PubliCola thinks the backlash against the Ed Reform movement is way overblown. Really? Consider this:
All the School Board incumbents are supported by zillionaire donors who don’t have children in our schools. Most live on the Eastside. They generously funded The Seattle Foundation to bring Teach for America into Seattle Public Schools. Most also backed the defeat of Initiative 1098. The anti-1098 donors include Steve and Connie Ballmer, Matt Griffin, Evelyne Rozner, John Stanton, and James Faulstich. In addition to backing TFA and the incumbents, Connie Ballmer sits on the WA advisory board of Stand For Children, a national lobbying organization that aggressively promotes charter schools. Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and his wife Patricia did not donate to defeat I-1098, but they support TFA, charter schools and the incumbents. The same holds true for John Faulstich.
What if any connection is there between defeating Initiative 1098, supporting Teach for America, Stand for Children and the incumbent School Board Directors?
First-- why the opposition to I-1098 from anyone who supports public education? Initiative 1098 would have provided $2 billion a year as a trust fund dedicated to public education, health services and middle class tax relief. The year I-1098 was filed, Seattle Public Schools had a budget shortfall of $34 million. It’s safe to assume these people don’t want a miniscule portion of their ginormous incomes to support public education as it is now. They must have another plan.
Teach for America provides public and charter schools with conditionally certified teachers who have received a total of five weeks of training during the summer. Charter schools hire many of their teachers through Teach for America. Wendy Kopp, founder, CEO and relentless marketer of TFA draws an annual salary of $660,000, paid for by funds presumably raised for public education. TFA also received $50mil from the Obama administration last year. TFA is very much a part of a national movement to privatize and profit from public education through charter schools.[pullquote]Although we don’t have charter schools in WA, we do have a system that’s completely driven by standardized testing. This has led to standardized curricula and standardized teaching. It’s stifling the heart and soul of education.[/pullquote]
All the incumbents approved the contract between Seattle Public Schools and Teach for America, opening the way for conditionally certified teachers with no experience to be placed in our most demanding classrooms. All except Peter Maier were endorsed by Stand for Children. Yet another initiative to legalize charter schools in WA was recently launched by Stand for Children, League of Education Voters and Washington State PTSA. Teach for America, Stand for Children and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are rolling out charter schools across the US, frequently in the face of local opposition. These very wealthy donors clearly envision a future of charter schools in WA. Is there really any doubt they will expect their supported candidates to cooperate with their efforts?
PubliCola could take the position that the backlash is overblown because charter schools aren’t such a bad idea after all. They provide choice, local control, and if you watched Waiting for Superman, it looks like they’re doing a better job than our current public schools. You also probably noticed that most students are turned away, and this is because only a very few are doing such a great job that everyone wants to get into them.
In fact, Stanford University found that 83% of charter schools perform no better, or perform worse than traditional public schools (Stanford University's CREDO Report, 2009). All of them divert funds from our public schools.
Although we don’t have charter schools in WA, we do have a system that’s completely driven by standardized testing. This has led to standardized curricula and standardized teaching. It’s stifling the heart and soul of education by narrowing it to what can be standardized and tested. This is very much part of the Ed Reform movement. And the zillionaire donors are using their influence to keep us moving in this direction. Next step is charter schools. We should expect a huge marketing campaign filled with false claims and promises.
The challengers in this race are trying to move us beyond this phase of Ed Reform to the next. Our vision of effective Ed Reform is about meeting the individual needs of our students, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all standardized education. We must increase pathways to success by offering compelling programs that engage students all the way through high school, and help them prepare for the futures they want. We must improve our curricula and give struggling students more support. We must open up our district to far greater community input and control. We need to restore more choice to our student assignment plan. And we can do it all without diverting public funds into the pockets of people like Wendy Kopp and others who profit from charter schools.
Is it really overblown backlash to retain public control of our public schools and make them work for all our students? The alternative is to allow Eastside zillionaires to succeed in using their influence to further a national agenda that isn’t succeeding elsewhere. So why would we want it here? If you don’t, please vote for the challengers.
Editor's note: PubliCola reported on the money that local supporters of President Obama's "ed reform" movement have contributed the the Seattle School board candidates. (The PI.com, in fact, accused us demonizing those donors.)
We also broke the news that Stand for Children, the advocacy group that's associated with the movement, were recipients of a Gates Foundation grant.
And yes, we also said the backlash against the ed reform movement was overblown. We stand by it.
Here's our take on the Seattle School Board candidates from our 2011 Election guide.