Archives for category: Washington State

Voters in Massachusetts rejected Question 2, which would have authorized a dozen new charter schools every year. The margin, at last word, was 62-38%.

Voters in Georgia rejected Amendment 1, which would have allowed the Governor to take over low-scoring schools and put them in an “Opportunity School District,” a district of charter schools, whether for-profit or non-profit. Georgians apparently didn’t like the idea of abolishing local control of their schools. The vote was similar to Massachusetts, 60-40%. Voters were not fooled by the deceptive language.

Voters in Washington State re-elected the Supreme Court judges who declared that charter schools are not public schools, rejecting the judges supported by Bill Gates.

Our fight for public education continues. Now, with Donald Trump as President, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) works in our favor. He will turn over federal funds to the states without strings, and we will fight in every state to make sure that those funds are allocated to provide a better education for all children. From the results in Massachusetts and Georgia, we know that the majority is on the side of public schools.

We will win some, we will lose some, but we won’t give up. We will do what is right for children. We will defend teachers and the teaching profession. We will defend democratically-controlled public education. We will protect the public good.

Do not despair. Join the Network for Public Education. Plan to join us next October in Oakland, California, and help us plan for the future.

*PS: Wendy Lecker, civil rights lawyer, points out in the comments that voters in Kansas retained all the judges who ruled in favor of full funding for public schools, rebuffing Governor Brownback.

In 2012, Bill Gates and friends spent close to $20 million to win a referendum allowing charter schools, after losing the previous three such referenda. To their chagrin, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that charter schools are not public schools because they do not answer to elected school boards. Thus, they are not entitled to receive public funding intended for public schools. This made Gates and friends really angry.

Now, Peter Greene tells us what Gates and friends are doing about the mess. They are spending another load of money to oust judges on the State Supreme Court, to punish them for daring to deny public funding to privately managed charter schools. They are literally trying to buy control of Washington’s highest court.

So here’s Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, the author of the 2015 decision that ruled Washington’s charter law unconstitutional. She is being opposed by Greg Zempel who doesn’t like how capricious and random the court’s decisions are. Zempel has been backed by a pile of money from Stand for Children, an Oregon reformster group that has funneled money to his campaign from Connie Ballmer, wife of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix; and Vulcan Inc., owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Vulcan and Ballmer were big financial backers of the charter law that was struck down.

Also facing reformster-backed challenge is Justice Charlie Wiggins (who is nothing if not a snappy dresser). Charteristas must sense a vulnerability because as we come down to the wire, they have pumped almost a million dollars into the campaign of Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Dave Larson. Vulcan tossed in $300K and Gates threw in $200K of his own. Meanwhile, one more fly-by-night PAC, Judicial Integrity Washington has dropped $350K on a tv ad smear campaign against Wiggins featuring ads that other members of the legal community likened to the infamous Willie Horton ads used against Dukakis way back in the– well, shut up, kid. Some of us remember that.

Parent activist Dora Taylor in Seattle writes that Bill Gates is so eager to gain control of the Washington State Supreme Court that he is backing a climate-change denier for a seat on the state’s highest court.

So we know that billionaires can buy legislators; they do that all the time. Now will they be able to buy Washington’s highest court, which had the nerve to stand up for public education as defined in the state constitution?

The Washington Supreme Court ordered the legislature to come up with a plan to fund the state’s public schools fairly. The legislature has taken a few steps but has failed to comply with the court’s order. The state asked the coutrt to cancel the fines. The court said no.

“No hammer will come down this year as a result of the Legislature’s ongoing failure to come up with plan to fully fund public schools, the state Supreme Court said Thursday.

“Instead, the high court said it will continue fining Washington state $100,000 per day, but will wait to see what progress lawmakers make in the 2017 legislative session before imposing additional sanctions.

“The court’s ruling is the the latest development in the school-funding case known as McCleary, in which the court ruled in 2012 that Washington state was failing to meet its constitutional duty to amply fund basic education.

“In its order, the court directed the state to correct school-funding problems by 2018.

“While lawmakers have added about $2.3 billion to address parts of the McCleary ruling — including funding for all-day kindergarten, school supplies and class size reductions in lower grades — they have yet to come up with a way to fix the unconstitutional way teachers and other school employees are paid, which many lawmakers view as the most complicated part of the decision.

“The court has said school employee salaries are basic education costs that should be borne by the state, and not paid through local school district property tax levies.

“In its majority ruling Thursday, the court criticized lawmakers for not specifying how they plan to take on those costs next year.

“In its latest report, the State continues to provide a promise — ‘we’ll get there next year’ — rather than a concrete plan for how it will meet its paramount duty,” wrote Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, whose opinion was signed by seven of the court’s nine justices.”

Washington State contains some of the richest people in the nation and the world. Why aren’t they leading the fight for higher taxes to fund the schools instead of fighting for charters?

Read more here:

In a long-running battle, the Washington State Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to pay a fine of $100,000 a day for every day that it failed to produce a plan to change the funding of public schools in the state so that it meets constitutional requirements.

Now the Court wants to hold the legislature accountable for its turtle-like response.

Washington state has been here before, but this time the stakes are higher.

Attorneys for the state will appear Wednesday before the state Supreme Court to argue — once again — that lawmakers have complied with court orders to boost public school funding.

On the other side of the courtroom will be attorneys representing the coalition of parents, school districts and education groups that sued the state almost 10 years ago and maintains that lawmakers still haven’t done enough.

The hearing marks the latest development in the McCleary case, in which the state Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the Legislature was failing to fully fund basic education and must correct school-funding problems by 2018.

The state is now in contempt of court and accruing fines of $100,000 a day over the Legislature’s failure to produce a plan to meet the 2018 funding deadline.

On Wednesday, the court’s nine justices will hear arguments to help them decide whether to lift the contempt sanctions, or to impose more serious penalties that could dramatically alter next year’s budget debates at the state Capitol.

Read more here:

The state contends that it has made lots of progress.

The chief justice was not so sure about the “progress”:

Chief Justice Barbara Madsen asked the state’s lawyer, deputy solicitor general Alan Copsey, to clarify when he thinks the deadline is for the state to fully fund public schools.

She compared the conversation to a child who promises to clean his or her room “in a little while.”

“I want to know when a little while is,” Madsen said.

Read more here:

T.C. Weber, who blogs as Dad Gone Wild, writes about the latest problem in Nashville.

The pro-public school/anti-charter forces won a resounding victory at the elections recently. Their candidates won handily.

But then the new superintendent of schools stunned everyone by hiring as his chief of staff a woman who had been actively involved in the charter movement in Washington state and elsewhere. She scrubbed the charter stuff off her resume, but the Internet is forever, and she couldn’t hide her long history as a supporter of the very policies that Nashville voters had just decisively rejected.

Jana Carlisle was executive director of the Partnership for Learning, which advocated for charters in Washington State, even though voters had rejected them three times. The initiative was finally passed, by less than 1%, in 2012, after Bill Gates and his fellow billionaires poured nearly $20 million into their campaign, a sum that overwhelmed the League of Women Voters, PTAs, teachers’ unions, and the NAACP. Carlisle made a statement about implementation of the charter law soon after its passage. The statement (which I copied on my cellphone) has now been removed from the Internet. Here it is:

PFL: Testimony to state board on charter schools, accountability

On November 8, 2012, Jana Carlisle, executive director of the Partnership for Learning, testified at the State Board of Education’s meeting in Vancouver on public charter school implementation and the state’s new Accountability Index.

Her comments are as follows:

“Good Afternoon. My name is Dr. Jana Carlisle and I’m here representing the Washington Roundtable’s education foundation, the Partnership for Learning.

I’m here today to reinforce the importance of the State Board of Education’s role in providing guidance and oversight to local school boards wishing to become charter school authorizers, as well as to the smooth and quality functioning of the state’s public charter school application, approval, and annual review processes. The founding member organizations of the Washington Coalition for Public Charter Schools include the League of Education Voters, Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform, and the Partnership and Roundtable. Our groups are committed to supporting effective implementation of and leadership for public charter schools in Washington state. To do so, we are interested in collaborating with the State Board and its staff, the Commission, and a broad base of stakeholders that include parents, students, educators, and elected and agency leaders. As is the case with the SBE, our implementation conversations have already commenced. We are eager to work closely with you and the SBE staff during the coming months and years to ensure that the intent of the initiative – which includes giving priority to opening public charter schools that serve at-risk student populations or students from low-performing public schools – is realized.

Today you have also talked about what to include in the Accountability Index. The WRT and Partnership for Learning strongly believe that a performance-based accountability system is absolutely essential to ensure our state’s implementation of a 21st Century education system and to secure support for adequately funding basic education. We believe that Washington’s accountability system must include: 1) transparent and accessible district and school report cards that include scale scores and status updates on meeting the outcomes delineated below; 2) a statewide growth-based accountability index that establishes key school performance indicators, targets, and the line between success and failure; and 3) statewide capacity and authority for incenting and rewarding school innovation; for establishing timelines for progress to occur; and for supporting, intervening in, and taking over struggling schools.

We believe that a 21st Century statewide education system – and thus the index’s indicator – in Washington will result in the following:

1. Closing student achievement gaps among students in K-12 mathematics, English Language Arts, science, and social studies – based on actual performance and growth measures.
2. Increasing overall academic achievement for all student groups for K-12 mathematics, English Language Arts, science, and social studies – based on actual performance and growth measures.
3. Increasing the overall graduation rate of high school students – documented in terms of four- and five-year rates – and the college and career readiness graduation rate.
4. Reducing remedial rates in two-year colleges and in four-year universities.
5. Increasing four-year post-secondary participation within one year of students’ high school graduation.
6. Increasing two-year post-secondary participation within one year of students’ high school graduation.
7. Increasing two- and four-year post-secondary graduation rates.
8. Increasing participation rate in post-secondary STEM programs (this includes workforce training, industry certification, and/or credit bearing two- and four-year postsecondary coursework).”


You can also read about the work of the Partnership on the website of the rightwing PIE Network.

Look, if someone wants to work for the charter movement, that’s fine, that’s their right. But they shouldn’t apply to work in a district that rejects charters while scrubbing their resume to hide their sympathies. That’s not honest.

In Washington state, supporters of public schools–Like the League of Women Voters–have filed a lawsuit to stop the legislature from funding charter schools, which the state’s highest court declared are NOT public schools, because their boards are not elected.

Somehow, across the state, major newspapers posted editorials opposing any effort to block charters, some using the exact same language. Do you find that odd? Parent activist Melissa Westbrook does. Read her account here.

She writes:

“There are many who are unhappy about the new lawsuit against the new charter school law. This includes several editorial boards across the state with some exceptions. What’s quite telling about their arguments are three things.

“Their arguments seem to be on the notion that this is a frivolous lawsuit and we should just leave the charter schools to do their thing.

“Another issue I found is that some of these editorials so closely mirror each other (down the the use of the word “distraction” in two headlines) that you would think someone faxed out talking points. The Times uses the word four times.

“Still another issue is that some of them are saying it’s the teachers union and “a coalition of groups.” Why wouldn’t they acknowledge who is in that group which includes parents and solid citizen, non-union groups like League of Women Voters and El Centro de la Raza? Why? Because they know it would not serve their viewpoint to be honest on who stood up to put their names on the lawsuit.

“It’s also of interest that some editorials leave out that there appear to be a couple of constitutional issues and instead, tell their readers it’s about “thwarting the will of the voters.” The Times goes so far as to say it’s an “intimidation tactic.”

“It’s a sad day when trying to stand up for the constitution is considered a bad thing. Maybe the people who wrote these laws should have thought of the constitution as they did their work (see Article 3, Section 22.) That names the role of the state superintendent and “public schools.” If the state superintendent is to oversee all public schools, does that mean he/she gets to oversee them in the same manner or do charters get a different oversight? And who decides? That role is not written into this law.”

Just to be clear: Fighting to privatize public schools is a good thing. Fighting to stop privatization is not. Why “distract” from what Bill Gates wants? He paid for the referendum.

Voters of Washington State, wake up!

The billionaires who have been trying to privatize your public schools are up to their old tricks.

Bill Gates and his pals have been pushing charters schools since the late 1990s. There have been four referenda on charter schools in Washington State. The privatizers lost the first three, but swamped the race with millions in their 2012 campaign and won by a razor-thin margin, defeating the NAACP, teachers, parents, the League of Women Voters, and school board members.

Defenders of public schools sued to stop public money from going to privately managed charter schools. In 2015, Washington’s highest court agreed with them that charters are not common schools, as required by the state constitution, because their boards are not elected. Funding charter schools with public money, the high court ruled, was unconstitutional.

Now the billionaires are running a candidate against state Supreme Court Justice Barbara Madsen, who wrote the 6-3 decision against funding charter schools with public money dedicated to public schools.

Some of the biggest proponents of charter schools in Washington state are pouring money into the race to defeat state Supreme Court Justice Barbara Madsen, who authored last year’s decision declaring the privately run, publicly funded schools unconstitutional.

The political arm of Stand for Children spent $116,000 this month on independent expenditures supporting Greg Zempel, Madsen’s chief opponent, in what constitutes the biggest infusion of outside cash in a Washington judicial race since 2010. According to Mercedes Schneider, Stand for Children (aka, “Stand ON Children”) has collected $725,000 to knock out Justice Madsen. Justice Madsen has raised $30,000 for her re-election.

The group is funded by some of the same wealthy donors who supported the 2012 initiative to allow charter schools in Washington, which the court’s decision overturned.

Zempel, the elected Kittitas County prosecutor, has been critical of the high court’s 6-3 decision in the charter-schools case, as well as what he has described as the court’s tendency to be unpredictable in its rulings.

Madsen, the court’s chief justice, wrote the opinion in September that ruled charter schools cannot be funded the same way as traditional public schools, primarily because they are run by boards that are appointed rather than elected by voters.

State lawmakers passed a bill this year that aims to keep charter schools open, but the statewide teachers union has promised to challenge the new law in court as well.

Most of the Stand for Children PAC’s funding this year has come from a single source: Connie Ballmer, a wealthy philanthropist and wife of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who donated $500,000.

The PAC’s other two main donors are Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix; and Vulcan Inc., which is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The billionaires can’t buy the state Supreme Court, but they are trying their best to oust the judge who dared to stand in their way. Billionaires don’t send their own children to public schools, but think they have the right to kill them because they prefer privately run schools.

Hastings advocates for killing elected school boards and replacing teachers with technology.

There is only one thing that can defeat billionaires who want to buy our democracy: Voters.

Tell your neighbors. Tell your friends. Tell your colleagues. Save your public schools. Vote!

Show the billionaires that they can’t punish judges, they can’t privatize public schools, and they can’t subvert democracy!

To learn more about Bill Gates and his efforts to undermine public schools in Washington State, read parent activist Dora Taylor’s reports:

Emails reveal OSPI in contempt of Supreme Court ruling on charter schools in Washington State,

Emails reveal the “Gates Machine” in action after the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision that charter schools are unconstitutional,

The Mary Walker School District rescinds their request for charter schools in the Seattle Public School District,

  • This is a must read.


Joanne Barkan has written a remarkable article that closely examines Bill Gates’ determination to force charter schools on the people of Washington State.


This is is a story that you should read and understand. The people of the state voted against charters three times. But Gates was not to be denied. In 2012, he put together a huge pot of millions to overwhelm the citizens’ groups, parents, and educators who opposed his will. This vote passed by the tiniest of margins. Gates then put on his philanthropic hat and rushed a group of charters to open, so as to establish new facts on the ground.



When the high court of the state ruled against public funding for privately managed charters, Gates started an end run around the court. He was not to be denied. Barkan shows how little corporate reformers think of democracy and how much they prefer mayoral control and other mechanisms to eliminate civic engagement.


Defenders of of corporate reform like to say that they must counter the vast sums spent by teachers’ unions. Barkan exposes the lie:



“Education-reform philanthropists justify their massive political spending as a necessary counterweight to the teachers unions;8 yet, the philanthropists can, and consistently do, far outspend the unions. In 2004, Paul Allen had a net worth of $21 billion, Bill Gates had a net worth of $46.6 billion, and John T. Walton (who died in 2005) had a net worth of $20 billion.9 Donald Fisher’s net worth was $1.3 billion in 2005.10 In 2015, Allen had a net worth of $17.8 billion, Gates had a net worth of $76 billion, and Doris Fisher (Donald Fisher’s widow and a charter school donor) had a net worth of $2.9 billion.11 And the unions? According to the 2015 reports filed with the Office of Labor-Management Standards, the National Education Association had $388.8 million in total receipts; the American Federation of Teachers had $327.6 million in total receipts.12 As political rivals, the education-reform philanthropists and the teachers unions have never competed on a level playing field….


“The Washington charter saga highlights the workings of charitable plutocracy. Multibillionaire philanthropists use their personal wealth, their tax-exempt private foundations, and their high-profile identities as philanthropists to mold public policy to a degree not possible for other citizens. They exert this excessive influence without public input or accountability. As for the charitable donors who are trying to reshape public education according to their favorite theories or ideological preferences, they are intervening with too heavy a hand in a critical institution that belongs to the public and requires democratic control. But in any public domain, the philanthropist’s will and democratic control are often at odds.


“Voters, their elected representatives, grass-roots activists, civic groups, unions, public opinion—all can thwart an uber-philanthropist’s effort to impose his or her vision of the common good on everyone else. Democracy can be a nuisance for the multibillionaire—a fact of life that Bill Gates has often lamented….



“Questioning the work of megaphilanthropists is a tricky business. Many readers of this article will be fuming in this way: Would you rather let children remain illiterate, or allow generous people to use their wealth to give them schools? Would you rather send more money to our bumbling government, or let visionary philanthropists solve society’s problems? Here is a counterquestion: Would you rather have self-appointed social engineers—whose sole qualification is vast wealth—shape public policy according to their personal views, or try to repair American democracy?”



A daily reader of this blog, Chiara, has often made the point that once charters enter the political discussion in a state, there is no more attention to public schools. It is all-charters, all-vouchers, all the time, even though 93% of the children in Ohio (her state) attend traditional public schools. The legislature loses sight of the education of the state’s children and concentrates only on the small percentage in choice schools.


In Washington State, the legislature has been consumed with charters, even though they enroll only 1,300 students. The state’s highest court ruled they are not public schools and are not entitled to public funding. So the discussion this past session was devoted to how to fund those schools.


At the same time, the state court ordered the legislature to fund the public schools (which enroll 1 million students) equitably and adequately. While wrestling with the charter issue, the legislature did nothing to fund the schools that educate the overwhelming majority of children. It was all-charters, all the time.


Seattle parent blogger Dora Taylor says that the charter claque in the legislature plans to hold general funding hostage until they get charter funding.


This is shameful. Bill Gates shows where his priorities lie. Winning means more to him than the education of 1 million children.

The Washington State Education Association and other groups are suing to block the funding of charter schools in Washington State.


The battle over charters has gone on for years. There have been four referenda: the first three blocked charters. The fourth, in 2012, won by less than 1% after Bill Gates and fellow billionaires dumped nearly $20 million into the campaign. The funding was challenged in court and the state’s highest court ruled that charter schools are not public schools because they have private governance.


The oligarchs lobbied hard, persuaded Democrats to fund the 1,000 children in charters at the same time the legislature took no action on a court order to fund equitably the public schools that enroll the state’s 1 million children.


The WEA is going back to court to block the new funding, on grounds that charters are not public schools.


The only democratic institution untouched by Gates’ power to date is the courts. Let’s see what happens next.


Kudos to WEA for defending public schools.