The billionaires want charter schools in Washington State.
It is very distressing to them that the voters have already turned down charter schools three times. So they have put up a few millions to try again. This time the charter referendum closely tracks the rightwing ALEC model. It allows either a majority of parents or teachers to give away the public school to a private charter corporation, even if the school is a good school. It also creates a super-commission to create more charters over the opposition of local school boards.
These are mechanisms found in ALEC’s privatization model laws.
Here are the facts from Melissa Westbrook of “Say No on 1240,” the parent group that is fighting to protect public education and to stop privatization of education stave in Washington State. Please help them if you can:
Dear Dr. Ravitch,
I’m a long-time public education activist in Seattle and also write a blog, Seattle Schools Community Forum. I am also now the Chair of the No On 1240 campaign here in Washington State. You mentioned our efforts recently in your blog.
We are once again – for the 4th time – fighting off the establishment of a charter school system here in Washington State. We have fought off charters three times at the ballot box – 1996, 2000 and 2004 – and multiple times in our Legislature.
We are only one of nine states that do not have charters and we are virtually the ONLY state that has ever brought the establishment of charters to the ballot.
The Washington State Supreme Court ruled this summer that the Legislature is not fully-funding our existing schools; Washington State does not even fund our schools to the national average. So it begs the question of bringing on more underfunded schools and thinning the pot of education dollars to already struggling schools.
As in previous elections, this one is back by wealthy businessmen and this being Washington State, that would be Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft fame. The entire Yes campaign is made up of about 10 families, all with connections to Microsoft and Amazon to the tune of $4.5M. They also include a Walmart heiress from Arkansas and the head of Netflicks in LA.
Our campaign, No On 1240, is a grassroots campaign of parents and community members. (There is another No campaign started by the teachers union, the Washington Education Association, that we are working with but we wanted to be a separate campaign so that pro-charter supporters could NOT say the only people saying no were unions.)
Beyond the interesting fact that Washington State has fought off charters before, here are some other key issues that make this of national interest:
- a trigger section is embedded in this initiative. As you likely know, all other trigger laws are separate but the writers of this initiative put it into the initiative. The trigger is the harshest in the entire country.
It would allow a charter group, as part of the proposal, to submit a petition with a majority of signatures by EITHER teachers or parents to take over ANY existing school, failing or not.
It is breathtaking in its aggressiveness. The charter then takes the school community, building and all, with no public notification that this is happening. They would not have to pay rent to the district and the district would have to provide major maintenance to the building.
- it would give charters the right of first refusal to any school building for lease or sale at or BELOW market value. If you are a cash-strapped district, you have problem and, of course, it is never a good deal to have to sell public property for less than it is worth.
- it creates a Charter Commission that is politically appointed, once appointed has no oversight from anyone, elected or not, AND all members have to be pro-charter (this is actually in the initiative wording). I note that in Georgia they have a ballot measure about having a charter commission being able to ok charters.
Our campaign is having a Money Blast on Thursday, October 11th to try to get a one-day blitz of fundraising.
We are hoping to raise awareness about the charter issue here in Washington State as well as the Money Blast.
If we manage, against Bill Gates & Company, to fight off charters – for the 4th time – it will be a major national line in the sand. I know that other states are starting to look around and ask, “Where are these results charters promised? Where is the accountability and ease of closing low-performing charters that was promised?”
I think the question is out there – are charters really that great and is it worth the investment of our scarce education dollars?
Attached is more information about the campaign and the initiative text.
Could you please write a thread about our fight and our one-day Money Blast on Thursday the 11th? We have to fight off Bill Gates and the charter movement that wants to take over our public schools.
Do not hesitate to contact me for more information.
Melissa Westbrook, Chair
No On 1240