Candidates Chelsea Byers and Omar Vasquez: Buyer Beware :

Chelsea Byers supports charter schools.  She checked the “NO” box on the King County Democrats’ questionnaire, but later explained that she does not support for-profit charters. Thing is, all charter schools are for-profit and making them “non-profit” makes it easier for people to accept. The CEO’s are well paid while siphoning off tax dollars earmarked for public schools.

Chelsea Byers is also all about the “data”, meaning her focus with her work is teaching tech to adults interested in a job in technology. There is a push in Seattle to have more online learning and less teaching by qualified human beings who, unlike computer software, understand children and how students learn and interact with the world at different ages.

There are links at the end of this article to information about the push for computer based learning and evaluations in our schools sometimes referred to as “Personalized Learning”.

Ms. Byers largest contributors are a Teach for America PAC out of DC calling themselves Leaders in Education, The Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) which is all about privatizing public schools and Vulcan which never misses an opportunity to fund the corporate takeover of public schools in Seattle.

On the other hand, School Board Director Betty Patu is deeply connected and committed to the various diverse communities of her district. She has an institutional knowledge of the district, as well as longstanding relationships with district, city and state level officials and staff. She has the support of all of her current colleagues on the Board. On her watch, the district adopted a Race and Equity Policy, Rainier Beach High School graduation rates rose from 53 to 81 percent, she voted to bring International Baccalaureate to Rainier Beach and STEM to Cleveland High School. Ms. Patu supported both Board resolutions opposing charter schools, and voted in support of policies governing testing that established student and parent rights and granting more Board oversight to program placement decisions.

We endorse Betty Patu to continue the work she has been faithfully doing for our schools and suggest Ms. Byers first get some experience and understanding of public schools in general and specifically the Seattle public school district with its community of teachers, parents and students.

Dora Taylor


Recommended reading:

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for AmericaI Quit Teach for America

I Quit Teach for America

The deets on DFER, Democrats for Education Reform

McD Happy Meal online schools for all in Seattle with SPS IT Officer John Krull

Robots Replacing Teachers? Laugh at Your Own Risk.

The Charter School Bill 1240 and the 1%: An Analysis

The NAACP calls for a moratorium on charter schools


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To follow is the first timeline:

The specific emails referenced below can be viewed here. 


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

As Michael Maddox wrote on his blog #hashtag:

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

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

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

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

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

The final paragraph of the resolution states:

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

No wonder Vasquez is trying to hide his charter connections.


Dora Taylor


Related articles:

Seattle Public School Board candidates

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

Summit Sierra charter schools

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

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

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

Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning Pathways & the Gig Economy

Teach for America

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

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

The Broad Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools

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

The Battle for Seattle, Part 2: Hijacked!

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

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

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


Beginning in 2008, many of us saw the tsunami of charter schools and the complete privatization of school districts coming our way in Seattle with the appearance of former Broad-trained school superintendent Goodloe-Johnson.

Many of us had questions about this superintendent because her actions did not make sense in terms of the best interest of students and the communities they lived in.

After much research, we discovered a link between former school board president Don Neilson, Stand for Children, Teach for America, Inc., which staffs charter schools with uncertified college grads, League of Education Voters, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)the Broad Foundation, Bill Gates and the push to privatize our schools. People in Seattle and Washington State had made it very clear that we did not want charter schools in our state by voting three times against it up to that point but there were outside forces who either thought charter schools would benefit students or had dollar signs in their eyes. Most saw the money.

There is a second lawsuit in the courts now in Washington State challenging the constitutionality of charter schools so if you are a parent considering enrolling your student in a charter school in the state, take heed, the school may be closed unexpectedly due to a court decision.

Because of the experiences we have had with the organizations listed above, we are wary of people connected to any of these groups which are funded by wealthy donors and corporate money. Their agendas have been made very clear, the privatization of everything connected with public schools.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at two of the following Seattle school board candidates:

Chelsea Byers supports charter schools.  She checked the “NO” box on the King County Democrats’ questionnaire, but later explained that she does not support for-profit charters. Thing is, all charter schools are for-profit and making them “non-profit” makes it easier for people to accept. The CEO’s are well paid while siphoning off tax dollars earmarked for public schools.

Ms. Byers is a former Teach for America recruit and there is no indication she has children in Seattle Public Schools.

Omar Vasquez used the same strategy with the King County Democrats. This Teach for America alum told the group that he opposes charter schools…the for-profit ones. After Mr. Vasquez filed to run for Seattle School Board, he deleted all references from charter schools on his bio. Mr Vasquez also sits on Washington State’s Summit charter school board. Summit is a charter school making a profit by having students on computers at home, therefore only a small amount of space is needed to lease, and hiring “teaching” staff who are not certified and therefore inexpensive to pay.

Summit charter school is also racially biased.

From Mr. Vasquez’s profile:

Omar has experience advising education-related nonprofits, ed tech startups, and charter schools. Prior to law school, Omar taught AP Calculus for six years in Arizona through Teach for America.  

To top things off, Candidate Omar Vasquez is now on the Teach for America Board in Washington State.

Teach for America is very clear that they groom their un-certified recruits to be in positions of determining education policy. What better way to keep Teach for America in business populating charter schools?

There is no indication Mr. Vasquez has children in the Seattle Public School system.

Both candidates will push the agenda of charter schools as well as technology being the central aspect of our students’ lives. This is in concert with IT Lead John Krull’s vision of brick and mortar buildings and libraries, along with social interaction with students and teachers, being replaced by computers.

Buyer beware. These two candidates and their backers have more than just the best interests of your children in mind. Our students are only seen as a rung on the ladder.

Dora Taylor

Recommended reading:

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

The endgame of corporate reform in public school education: Part 1, What do Betsy DeVos and Seattle Public School’s IT Lead John Krull have in common?

McD Happy Meal online schools for all in Seattle with SPS IT Officer John Krull

Stand for Children Stands for the Rich and the Powerful…

The deets on DFER, Democrats for Education Reform

The NAACP calls for a moratorium on charter schools

Video: John Oliver on Charter Schools

Green Dot charter schools: A cautionary tale

Charter schools and corruption

Students’ rights in charter schools: There aren’t many

A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift

Two Former New Orleans Charter Principals Exploited SPED Students for Money, Among Other Issues

Ten reasons not to hire Goodloe-Johnson as Florida Education Commissioner






An Interview with Kenneth Zeichner: Relay Graduate School of Education



The reason that I use Lisa Delpit’s term “other people’s children” here is to underline the point that few if any Relay staff and advocates for the program in the policy community would accept a Relay teacher for their own children.

Ken Zeichner is the Boeing Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Washington. He is a member of the National Academy of Education and a Fellow at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado.

A former elementary teacher and longtime teacher educator in NY, Wisconsin, and Seattle, his work has focused on creating and implementing more democratic models of teacher preparation that engage the expertise of local communities, K-12 educators and university academics in preparing high quality professional teachers for everyone’s children.

He has also challenged the privatization of K-12 schools and teacher education by exposing the ways in which venture philanthropy has sought to steer public policy in education, and the ways in which research has been misused to support the privatization process. His new book “The Struggle for the Soul of Teacher Education” will be published later this year by Routledge.

This interview took place via email between January and February of 2017. It’s presented in full, with only very slight editing for style.

Editor’s Note: On March 8th, the Senate  voted to roll back the Obama Administration teacher education regulations. Ken contacted me to say this regulatory change will NOT affect what he said in this interview about Relay and the teacher preparation academy provisions in ESSA.  -Carolyn Leith

As an introduction, could you explain for our readers: What is the Relay Graduate School of Education and why we should be concerned.

Relay Graduate School of Education is an independent institution not affiliated with a legitimate college or university that prepares new teachers and principals and provides professional development services for teachers and principals to school districts and charter networks. It was founded in 2007 by three charter school networks (Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First) within Hunter College’s Education School and became independent in 2012 changing its name to Relay Graduate School of Education.

Until recently, its teacher preparation programs were all “fast tracks” preparing uncertified teachers who were fully responsible for classrooms after only a few weeks of preparation. Among those who they prepared were many TFA (Teach for America) teachers in NYC. Recently, they have begin offering a “residency” option in certain locations where during the first year of the two year program their teachers are not fully responsible for classrooms and are mentored by a licensed teacher. In both the fast track and residency versions of the program teachers receive a very narrow preparation to engage in a very controlling and insensitive form of teaching that is focused almost entirely on raising student test scores. Relay teachers work exclusively with ‘other people’s children’ and provide the kind of education that Relay staff would never accept for their own children. The reason that I use Lisa Delpit’s term “other people’s children” here is to underline the point that few if any Relay staff and advocates for the program in the policy community would accept a Relay teacher for their own children. Most parents want more than a focus on standardized test scores for their children and this measure becomes the only definition of success in schools attended by students living in poverty.

The evidence is clear that the kind of controlling teaching advocated and taught by Relay has often resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum (1), and in some cases in “no excuses” charters, in damage to the psychological health of children as evidenced in research of Joan Goodman at Penn in Philadelphia.(2)

We should be worried about Relay because it prepares teachers who offer a second class education to students living in poverty, and in my opinion based on examining the evidence, it contributes to exacerbating existing educational inequities in both student opportunities to learn and in the equitable distribution of fully prepared professional teachers.(3)

According to their website, it appears Relay was founded by three charter
school networks: Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First. Can you explain for our readers what student populations these charters serve and their approach to student instruction?

These charters exclusively serve students living in poverty, most of whom are of color. Relay teachers also work in other charters however, and in some cases they may also teach in public schools.

Relay originally received NY State approval when they were still part of Hunter College.They have used this approval and their accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation the Middle States Commission on Higher Education Accreditation to gain approval to operate in other states. One could legitimately raise the question- how can a program gain approval from states and accrediting agencies that prides itself in having no theory, where few if any of its instructors have advanced degrees in education, and where much of what most people believe teachers need to know and learn how to do is missing from their curriculum, The answer is that Relay is very good at packaging and selling itself to others as offering successful teacher education programs despite the lack of any credible evidence supporting their claims. Their mumbo jumbo and smoke and mirrors game did not work however, in either CA or PA where the states ruled that Relay’s programs did not meet their state standards for teacher education programs.

One of the more shocking parts of the Relay story is the use of Doug Lemov’s book Teach Like A Champion (TLC) as an instructional bible for the Relay program. Can you explain who Doug Lemov is and why TLC is such a toxic approach to student instruction.

Doug LeMov is currently a “faculty member” at Relay and the managing director at Uncommon Schools, one of the charter networks that formed Relay. Lemov’s “Teaching like a Champion” is the basis for the Relay teacher education curriculum. These generic management strategies are highly controlling and are dangerous when they are the main part of what teachers receive in their preparation. Relay has argued that the choice is between theory or practice and that they focus on practice. This is a false choice, and while I agree that teacher education needs to focus on practice, and that some of these strategies are useful if they are used in the proper context, it matters what practices you focus on. Additionally, teacher preparation also has to provide teachers with theoretical background in learning, development, assessment, language, and so on. There is no attention to context, culture, or even subject matter content in LeMov’s strategies. There is also no credible research that supports their use with students.

Relay’s list of philanthropic investors reads like a who’s who of education reform. The Gates Foundation is on the list, along with the Walton Foundation, and The Learning Accelerator – which is all about blended learning and the development of human capital. What do you think these groups hope to gain by supporting Relay?

Yes, Relay has been heavily supported by philanthropists like the Gates and Schusterman Foundations and by venture philanthropists such as the New Schools Venture Fund as well as by individual hedge fund managers.(4) The funding of non-college and university programs that are linked to charter school networks helps these individuals and organizations further their goals of deregulating and privatizing public schools. As the charter networks continue to expand across the country and replace real public schools, there is more of a need for teachers who want to work in these schools that are often tightly regimented.  Many graduates of professional teacher preparation programs in colleges and university do not want to work in these charter schools. Foundations that want to expand the proportion of charter schools throughout the country must help create a parallel set of charter- teacher education programs to prepare teachers for charter schools.

The failing school narrative is one of the media’s go to frameworks when covering public schools. In contrast, reporters give Relay the hands-off approach. Hard questions about Relay’s questionable credentialing, focus on test scores, and the use of Teach Like A Champion don’t get asked.

I agree. The hard questions do not get asked about Relay. This is because Relay has done a very effective job of branding and marketing its programs and in getting the Education Department in the Obama administration to do the same. They have flooded the media with “puff pieces” that tout the alleged success of their programs in preparing high quality teachers. The fact is however, that there is a total lack of credible evidence that supports their claims. My recent policy brief published by the National Education Policy Center in September details the inadequacies of Relay’s claims.(5)

Can you explain Relay’s credentialing process and instructional focus? Also, why do you think reporters let Relay off the hook?

I think that the media has let Relay off the hook because they have been taken in by the slick “puff pieces” that keep rolling out about how great the program supposedly is. Most media outlets do not have the capacity to do a more in depth look at the program. Relay also has been very good in linking to currently popular issues such as teacher residency programs, diversifying the teaching force, and addressing teacher shortages. As I argue in my testimony to the CT State Board of Education, it makes no sense to accept Relay’s claims about being able to help districts and states address teacher shortages and diversify their teaching staff without examining retention data on Relay program graduates.(6)

Another media favorite is the “bad teacher” narrative. For instance, under NCLB Title 1 schools had to provide parents the opportunity to review the credentials of their kid’s teachers. The unspoken message being “bad teachers” have traditionally hidden out in Title 1 schools.

Under NCLB the U.S. Education Department violated an order of the 9th Circuit Court in CA that ruled against the Department’s waiver in administrative rule of the requirement that  “highly qualified teachers” have completed their certification programs.(7) They implemented this rule after being urged to do so by TFA and other fast-track programs that send underprepared teachers into public schools as teachers of record. The court had ruled that the certification status of teachers had to be made transparent to families and that only certified teachers could be called “highly qualified.” The court ruling would not have prevented TFA teachers from teaching in public schools, but it would only have required schools to be transparent with families about the certification status of teachers. After the court ruling, the Department inserted waivers to the court ruling three times (for one year at a time) as one of hundreds of amendments in general spending bills that were designed to keep the government operating. The real goal of the Department of Ed and programs like TFA and Relay was to get rid of the label highly qualified and focus on teachers’ effectiveness that was defined as teachers’ abilities to raise student test scores. In the new elementary and secondary education act, ESSA, the term highly qualified teacher has been eliminated.

Here’s the ironic twist, at least in Colorado. Relay – with all its questionable credentialing practices – is allowed by Colorado’s Department of Education to provide intervention services for public schools that fall under the turnaround school designation. How can this be?

This is the case because they were approved by the Colorado state education department to provide these services. Yes, their practices are very questionable, but because of their very strong branding and marketing they have managed to convince states (with the exception of PA and CA) to let them operate. Relay also has very influential supporters in CT including the governor, the state superintendent, and the director of Achievement First, one of its three founding charter school networks. In CO, they went through the approval process under the radar and the colleges and universities that operate teacher education programs did not find out about it until it was too late.

Relay operates schools in Baton Rouge, Chicago, Denver,Houston, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Newark, Philly/Camden, San Antonio and the state of Delaware.

Yes, Relay has programs operating in these places, but the schools in which they teach are not necessarily those in the original three charter networks. For example, in Chicago Relay partners with the Noble charter network. Also, because Relay was denied approval in PA their Camden/ Philly site can only operate in NJ. They were also recently approved to operate in CT and will be opening a program soon there. In addition to having their application to operate programs rejected in PA, their application was also rejected in CA. Last year they doubled the number of program sites and they plan to continue to expand.

Finally, can you speak to the recent controversial approval of Relay by the Connecticut Board of Education? Also, do you know of any plans to introduce the Relay Graduate Program in Washington State?

Relay’s application to operate a program in CT was strongly opposed by K-12 educators and teacher educators throughout the state because of the program’s performance elsewhere. I was asked to submit written testimony in opposition to their application and did so. (8)

Despite the lack of any evidence about the claims that that Relay makes about the performance of its teachers, and their failure to release any retention data on program graduates, their application was approved.  One of the arguments that they made to support their application was that they will bring more teachers of color into the state. Given the increased attention and funding available in the nation to teacher residency programs and recruiting and preparing more teachers of color. Relay has very influential supporters in CT including the governor, the state superintendent, and the director of Achievement First, one of its three founding charter school networks. I think that these connections made the difference between the outcome in CA and PA and the outcome in CT.

I do not believe that Relay would gain approval to operate a teacher education program in Washington. Our state standards for teacher education are too high and the standards board unlike states like TX and FL does not allow lower standards for alternative programs. All programs, including the TFA program at UW have to meet the same PESB standards to gain and maintain approval. A few years ago when they were only operating fast track teacher education programs, I learned that they were considering coming to Washington. It was my impression that the tremendous opposition to TFA in Seattle discouraged them from coming. 











The Attack on Teachers Goes to College

Originally published on The Progressive website.


The Attack on Teachers Goes to College

The dramatic lockout of faculty at Long Island University in Brooklyn this fall brought home the reality that what is happening in higher education is closely related to the attack on education in our K-12 public schools.

On August 31, 2016 the contract between the faculty on the Brooklyn campus and Long Island University (LIU) was due to expire. The negotiating team was told on that day if they did not accept the contract, faculty would be locked out.

The faculty members turned down the contract offer but did not vote to strike. In response, LIU cut off professors’ email accounts and health insurance. The professors were locked out of their classrooms and told they would be replaced. If faculty members went into the university buildings where their offices and classrooms were, they were told they could be criminally charged for trespassing.

Some of those faculty members had been teaching at LIU for twenty or thirty years.

As I listened to some of them express their shock at being treated so poorly to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, I was reminded of what I have heard K-12 teachers in schools across the country say about endless budget cuts, union-busting, and the threat of being replaced by less-skilled (and cheaper) employees.

One of the issues of concern in the LIU contract was a two-tier wage system that would pay new full time and adjunct instructors less. In addition, the university wanted to stop funding the Adjunct Benefits Trust Fund which helps adjunct professors buy health insurance.

After the lockout was announced, the school administration replaced the faculty with non-faculty employees, and placed advertisements on for replacement instructors.

The students did not stand for the actions taken by the school administration and joined the teachers in protest, chanting,” LIU professors locked out, students walkout!”

On September 15, the twelve-day Long Island University lockout of the school’s faculty ended, but none of the issues in the dispute were resolved. The current contract was extended until May 31, 2017.

Faculty members were docked a full week of salary, which amounted to approximately the same value as the 2 percent raise they had asked for in contract negotiations. As LIU Professor Michael Pelias stated during an interview on Democracy at Work with Economist Richard Wolff, that same 2 percent raise, which would have gone to 600 people, is also equal to LIU President Kimberly Cline’s annual salary.

Undergraduates at LIU pay $33,678 per year in tuition. This does not include room and board. Students borrow approximately $35,000 to $45,000 by the end of four years.

The two-week conflict at LIU mirrors what has been happening in K12 public schools across the nation over the last ten years.

As Srividhya Swaminathan told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!,

“The whole notion that you could replace a faculty by advertising on just flies in the face of what academia is actually about.

Public school teachers make a similar case about Teach for America, Inc., an organization that recruits recent college grads, provides them with five weeks of training and then populates charter schools and sometimes whole urban public school districts with these amatuer teachers. The recruits sign a two or three-year contract to remain in the program, and they are not required to have a degree in education or a related field, any expertise in the subjects they are teaching, or a desire to stay in the profession.

Consequently, TFA recruits add to churn and stress in the lives of our most vulnerable students. By design, TFA teachers have no particular loyalty to the community where they work, and they provide a loophole to allow “alternative certification” and waiving licensing criteria for states and schools that receive Title I funding.

Another goal of the LIU lockout was “keeping workers unorganized … even as their institutions are corporatized,” according to Deborah Mutnick– Academe magazine blog.

In K-12, charter schools generally do not allow unionization of school staff, and some promoters of charter schools openly express a desire to crush teachers’ unions. Stuart Fishelson told Democracy Now!,

“This is what corporations are trying to do to education. They’re trying to corporatize and remove the familiar and the important parts of learning.”

The same is true in K-12.

Charter schools are run by CEOs, not principals, along with an appointed board that imposes a corporate, top-down management style.

There are charter school chains such as Greendot, Imagine and the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) that draw profits from the school system. Teach for America had revenues of $318 million in 2012.

This is the corporatization of our public schools.

Charter schools receive very little public oversight, even though they are funded by public tax dollars. Charter schools also can be co-housed in public schools while paying little or no rent. They can use a school district’s website to advertise for students and benefit from other public resources. But charter-school students and parents do not have recourse to democratic mechanisms such as hearings by the district school board.

Other corporate interests that seek to make a profit from our education system—at the expense of real teaching and learning in the classroom—include such companies as Pearson, that sell standardized tests. In Seattle last year fifth graders took eight standardized tests and eighth graders took nine standardized tests. This did not include quizzes or tests created by a teacher directly relating to what was taught in the classroom. These were tests paid for by school districts and required by politicians who get donations from corporations with a stake in testing.

Then there are businesses, such as Zynega, which groom students for jobs in their companies through specialized education programs.

In public schools, and, increasingly, at the college level, crucial decisions are being made by people with little or no experience in education. In the case of LIU, according to Sealy Gilles on Democracy Now!, the LIU president has very little in the way of academic background. She sees herself as a corporate turnaround artist..”

We see the same scenario in the Los Angeles school district, where Eli Broad, the founder of the Broad Foundation, is a proponent of charter schools and believes schools should be run like a business. He favors retired military personnel and people with backgrounds in business, and wants them to run the nation’s schools. So he created the Broad Superintendents’ Academy, which produced several school turnaround “experts” such as Marie Goodloe-Johnson who was briefly Superintendent in the Seattle Public School district but was fired due to a financial scandal; Beverly Hall, former Superintendent of Atlanta public schools who was indicted by a grand jury in a cheating scandal; Jean-Claude Brizard,who received a vote of no confidence with the Rochester City School District and resigned from chief of Chicago Public schools after only seventeen months; LaVonne Sheffield who as Superintendent of Rockford Public Schools (RPS) was the subject of a lawsuit and soon resigned and left the district; and  Robert Bobb, the former Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit who also became the subject of  a lawsuit  because he was receiving money from the Broad Foundation during his tenure, which represented a conflict of interest.

These people were placed in school districts to close public schools and convert them into charter schools. They and others have been the “turnaround artists” of K-12 public schools.

“The other issue was academic freedom,” explains Deborah Mutnick on Democracy Now!. “This management has attempted more and more to encroach on curricular issues that really are the purview of the faculty.”

The same could be said of corporate-run K-12 schools. Standardized testing leaves much less room for K-12 teachers to develop and use their own lesson plans and curriculum.

Because of the pressure on districts to use tests associated with the Common Core or lose Title I funding, teachers are focusing more of their attention on test prep than providing a well-rounded education that includes the development of critical and creative thinking

Finally, the LIU walk-out resembles recent teacher strikes which have drawn the support of students and parents. Whether at LIU or in public schools across the country, when teachers go on strike not only for fair wages but also to fight for a better learning environment for their students, students, parents and the community stand with them.

We saw that in Chicago where parents and students marched with their teachers and in Seattle where parent groups formed quickly to join the strike lines and serve hot coffee and soup to the teachers.

It’s time for the teaching community, students, and parents to stand together in all realms of education and ensure the development of a well-rounded education that addresses the needs of all students.

-Dora Taylor

Dora Taylor is a Northwest Regional Progressive Education Fellow. She is a founding member and President of Parents Across America, and has co-authored two books, Digital Networking for School Reform and Left Behind in the Race to the Top: Realities of Education Reform

Relay Graduate School Indoctrination


Editor’s note:

Recently, Seattle Schools Community Forum published a guest post about the Summit Atlas Public Forum that was held on September 29th. The Summit charter school chain set up in Seattle last year and there is one to open in West Seattle in 2017 even though there is a second charter school lawsuit pending in the courts as of this writing. I found three details about Summit’s new principal,  Kathryn Bubalo, very troubling. First, she is a Teach for America graduate and she worked as a teacher at a New Orleans charter school. Thirdly, Ms. Bubalo is a product of the Relay Graduate School.  Relay Graduate School, to me, is a red flag, so I wanted to share with our readers Peggy Robertson’s experience with this organization. -Carolyn Leith

Relay Graduate School Indoctrination

This blog post, and many future blog posts, are going to be focused on the Relay Graduate School indoctrination occurring in my school and many schools across the country this year, due to the Relay principal academy which occurred this past summer. Colorado folks should also know that Relay intends to set up a permanent campus here in Denver.  Relay Graduate School was created to support the needs of charter schools, specifically KIPP, Uncommon and Achievement First.  Many of the individuals who work with  Relay also publish books that detail scripted ways of teaching, disciplining and leading. If you start researching the leaders of Relay Graduate School you will see that they are ripe with all sorts of training and experience that ultimately does not equate to true experience within the field of education. And one cannot equate charter school experience (like KIPP for example) as teaching experience.

I’d call it school to prison pipeline training.

In an article for The Answer Sheet titled Is this any way to train teachers?, Carol Burris writes:

At the Relay Graduate School of Education (RGSE), teacher education that balances research, theory and practice has been replaced by ‘filling the pail’ training. Designed to serve the needs of three charter school chains — KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools— RGSE has no university affiliation, yet awards masters degrees in New York State.

In order to enroll in their program, one must teach, uncertified, in an affiliated school. Traditional public school teachers need not apply. Degrees are earned by online video and reading modules, attending discussion groups and by the uncertified teacher’s students’ test scores. If the test scores are not up to snuff, the teacher does not earn her degree. There are no classes in educational theory or history, nor any indication that the candidate must complete a masters thesis requiring research and reflection. It is cookie-cutter training grounded in one vision of instruction — the charter school vision. Each candidate’s pail is filled with the same techniques.

Doug Lemov, a Relay “teacher”,  and the author of Teach Like a Champion, has a doctorate in business from Harvard and two degrees in English. As far as I can tell from digging through articles and bios on Mr. Lemov, he has four years teaching experience. Three of those years were in a private school in New Jersey where he taught English grades 9 -12, in addition to being a counselor of admissions. He taught one year of intro. to composition at Indiana University. He’s ultimately never taught in a public school, but he has plenty of experience leading and shaping charter schools.

If you are familiar with this blog, you will know that I spend a great portion of my time discussing opting out of high stakes testing and various facets of how to tear down corporate education reform.  Tearing down these faux graduate schools will be a new venture for me and one that I must pursue simply for selfish reasons – it is inside of my school, infesting our democratic inquiry-based school with all sorts of propaganda – and sadly, we are just beginning. We are in year one of a three year grant.

You probably are wondering – how did this happen? My school is in “turnaround” status. We have a very diverse population of students within a high poverty community. At last count we had approximately 40 languages represented in our school and approximately 75% of our students on free and reduced lunch.  Our state passed legislation to create a school “turnaround” leaders program.  My school is one of the unlucky recipients of this program.  Our Colorado Department of Education then picked so-called graduate school programs to assist in “training” school leaders/principals, within this program. Relay was picked as one of the providers. As you keep digging and researching you’ll discover all sorts of ugliness to be found in terms of money wasted on Relay in lieu of more resources and small class size for our urban diverse districts.  There’s been several articles written on Relay in terms of the training – see here and here .  I also recommend checking out this blog titled School Finance 101.  JerseyJazzman has a great takedown of North Star, a charter school that Relay uses as a “model” for all schools to follow.

The following was my first attempt to explain what I’m experiencing at our beautiful elementary school where we have worked incredibly hard for the last few years to represent the culture and beliefs of an inquiry-based democratic school and community.

I wrote on FB:

Okay – so now that I’m getting indoctrinated with charter school rhetoric (even though I’m not IN a charter school) I am utterly in awe of how absolutely mind-numbing and surface level thinking absolutely everything is – from the discipline to instruction to data collecting to greeting students. Seriously. These folks lack any understandings of child development, instruction or an understanding of how to relate to children and build relationships, not only with children, but adults. They prefer barking orders and demanding compliance to scripts. Everybody gets a script – whether you are the coach, the teacher, the principal or the student. Orders barked and children parrot back all sorts of stupid crap. No thinking. Stupid posters everywhere that demand compliance about something. And stupid phrases folks are suppose to say to demand compliance – and they seriously request that the less words you say (as you bark orders) the better. Pretty much it’s all about raising test scores and learning nothing about anything. All about a “controlled” environment. And “aggressive” monitoring. No learning. For anybody. And definitely no learning about one’s self as a learner and future literate problem-solving citizen. It’s a combination of prison environment and some bizarro robotic world with a definite connection to the Native American boarding schools. It’s clear who will maintain the privilege here as they cash in on urban diverse schools such as mine. There’s definitely nothing about being human and caring about humans within a lovely community. That’s out the window. Kinda hard to stomach in a school that is striving to be a democratic inquiry-based school. I’d say it’s really like a serious punch in the gut. The more I read from the Relay Graduate School script the more I can’t fathom that there is any educator out there that would tolerate this bullshit. The fact that there is – and the fact that school districts and CO dept of ed HIRE these non-educators to “support” (I mean beat down until you comply) their schools – signals to me a clear step towards the end of the teaching profession as I know it and knew it. How anyone could believe that there is anything in this scripted process that is actually about meeting the needs of children I’ll never know. How to get it out and shut it down? That is the question.

So, I’ve spent this three day weekend researching Relay – researching their beliefs, their dog training, and the folks who are behind this – not only at Relay but here in Colorado – where certain legislators passed this bill and our Colorado Dept. of Ed. brought in Relay to provide these services.

My head has been spinning since the launch of our staff development where we received a quick outline of the fun headed our way via Relay.  It’s hard to talk about what goes on in your school without revealing personal details – and I wish no harm to come to anyone in my school, but I do feel a responsibility to share what’s happening, as everyone across the country should do, in an effort to protect children, save our profession, and our public schools. The silence is what is killing us.

Which is why I wrote this on FB:

As education activists, it is our job to expose the evils of corporate education – but specifically we must expose the nuanced ways in which non-educators and testing are destroying our public schools and ultimately the lives of children. These fascist methods for forcing us into compliance to scripts which demand obedience to the test are becoming increasingly present in our urban diverse schools. The strangle hold is becoming greater by the day as schools in turnaround face the looming devastation which will occur as PARCC, or whatever test you must take, reaches its ultimate goal of shutting down public schools and creating great profit for corporations. In the final stages of this process it appears that many across the country are turning to those who embody everything we oppose – in a desperate attempt to keep a school from being shut down due to test scores. It’s a rather sickening process to watch. A bit of the Stockholm Syndrome twisted up with some strange process in which educators either fight back, or become one of them. It’s so important that educators do their research as these folks infiltrate their schools. Be prepared and know what’s coming. I’m devouring everything I can find on Relay Graduate School and their buddies at KIPP, etc. What scares me is that there is not a lot out there exposing Relay for what it is – which means, some are joining and becoming one of them. I will expose this nightmare every step of the way this year. We must take them down.

I want to dig a bit further into this idea of nuanced ways in which non-educators and their propaganda can infiltrate a public school. And please remember, one doesn’t have to be in a chain charter school to be the recipient of these militant practices – it could happen to anyone. I can assure you, never in a million years did I think they would make their way into my school, and now – here I am.

I am in a public school built on the ideas of community, inquiry, democracy, and love and respect for children. Yet, when I walked into school this year the language had changed.  Language shapes a reality. And when the language no longer matches what you see with your eyes, it is unsettling and creates fear and instability. Our reality shifts as the language shifts. I’m thinking democracy yet I’m hearing achievement and college career ready. I’m thinking community yet I’m hearing 100% compliance. And then, you begin to see it visually – the signage, the weekly staff bulletins, the “professional development” books. You begin to see it emotionally in the faces of those around you – the denial, the sadness, the anger and the appearance of “acting” because it’s not really who we are. Every time one of those words – corporate words – militant words – fills the air – it’s like a stab in the heart of our school.

Please understand that those at my school are not caving to this nightmare…..but regardless, its presence takes its toll.

Words/phrases like: infraction, acronyms for rules (H.A.L.L., S.H.I.N.E., F.L.U.S.H.), bite-size targets, controlled atmosphere, unpacking standards, accelerate achievement, proficiency – these words –  begin to become common place. We are encouraged to use economy of language – the less words the better when asking children to follow directions ( this is directly from one of the many Relay scripts).

Relay has scripts for everything. They have videos to show you second by second how to maneuver within these regimented practices. Within this system, the key to high test scores is compliance. When teachers are dealing with children who are traumatized, children who lack food and healthcare, children who are attempting to learn a second language, children who have no books in the home – when we are attempting to do all of this in a class size of, let’s say, 28 – the only way to keep a focus on the mind-numbing test skills (which is Relay’s goal) is to demand compliance while ignoring the realities in our classrooms.  Google “Uncommon Schools:” on YouTube to see the very regimented practices that they demand of their teachers and their students. Here is an example:

These (practices in video above) are not in my school – but it does show you how far the compliance will go if folks buy into this militant training. One person who watched the video on Facebook said….Hitler Youth???

What scares me about Relay Graduate School and their propaganda is that folks are willing to sift through all of it to find the good. I’ve been watching this happen for several years now. A perfect example is the book by Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion.  As stated earlier, Lemov is not an experienced teacher. He’s really a charter school king who is raking in the money by preying on urban diverse children. Yet, folks will look at Lemov’s book and find something good in it that they can use.  I’ve literally heard folks say, “But there’s a few good things in that book!”  Folks will also go to Relay training, or sift through Uncommon School videos and find something good. This is how the conditioning to comply begins. This is how little things – like a poster that says H.A.L.L. begins to create an atmosphere void of democracy and thinking human beings.  It may seem perfectly innocent at first – but it’s not.  Folks might say, structure is good! Remember this – structure and compliance are two very different things. I can create a safe structure/environment with my students that allows us time to think, talk, move, share, and work quietly as well as loudly!!! I can have a conversation with children before we walk into the hallway to help remind all of us (including myself) to talk quietly so we do not disturb the other classes.  There is nothing democratic about compliance, which is what Relay Graduate School scripts demand. Finding a few good things in something that folks compare to Hitler’s Youth or Native American boarding schools – in terms of the big picture – is honestly, terrifying.

Ultimately, these practices are racist, classist and serve one purpose – protecting the privilege of a few while cashing in on our neediest children. These practices strip children of their culture, their ability to think, and they fuel the school to prison pipeline.  Schools like North Star, which Relay uses as an exemplar, have only 50% of their children from the fifth grade class still attending in the 12th grade.   They also serve far fewer children of poverty and/or those with disabilities.  Check out their attrition rates here and that will tell you everything you need to know.

Another thought to consider – as Opt Out moves forward this year, schools like Relay will fall by the wayside if Opt Out indeed wins.  Without a focus on test scores Relay has nothing – there would be no reason to demand such severe compliance of principals, teachers, and children, if indeed there was no need to bow down to high stakes testing. Schools in turnaround, such as mine,  could return their focus to community building, student and teacher inquiry, democratic thinking, all in an effort to make the world a better place – a place where children walk down the school hallway talking and smiling. A place where children can share their thinking without being required to sit in their chair with hands folded – do you sit with your hands folded when in a meeting?  A place where names like “Relay” for a “school” wouldn’t even exist – because in a relay there are winners and losers. We know how this is going to end if we keep playing this game – we will lose – we must stop playing. Stop giving the corporations, the faux educators and the pretend graduate schools what they want  – we must quit giving them our children. Our children deserve it all – yet, we continue to sacrifice them to the corporations and those who dictate the corporate agenda. As educators, we cannot be silent as they experiment on our neediest children – we cannot be silent as they inflict practices on children which are meant to beat them down until they comply. To be silent – well, it’s simply a crime against humanity.

-Peggy Robertson
Post Script by the editor:

For more on Relay, see this post on Diane Ravitch’s blog:

Laura Chapman Compares Relay “Graduate School of Education” to McDonald’s University

The Struggle over Mayoral Control of Seattle’s School Board



This article was originally published in The Progressive.

Snuffing out Democracy-the Struggle over Mayoral Control of Seattle’s School Board

Seattle and the state of Washington have determinedly resisted the expanding privatization of our nation’s schools. Citizens protested standardized testing and voted three times to oppose charter schools in the state. The issue went to the state’s Supreme Court when a fourth charter school initiative passed with a push from big donors. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled that charter schools were unconstitutional. We watched as cities like Chicago and Detroit folded to privatization interests. We saw charter school operators take over entire districts as in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the mostly minority communities of Michigan.

We wanted no part of it.

Seattle has taken back control of its local school board from individuals who supported a former Broad-trained Superintendent’s plans to close schools and convert public schools into charters, and who pushed discredited education reforms including an increase in high-stakes testing, use of under-qualified, short-term Teach for America, Inc. trainees, and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores.

From left to right, top to bottom: Stephan Blanford, Rick Burke, Jill Geary, Scott Pinkham, Betty Patu, Leslie Harris, Sue Peters

Some other examples of the Seattle School Board’s progressive actions include: initiating later school start times to better match students’ biological needs; passing a resolution to replace the Common Core SBAC test with more fair and valid assessments; establishing a $2 million “student stability” fund to mitigate upheaval at the start of the school year; demanding that special education students be served in the city’s preschool program; moving public testimony to a time when more working parents can participate; placing a moratorium on suspensions of elementary students for non-violent offenses; cutting ties with the Gates Foundation funded Alliance for Education; reaffirming board support of public schools and its opposition to charter schools and taking a stand with the superintendent opposing law-skirting efforts by the Office of the State Superintendent to channel public funding to illegal charter schools via the tiny Mary Walker School District In Eastern Washington.

At the same time, Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray has been working behind the scenes to take mayoral control of Seattle’s School Board.

Back when he was a Washington state senator, Murray sponsored a failed bill proposing that any town or city in the state could hand over its school district to mayoral control. In the last few years Murray has assembled his own Department of Education and worked on privatizing preschool, using tax levy dollars to threaten established city- and county-subsidized preschools with a percentage of money taken away based on the number of children who do not perform well on tests.

Seattleites are aware of what has happened around the country with mayoral control and want no part of it. The NAACP opposed a recent bill on mayoral control along with the League of Women Voters of Washington State and various legislative districts.

The Mayor is now looking at other ways to gain control.

Ia letter sent to Mayor Murray from Regina Jones, who is now working for the Mayor’s office as an “executive on loan,” Jones spells out how to take over the school board by “cultivating candidates to serve on the board.” The plan is based on the success of two mayors in San Francisco who essentially embedded one of their own staffers on the school board because, “As in Seattle, [the San Francisco Unified School District] SFUSD was concerned about a takeover of the district by the mayor.” So the mayor needed to find a more subtle way to achieve that end—or something approximating it.

Ms. Jones recommends that the San Francisco superintendent become an “intermediary” engaging Seattle Public Schools at meetings such as the Council for Great City Schools. The San Francisco Superintendent recently quashed the San Francisco school board’s efforts to cut ties with the controversial five-week teacher training enterprise Teach for America.

Another recommendation is to cultivate and support “candidates to run for the board of [Seattle Public Schools] SPS.” This is the same approach the League of Education Voters, Stand for Children and the Democrats for Education Reform have used  to influence  school board meetings in Washington State. Ms. Jones wrote:

“As part of the suggested SF approach of working from “inside out”, have ongoing engagement of key SPS principals, particularly principals in Levy-supported schools, to further focus Levy funding on effective strategies, including full-year, experiential learning supported by business and philanthropic partners.”

An example of this is a partnership with the gaming tech company Zynega.

Mayor Lee, in his strategic plan for SFUSD titled Vision 2025, includes “blended learning” also referred to as “personalized learning.” What that means is each student has her own computer and uses it for lessons and tests, instead of shared class time with other students and interaction with a teacher. Summit charter school and Rocketship Charters are based on this approach. It’s less expensive in terms of operating costs and staff hours.

Vision 2025 also promotes interaction with the private sector, particularly the computer gaming sector. Per the letter:

“After implementing this new vision, the gaming academies are now thriving. More than half of the students are now women of color. The gaming academy at Balboa High School is exactly what tech company Zynega wanted—the academy allows Zynga to steep students in the culture of their industry, while developing a talent pipeline.”

The agreement with Zynega provides students with an opportunity to work with companies while in high school but this also appears to be a business opportunity for Zynega to develop “talent” for their own use.

Regina Jones’ letter is a game plan for gaining control of Seattle’s school board and the district. As Chris Hedges would say, it is “a coup d‘etat in slow motion”.

The Center for Public Education has written:

“Most researchers agree on one negative consequence — when mayors take charge of public schools, the role of parents and the community, especially among minority groups, can be marginalized and can further compromise democratic control of schools.”

In cities that have mayoral control of schools, and in Michigan where the entire state public school system is under the governor’s control, there is little to no opportunity for a democratic process.

In Chicago, under mayoral control, schools have been closed and many converted into charter schools, disrupting neighborhoods and scattering students to schools throughout the city.

Gloria Warner, president of Action Now and a retired teacher, said about the appointed school board in Chicago:

“The injustice being done to our kids through the closing of 50 schools, opening more corrupt charter schools, diverting our neighborhood schools and keeping democracy from the school board affects all of us.”

The statement was made at an event where community members were calling for an elected school board in 2015.

Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made an important piece of his agenda mayoral control of urban school districts and once said he would consider his time as education secretary a “failure” if more mayors didn’t take over city school systems by the end of his tenure.

In 2013 twenty-four public schools in the city were closed and five other schools were relocated or merged with other schools. An article published in Philadelphia’s Notebook stated:

“Neighborhoods, many anchored by the schools that were closed in June, were altered forever, leaving many families uncertain about what the future of public education in the city would look like.”

These school communities were made up of minority families whose neighborhoods were targeted for gentrification. Two years later a restaurant opened in a former school building. An article in AlterNet titled The Devastating Impact of School Closures on Students and Communities laid it out:

“a pop-up restaurant on the building’s eighth floor (opened), which served French food, craft beers, and fine wines. The rooftop terrace was decorated with student chairs and other school-related items found inside the building. Young millennials dubbed the restaurant “Philly’s hottest new rooftop bar,” while longtime residents and educators called it “a sick joke.” Situated in a quickly gentrifying community where nearly 40 percent of families still have incomes of less than $35,000, there was little question about who would be sipping champagne and munching on steak tartare on Bok’s top floor.”

Again in 2015, 5,000 Philadelphia students, mostly minority students, were affected by school closures. Many schools were converted into charter schools ignoring the pleas of parents and students who did not want to see their schools closed and/or converted into charter schools. As Diane Ravitch put it:

“Those of us who live in cities under mayoral control know that the primary result is not to improve education or to help struggling children, but to stifle the voices of parents, students, teachers, and community members. Under mayoral control, governance is transferred to the mayor and the power elite, few of whom have children in public schools or even attended one. Mayoral control snuffs out democracy.”

The most egregious example of a politician’s undemocratic control of public schools can be seen in the state of Michigan with the decision by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to hire Emergency Financial Managers. The emergency managers have the power to take control of a city’s government, reduce pay, outsource work, reorganize departments and modify employee contracts. Emergency managers can also deem school districts “failing,” close public schools and convert them into charter schools.

Robert BobbThe first appointed emergency manager, Robert Bobb, took over the Detroit Public School system in 2009. The County Circuit Court in 2011 found this takeover illegal but soon after, emergency managers were appointed in mostly minority communities around the state, including the city of Flint. In several of these towns, such as Highland Park, Michigan the public schools were closed and taken over by charter operators.

darnell_early-1Darnell Earley, the unelected manager of Flint, presided over the devastating decision to switch the city’s water supply to the Detroit River resulting in lead poisoning of residents throughout the city. After the water disaster, Mr. Earley was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to become the CEO of Detroit Public Schools.

Now the Emergency Managers are being named CEOs, as in Chicago, and given more power.

These CEOs can:

  • Assume the financial and academic authority over multiple schools;
  • Assume the role of the locally elected school board for those schools they have been assigned;
  • Control school funds without the consent of the locally elected board;
  • Permanently close a school without the consent of the locally elected board;
  • Sell closed school buildings without the consent of the locally elected board; and
  • Convert schools into charter schools without the consent of the locally elected board.

The people have no voice or control over how their children are educated or by whom. The same holds true for mayoral control. That’s why, in Seattle, people are fighting back.

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

For a good history of Emergency Managers in Detroit, see:

Let’s not celebrate Darnell Earley’s departure from DPS just yet  

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


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.


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    


Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) Washington PAC

7/14   $40,000

7/18   $  7,500

7/25   $10,000    


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.


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




Email shows how Seattle Mayor Ed Murray plans to take over the school board


Mayor Murray
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

If Mayor Murray wants to address the “achievement/opportunity gap” in a way that is more appropriate to his office, he needs to focus on a living wage for all in Seattle and affordable housing. That will go a long way in helping children succeed in school and in life. Leave education to the educators not politicians, attorneys and business interests.

The school board in recent years has become troublesome to business interests and those wanting to privatize the Seattle public school system. The board members have accomplished much through hard work and collaboration with each other and the school community, winning successes for students, teachers and families.

Some examples of what has been done by the school board are; initiating a change in school start times to better match students’ biological needs, passing a resolution to initiate the process to replace the SBAC with more fair and valid assessments, started a $2M “student stability” fund to mitigate upheaval at the start of the school year when adjustments of teaching staff per enrollment are made, demanding that special ed students be served in the city’s preschool program, moving public testimony time so that more working parents can participate, passed a resolution to place a moratorium on suspensions of K-5 students for non-violent offenses, passed a resolution in 2016 reaffirming board support of public schools and opposition to charter schools and took a stand with the superintendent opposing participation of Seattle Public Schools (SPS) in efforts by the Office of the State Superintendent to channel public funding to illegal charter schools via the Mary Walker School District.

In the meantime, Seattle’s Mayor Murray has been busy in the last few years assembling his own Department of Education and working on privatizing preschool, using levy dollars to threaten established city and county subsidized preschools with a percentage of money taken away by the number of children who do not perform, per assessments, up to an established standard set by the city.

This is what Mayor Murray refers to as ensuring a quality education for all.

He also thinks it’s a good idea to use imaginary unused classroom space for the preschool program.

While a Washington State Senator, Mayor Murray had sponsored a failed bill proposing that any town and city in the state could convert to mayoral control of a school district. Now he is after the Seattle School Board.

Seattleites are aware of what has happened around the country with mayoral control and want no part of it so the Mayor has come up with another way to control the school board by using the example of San Francisco mayors. This is their work-around.

In a letter sent to Mayor Murray from Regina Jones, who is now working for the Mayor’s office as an “executive on loan”, she spells out how to take over the school board by “cultivating candidates to serve on the board” based on the success of two mayors in San Francisco and with the work of Hydra Mendoza because “As in Seattle, SFUSD was concerned about a takeover of the district by the mayor”.

Ms. Mendoza, who works in Mayor Edwin Lee’s office in San Francisco and also served the previous Mayor, is the Senior Adviser of Family and Education Services. She is also on the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) school board. Conflict of interest? Many think so but Mendoza doesn’t, even though she is referred to as the “insider” who “serves as an enforcer” of the mayor’s policies and goals in the letter to Mayor Murray.

To follow are some of the excerpts from the letter:

  • It is recommended in the letter to spend tax dollars to continue “to engage with the Mayor of San Francisco’s key staff and with SFUSD to forge a strong, working relationship on education policy. This should include Seattle staff attendance to observe SFUSD board meetings and key education-related discussions/negotiations between the Mayor’s office and SFUSD….Although it will take an investment of time to bring SPS to the table.
  • Consideration should be given to identifying and pursuing long-term strategies for strengthening district governance, including…having an active role in the selection of the next superintendent…
  • Later in the letter it is suggested to take SFUSD up on its offer to facilitate a discussion with SPS (Seattle Public Schools) on SFUSD’s collective impact process to bring everyone “to the table” in selecting a new superintendent.

Ms. Jones continues with the additional recommendation that the San Francisco superintendent become an “intermediary” engaging SPS at meetings such as the Council for Great City Schools.The SFUSD Superintendent recently squashed the school boards efforts to cut ties with Teach for America. This is the kind of superintendent they like in San Francisco

  • As much as is practical while building collaboration with SPS, design and push forward Seattle versions of San Francisco’s initiatives, some of which are already launched in Seattle…

(Soon to be seen in the Seattle Times’ Education Lab section funded by Bill Gates.)

  • As part of the suggested SF approach of working from “inside out”. Have ongoing engagement of key SPS principals, particularly principals in Levy-supported schools, to further focus Levy funding on effective strategies, including full-year, experiential learning supported by business and philanthropic partners.

An example of this would be Zynega.

Mayor Lee came up with a strategic plan for SFUSD titled Vision 2025 which includes “blended learning” also referred to as “personalized learning”. In other words, every student has their own computer and uses it, replacing shared class time and interaction with a teacher. Summit charter school is based on this. It’s less expensive in terms of operating costs and staff hours.

This vision also includes interaction with the private sector, particularly the gaming and other computer based businesses in San Francisco and surrounding communities. Per the letter:

After implementing this new vision, the gaming academies are now thriving. More than half of the students are now women of color. The gaming academy at Balboa High School is exactly what tech company Zynega wanted- the academy allows Zynga to steep students in the culture of their industry, while developing a talent pipeline.

I think it’s great to provide students with an opportunity to work with these types of companies but it seems more like the business is developing “talent” for their own use.

In the 2013 “Spotlight” newsletter produced by SFUSD, earlier this fall, volunteers from the online social game maker Zynga brought in 20 staff volunteers to work with Balboa High’s Academy of Information Technology students who are learning game programming with tech employees who are a part of Microsoft’s TEALS program.

Interesting that Microsoft is involved with this at some level.

  • There is also an interesting parallel in the letter to Mayor Murray’s plan for preschool in Seattle. Per the letter “The private sector is now focused on early learning…”. Unfortunately the mayor’s program has been a big fail.

The Alliance of Education has been greatly influenced by Bill Gates for many years with millions being donated to the Alliance by way of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Now with ties cut between the Alliance and SPS, there is little power that business and private interests have over the board and SPS in general.

This letter describes an example of another way to gain control of the school board and the district.

If Mayor Murray wants to address the “achievement/opportunity gap” in a way that is more appropriate to his office, he needs to focus on a living wage for all in Seattle and affordable housing. That will go a long way in helping children succeed in school and in life. Leave education to the educators not politicians, attorneys and business interests.

Dora Taylor

For more on the content in this post, see:


What we never mention


racial violence


We speak of poverty which is devastating, it brings hunger, homelessness, ill health and an inability to focus in the classroom, but we have not spoken about the violence and the threat of violence which pervades the lives of so many children. 

As advocates for public education, we write about poverty and the destructive impact it has on children but what we never mention is that the poverty is derived from deep-seated racism that has been with us since the inception of this country.

This racism is reflected in the lack of opportunities for minorities in terms of acquiring a well-rounded education and jobs, and the high percentage of incarceration of black men including black males beginning at the age of 12 years old.

I have seen racism as a child and even though many who I associate with now and the communities I circulate through, do not reflect such ignorance, it is there for all to see online and in the news.

Last week I saw another side of the impact of racism and that was through the eyes of two children who went through a trauma that most of us will never know or truly understand, that of losing a loved one, for one, the death of a father by way of unchecked violence, and the other, a child, watching a police officer shoot and kill someone their mother loved right in front of their eyes.

How will that child regain a sense of normalcy again? How will they fair in school and in life after such an experience?

In the instance of Philando Castile, there were many children affected by this horrific display of state sanctioned violence, the children who Mr. Castile served lunch to every day at a Montessori school. This has touched people far beyond the closed circle of black victims and their families affected by racial violence.

How does it affect those children who knew this man?

How does it affect black children in classrooms around the country knowing that they are not safe, no matter where they are or what they do?

This is yet another factor ignored by the corporate privatizers who once again victimize black children with no-excuse charter schools promoting “grit” and populated with uncertified Teach for America, Inc. recruits or anyone else these for-profit schools can find as cheap labor to “educate” black children?

And, where does the effect of the violence, emotional and physical, fit into the stats and data collected in bulk by Bill Gates and the state?

We are a violent nation, meting out death and destruction to ourselves and others. I don’t know the answers to all the problems but the one thing I know is that we can help our children, all of our children, support them and protect them so they can thrive and grow, any way that we are able, to assist as individuals and communities.

God help us.

Dora Taylor