Archives for category: Washington State

Washington State legislators refused to accept Arne Duncan’s demand that teachers be evaluated by a flawed and erroneous method, and the state seems certain to lose its NCLB waiver.

“That would mean that, starting in 2014-2015, school districts throughout the state would lose control over roughly $38 million in Title I funds designed to help low-income students.

“Loss of the waiver would also mean districts throughout the state would have to redirect an additional $19 million in Title I money toward professional development and teacher training, according to OSPI.

“It’s going to result in the loss of programs for our students who are the most in need,” said Sen. Bruce Dammeier, a Puyallup Republican who supported changing the teacher-evaluation system to keep the state’s waiver.

“The U.S. Department of Education told Washington leaders in August that the state’s waiver would be at risk unless lawmakers moved to mandate the use of statewide tests in teacher evaluations.

“Schools today may use solely local tests to measure student growth when evaluating teachers and principals – a standard the federal government has deemed unacceptable.

“But several lawmakers said they didn’t want to interfere with the state’s new teacher and principal evaluation system — which is being used for the first time this year — just to meet federal demands.

“Of course I am concerned from the perspective of a local district,” said state Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, a Seattle Democrat who chairs the House Education Committee.

“Yet I am concerned on the other hand that we (would) establish bad policy for the entire state of Washington.”

Read more here:

Good news!

The Washington State Senate, rejecting federal bribes and threats, voted NO to evaluating teachers by student test scores. The fact that this method has failed wherever it was tried may have influenced their decision. Also, the state senators may have been aware of the research showing the utter failure of this way of evaluating teachers, which reflects who was in the class, not teacher quality.

Sorry, Arne!

Here is the story:

“OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Education officials say the state will be limited in the way it can spend about $44 million in federal dollars after the Senate on Tuesday turned down a proposal that would have mandated the use of statewide standardized tests in educators’ evaluations.

“Senate Bill 5246, which failed by a 28-19 vote, would have revised the state’s new teacher-principal evaluation system to accommodate a demand from the federal government to mandate using statewide standardized tests as a factor in evaluations.

“Washington state has a waiver from provisions of the so-called No Child Left Behind law. It could lose the waiver and some federal money by not changing the current law, which only suggests the tests be used in evaluations instead of mandating them.

“Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, said she voted against the bill because using state tests to measure student growth has not been proven to be an effective way to judge teachers.

“Nationwide we are a leader in the teacher-principal evaluation system,” she said. “Why would we allow the federal government to break a system that is working?”

University of Washington scholars Wayne Au and Joseph J. Ferrare have written an excellent analysis of the big money that flooded the state of Washington to pass charter legislation in 2012. Although defeated three times before by voters, this time the proposal passed by a tiny margin. Its major funders were Bill Gates, who has no children in public school, and Walmart heiress Alice Walton,who lives in Arkansas. Substantial help was provided by other members of the Billionaire Boys Club and their claque (such as Stand for Children).

The more than $10 million they amassed was sufficient to buy what they wanted.

The moral of the story: a small number of very wealthy individuals and organizations bought a policy of their choosing. This subverts democracy. It subverts the principle of one man, one vote.

These are not reformers. They are plutocrats who use their vast wealth to buy what they want.

Here are a few choice quotes:

“Conclusions/Recommendations: This study concludes that, compared to the average voter in Washington, an elite group of wealthy individuals, either directly through individual donations or indirectly through their affiliated philanthropic organizations, wielded disproportionate influence over the outcome of the charter school initiative in the state, thereby raising serious concerns about the democratic underpinnings of an education policy that impacts all of the children in Washington State. This study also concludes that elite individuals make use of local nonprofit organizations as a mechanism to advance their education policy agenda by funding those nonprofits through the philanthropic organizations affiliated with those same wealthy elites. In light of these conclusions, the authors recommend that a mechanism for more democratic accountability be developed relative to education policy campaigns, initiatives, and legislation.


“To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, today’s plutocrats are not like you and I; nor do they resemble the politicians we elect. Even when they assume the authority to set public policies, they are, I fear, not sackable. (Bosworth, 2011, p. 386)

“With the backing of both major political parties, billionaire philanthropists, venture capitalists, business leaders, and a growing network of nonprofit organizations and research centers, charter school policy has evolved into a major component of the current education reform movement in the United States (Fabricant & Fine, 2012; Rawls, 2013). As of 2012, all but nine U.S. states allowed charter schools (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 2013), and in one of those nine, Washington State, charter school legislation was passed by popular vote in November 2012 (Reed, 2012)…..”

And more:

In this section we present the findings of our network analysis in two phases. First, through two tables, we present data on cash and in-kind contributions to the Yes On 1240 campaign and funding relationships between campaign donors, affiliated philanthropies, and organizational campaign supporters (Tables 1 and 2). Second, we visualize these relationships through a simple directed graph that traces the flows of sponsorship (material and symbolic) among policy actors (Figure 1).


Several important findings arise when we analyze the contributions to the Yes On 1240 campaign.

Table 1: Yes On I-1240 Campaign Cash and In-kind Contributions of $50k and More

Yes On 1240 Donor
Donation Amount
Bill Gates Jr. – Microsoft cofounder and current chairman
Alice Walton – heiress; daughter of Walmart founder, Sam Walton
Vulcan Inc. – founded by Paul Allen, Microsoft cofounder
Nicolas Hanauer – venture capitalist
Mike Bezos – father of founder Jeff Bezos
Jackie Bezos – mother of founder Jeff Bezos
Connie Ballmer – wife of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
Anne Dinning – managing director D.E. Shaw Investments
Michael Wolf – Yahoo! Inc. board of directors
Katherine Binder – EMFCO Holdings chairwoman
Eli Broad – real estate mogul
Benjamin Slivka – formerly Microsoft; DreamBox Learning cofounder
Reed Hastings – Netflix cofounder and CEO
Microsoft Corporation
Gabe Newell – formerly Microsoft; Valve Corporation cofounder
Doris Fisher – Gap Inc. cofounder
Kemper Holdings LLC – local Puget Sound developer
CSG Channels
Education Reform Now
Bruce McCaw –McCaw Cellular founder
Jolene McCaw – spouse of Bruce McCaw
Source: Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (2012a)

Table 1 highlights that $10.65 million in total, or almost 98% of the $10.9 million raised for the Yes On 1240 campaign, was funded by 21 individuals and organizations who each donated more than $50,000 to the campaign (Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, 2012a).

Notably, Bill Gates Jr. is the biggest contributor ($3M) to the campaign, nearly doubling the next biggest contributions coming from Walmart heiress Alice Walton ($1.7M) and Vulcan Inc. ($1.6M),2 Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s company. As a more general finding, these amounts indicate that a number of select wealthy individuals with no immediate connection to Washington State (e.g., Eli Broad and Alice Walton) demonstrated a vested interest in charter school policy in the state. Another finding that emerges from the data is that wealthy individuals who are connected to the technology sector also demonstrated a vested interest in promoting charter school policy in Washington State (12 of the top 21 contributors to Yes On 1240 are strongly connected to the technology sector). Additionally, as might be expected given the interconnectedness of any sector of industry, several of these individuals have historical and industry-related connections to Microsoft Inc. and Microsoft Inc. cofounder and chairman, Bill Gates Jr.

It is also of value to highlight the $50,000.00 donation to the Yes On 1240 campaign from Education Reform Now Advocacy Committee because it illustrates the tightly woven interconnectedness of organizations and funding structures associated with education policy reform advocacy. New York State tax records from 2006 explicitly indicate that Education Reform Now, Inc., Education Reform Now Advocacy Committee, and DFER all share officers, personnel, office space, and paymasters (Libby, 2012). Tax records from 2007 further indicate that Education Reform Now Inc. and Education Reform Now Advocacy Committee share these same resources (New York State Office of the Attorney General, 2013). Thus, it is difficult to determine where DFER, Education Reform Now Inc., and Education Reform Now Advocacy Committee begin and end individually because, in essence, they represent a financially intertwined cluster of three organizations that seem to operate as a single organization with overlapping staff and resources. Consequently, even though tax records do not allow us to fully understand the exact relationship, the $50,000.00 donation to the Yes On 1240 campaign from Education Reform Now Advocacy Committee is functionally also a donation from Education Reform Now Inc. and DFER.


As discussed above, four organizations, LEV, DFER, Stand for Children, and Partnership for Learning, publicly claimed credit for leading and coordinating the Yes On 1240 WA Coalition for Public Charter Schools (Yes On 1240, 2012a). An analysis of the in-kind donations to the Yes On 1240 campaign (that is, donations of labor or other services that are given cash value and added to the campaign donation total) supports this claim: Those four organizations predominate the in-kind donations database and are the only organizations listing “staff time” as donated in kind to the campaign (Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, 2012c). Further, as a university-based research center, they cannot be listed as having provided in-kind donations (or any donations) directly to a political campaign in the state. Because of their active role in providing direct, nonmonetary support for the Yes On 1240 campaign vis-à-vis being highlighted prominently in a campaign video (Yes On 1240, 2012b) and authoring a research report explicitly in support of I-1240 (Lake et al., 2012), we have included the CRPE here as a “connected organization” for their symbolic contribution to the campaign through the lending of their expertise.


Cross referencing information gathered from the Google search engine, philanthropy websites, and available tax records (Foundation Center, 2013) produced the following 11 foundations directly connected to major donors to the Yes On 1240 campaign (in alphabetical order): Apex Foundation (formerly the Bruce & Jolene McCaw Foundation), Bezos Family Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Corabelle Lumps Foundation (formerly the Anne Dinning and Michael Wolf Foundation), the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund (connected through the Connie and Steve Ballmer advised Biel Fund),3 Lochland Foundation (Katherine Binder, cofounder, officer, and contributor), The Walton Family Foundation, and Wissner-Slivka Foundation. Using foundation databases, foundation reports, available tax records, organizational websites, and institutional reports, we then looked for whether or not these foundations provided funding to the Yes On 1240 campaign-related organizations.

Table 2: Philanthropic Support for Yes On 1240 Connected Organizations




Center on Reinventing Public Education
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
Education Reform Now (Democrats for Education Reform)
The Walton Family Foundation
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
Corabelle Lumps Foundation
Bezos Family Foundation
League of Education Voters
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Lochland Foundation
Bezos Family Foundation
Apex Foundation
Partnership for Learning
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Stand for Children™
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation
Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund
Bezos Family Foundation
Wissner-Slivka Foundation
Lochland Foundation
Apex Foundation
(Sources: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2013; Foundation Center, 2013; Libby, 2012; New York State Office of the Attorney General, 2013; Stand for Children, 2013; University of Washington Bothell Office of Research, 2013; University of Washington Bothell Office of Sponsored Programs, 2013)

“As Table 2 indicates, the philanthropic foundations connected to major contributors to the Yes On 1240 campaign provided a range of support directly to three of the four campaign-coordinating organizations and the CRPE: the Apex Foundation’s $1,000.00 contributions to each LEV and Stand for Children were the smallest, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s total contribution of $9,000,000.00 to Stand for Children was the largest. Further, while DFER received no direct philanthropic support, its sister organization Education Reform Now received ample support from campaign-connected philanthropies, and, as detailed above, the overlap of resources between the cluster of Education Reform Now Inc., Education Reform Now Advocacy, and DFER, is very fluid. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the most prominent here, haven given over $27 million total to Yes On 1240 campaign-connected organizations across multiple years, grants, and contracts. The Walton Foundation is second-most prominent, having contributed $6.48 million to campaign-connected organizations, followed by the Broad Foundation at $2.99 million in support for campaign-connected organizations. There is a precipitous drop in total support after these three, potentially indicating smaller amounts of financial support originating from smaller foundations (e.g., Lochland Foundation or the Bezos Family Foundation). Regardless of the amount, foundation support of the organizations directly involved in the Yes On 1240 campaign is indicative of ideological alignment around specific education reforms (in this case, charter schools) between funders and grantees/contractors.”

Charter opponents in Washington celebrated a court ruling that charter schools are not “common schools” and may not be funded as such.

Charter advocates celebrated that the judge upheld the rest of the initiative.

So the law may be implemented without public funding.

Or something.

Appeal on the way.

Last fall, there was a hard-fought election in Washington State over charter schools. Voters had turned them down three times but this time was different: Bill Gates, the Walton family, and a passel of super-rich people gathered $10 million or so to support the charter idea and their initiative passed by a small margin.

However, today a judge ruled the law unconstitutional because the state constitution says public funds are solely for “common schools” and charters–under private management, are not common schools.

“In a ruling issued today (pdf), King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel has tossed out the heart of Washington State’s charter schools law on the grounds that it violates the constitutional provision that state education revenues be “exclusively applied to the support of the common schools.”

“But, Judge Rietschel concludes: “A charter school cannot be defined as a common school because it is not under the control of the voters of the school district. The statute places control under a private non-profit organization, a local charter board and/or the Charter Commission.”

“In other words, charter schools may not be funded with state dollars dedicated to funding our state’s common schools.”

The term “common schools” was used in the nineteenth century to refer to public schools supported by all and open to all, under democratic control.

The court might usefully have looked at rulings in federal courts and the NLRB where charters have fended off lawsuits by disgruntled employees or by employees hoping to form a union by asserting that they are not public schools and are not subject to the same state laws. Or the courts might have looked at the amicus brief filed by the California Charter School Association in support of charter school founders convicted of misappropriation of public funds, earlier this fall. The charter founders were not guilty, said CCSA, because they were operating a private corporation with a government contract, not subject to the same laws as public schools.

You can be sure the decision today in Washington State will be appealed.

Sue Peters is an experienced journalist and parent leader who is running for Seattle school board. I have blogged about Sue because I have met her and I know how committed She is to strengthening the public schools of Seattle and standing up to the powerful corporate raiders.

These corporate forces, the ones who wield great power in Seattle, do not want her elected to the school board. They fear her brave and honest voice.

That is why I sent a personal contribution to her campaign.

That is why she was endorsed by the Network for Public Education. That is why I hope you will send her whatever you can afford to help her.

She was vastly outspent in the primary, but managed to get into a run-off with her main opponent.her opponent has a PAC that has run attack ads against Sue.

The Seattle Times, which genuflects to Bill Gates, has snidely put Sue down as a mere “parent activist.”

Sue is one of us, fighting our fight. Please go to her website and donate $5, $10, $20, $50, whatever you can.

Let’s take back our schools. You can help.

This is a letter from Melissa Westbrook, who was one of the leaders of the fight against the charter referendum funded last fall by Gates, the Bezos family, and the Walton family, billionaires all. It win by 1%.

Melissa writes:

“I wanted to send you a link to the Seattle Times (our only daily newspaper) that was an editorial wrap-up of the primary for School Board.

They seem to want to omit and/or denigrate Sue’s credentials but really what I wanted you to see was this about parent activists:

“Peters may give Dale Estey a run for her money. But the effort would have to begin with Peters broadening beyond the “education activist” description. Here’s why: Any parent volunteering in the classrooms, on field trips, attending school board meetings, raising money for education or in myriad other ways working to improve their local schools is an activist. So is Peters merely one of them? Or is the “activist” moniker code for membership in a small cabal of district critics who have not changed their reflexive oppositional stances since the early 1990s? Conversations leading up to the November general election should provide answers.”

Melissa continues:

“Here’s what I wrote at my blog, Seattle Schools Community Forum:

” Varner [the editorial writer who cheer leads for Gates-style reform] gets to define what an activist is? Broadly – and I mean very broadly speaking – she’s right. An “active” parent could be called an activist. Except that it usually means going beyond your own school. She knows that (or she should).

“Then she talks about “code” which is ironic given the use of ed reform code words she uses in her columns all the time.

“So there is a small “cabal” of district critics? Well, there’s an even larger -but much more selective and closed-off – cabal of ed reformers. And no one need apply because they only let the “right” people in. (I also have to laugh at Varner saying Peters may give Estey a “run for her money.” Money is right, given how much more Estey has and who she gets it from.)

That reference at the end is about a PAC – set up by two wealthy men in Seattle just for Dale Estey’s campaign. They are the ones sending the false flyers that you have written about.

I know that Varner’s words are to strike out at our blog because we command a larger readership and challenge ed reform every step of the way. By putting us down/marginalizing us, they hope to do the same to Sue.

I wanted you to know that these tactics are being used. The good news is that Seattle is a VERY independent-minded city and people here ask a lot of questions. The Times won’t be able to just say anything and have it received in silence.

Best wishes,
Melissa Westbrook
Seattle Schools Community Forum blog

Seattle just held its local elections, and Sue Peters won a spot in a run=off election for the Seattle school board. She won 41% of the vote, despite being vastly outspent, and her opponent won 47%.

Sue wrote the following letter, thanking the Network for Public Education for providing its endorsement, which identified her as the real education supporter.

Please send her support if you can. Her website is here.  I just made a contribution via Paypal.

I thought that readers would want to read her description of her vision for the Seattle public schools:

I just wanted to extend my deepest thanks to you and NPE for the timely and meaningful endorsement of my candidacy. It came at a crucial time, right when my opponent’s side chose to go negative (twice!), and as we led up to the primary election.

Diane, thank you for your tweet on my behalf as well.

Locally, people are very impressed by this honor and support, and nationally I have received a constant flow of donations ever since the endorsement and tweet.

And here’s more good news: Last night I qualified for the general election, earning 41 percent of the vote so far (with 50 percent of ballots counted). (My opponent is at 47 percent at the moment.) This is despite being outspent 6-1, without hiring political consultants, and without resorting to smear tactics against my opponent. I am proud of my authentic, community-based campaign which has focused on the issues and maintained its integrity. I am confident that my positive and constructive message, and the value of my nearly decade of knowledge of the Seattle Public School District, will resonate with voters throughout the city as we go forth into the general election.

Here is what I support:

  • Fiscally and academically responsible decisions that prioritize directing resources to the classroom and our kids.
  • An education system that embraces & celebrates the individuality and diversity of our children & helps each child fulfill his/her potential.
  • A rich, engaging curriculum that includes the arts, sciences, math, humanities, music & P.E.
  • Decisions and policies that reflect the needs of our schools and families.
  • More teaching & learning, less testing.
  • Respect for teachers.
  • Keeping public education public.

Thank you all again.



Sue Peters is a parent activist in Seattle who ran for school board in District 4.

The election was yesterday.

She had almost no money at all, but she had the endorsement of the Network for Public Education as a true supporter of public education.

Some committee in Seattle ran attack ads against her–imagine that! wonder who?–yet she managed to make it into the run off with 41% of the vote.

The other candidate received 47.5%.

Sue Peters is the real deal.

Please support her, send her $5, $10, $20, whatever you can.

Together we can take back this country, one election at a time.

Seattle teachers Jesse Hagopian and Liza Campbell explain here what happened when the teachers at Garfield High School decided to boycott MAP testing. Their courageous action inspired teachers and parents across the nation. The MAP tests were suspended for the high schools but not for K-8.

But the teachers were not acting simply in opposition to this particular test or to all testing. They want something better that will help them help students.

And that is why they are working together to find later natives to the status quo:

“…’s not enough to be against the abuses of standardized testing. Parents, students and teachers who want the school system our students deserve must advance a vision of assessment that would actually improve education.

“That is why educators in Seattle established a Teacher Work Group on Assessment of more than 20 teachers to supplement the district’s task force formed to review the MAP. The work group engaged in months of research and recommended “Markers of Quality Assessment” to develop assessments that: reflect actual student knowledge and learning, not just test taking skills; are educational in and of themselves; are free of gender, class and racial bias; are differentiated to meet students’ needs; allow opportunities to go back and improve; undergo regular evaluation and revision by educators.

“The work group on assessment concluded that quality assessments, at their base, must integrate with classroom curriculum, measure student growth toward standards achievement, and take the form of performance tasks. These tasks, taken as a whole, should replace the MAP because they grow from classroom work, are rigorously evaluated and respect true learning.”

In a victory for teachers who boycotted the MAP tests this year, the Seattle superintendent Jose Banda said that the leadership team in each high school could decide whether to take it. For other schools it remains mandatory.


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