Archives for category: Washington State

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.

The charter wars in Washington State continue. You don’t think Bill Gates would permit his home state to go without charter schools.


The Supreme Court of Washington State ruled that charter schools are not public schools, but charter advocates were undeterred. After all, they have millions of dollars to throw around, but not to pay for the handful of charters they opened.


Allies of the charter industry introduced legislation to fund charters with lottery proceeds. Some Democratic legislators bowed to the Will of the Great Gates. It was left to Democratic Governor Jay Inslee to decide. He displayed a Profile of No-Courage by deciding not to sign the bill. Without his veto, the bill became law.


The legislature showed more concern for the 1,000 students in privately managed charters than for the one million children in public schools. The state’s highest court has ordered the legislature to fund the public schools and is fining that body $100,000 a day for its failure to do so.


Back to the courts.

The Washington State legislature is bending itself into pretzels to protect the 1,000 students who attend privately managed charter schools. Meanwhile, the legislature has failed to attend to the court-mandated full funding of the public schools attended by more than 1 million students.


Why do 1,000 students matter more than 1 million students? What kind of future will Washington State have if it protects 1,000 students and ignores the needs of 1 million students? Which billionaire or billionaires hired the 22 lobbyists who worked the Democrats who control the House in the legislature?


Representative Mike Sells of Washington State responded to this post about the Democrats who betrayed public schools; he describes what has happened in the state legislature in the following comment. For supporting the 1 million students in Washington State who attend public schools, I add Mike Sells to this blog’s honor roll:



What is not mentioned here, is the proponents literally disappearing when it comes to full funding for the public schools. Despite their protestation during the regular session that they believed that the funding should take place, they are nowhere to be found or even commenting much on blogs other than bragging about their coup. The 22 highly paid lobbyists brought in cleared the halls the day after the vote and are nowhere to be seen on the funding of public schools issue.


The bragging by proponents of spending on two six figure ad buys has not translated over to helping the public schools. You know big money was being spent when Strategies 360 lobbyists were outside the door plunking for a vote along with the usual ‘astroturf’ groups.


A number of us raised amendments on the charter school bill that were turned down. Rep. Drew Hansen suggested temporary funding for the current 8 [charters] until we could figure out the funding issues. That was a no. I proposed that charter schools use the same Teacher/Principal Evaluation Programs that we passed in 2010 for the public schools, if we believed in the importance of teacher quality. (You can find roll calls on many of these amendments) That was a no. Suggestions to make the governance more transparent and open were also turned down, which I believe will only add to the unconstitutionality of the new bill.


Only those that had pre-acceptance by charter school proponents seemed to make it through out of the 27 amendments on the House floor. Even proposing that charter school board members file public disclosure forms like other appointed public officials do was at first opposed on the House floor, but actually made it through, when opponents realized that appointed Board members in this state do file them already in other areas. We are now in special session with the supplemental budget, and it has been complicated by the millions slated for charter schools. No more funding is pointed toward settling the court ordered funding for the public schools, and we are facing possible cuts due to a so-called levy cliff.

Rep. Mike Sells, 38th Legislative District

Parents and educators in Washington State have fought a long battle to keep charter schools out of their state. There have been four referenda; the first three rejected charters. In 2012, however, Bill Gates and a few of his other billionaire friends put together a fund of $15 million, give or take a few million, to promote a new charter vote. In the other side were school boards, PTAs, teachers, the NAACP, and other civic groups defending public education, whose resources are minuscule compared to Gates & friends. The referendum passed, by less than 1%.


Its te opponents sued to block the law, saying that charter schools are not public schools. The Washington state Supreme Court agreed with them.


Undaunted, the monied interests have continued their pressure to get public funding. Leave aside the fact that Gates could support charter schools with his spare change.


Now on the legislature is ready to satisfy Gates and the other entrepreneurs. Most disturbing is to see that Democrats are enabling the diversion of public money from public schools to privately managed charters. Hopefully, the group’s that led the successful lawsuit will go back to court and challenge this trick again.


A reader in Washington state sent this news, with a list of the Democrats who double crossed parents and children to satisfy Bill Gates and friends:



“It is just terrible to see what is happening in Washington state. For starters, the Supreme Court declared I 1240 unconstitutional on September 4. Charter schools had plenty of time to transition students into public schools, but they refused to close their doors.



With the support of the Washington Charter Association and a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for $2.1M- charter schools remained opened- and they did so by having the state’s superintendent of public instruction corrupt Alternative Learning Rules.

In January, Steve and Connie Ballmer contributed $250K to a charter PAC. These dollars are being used to fund TV ads, polls, robo calls etc.



Students were constantly getting bussed to the state’s capital and charter supporters literally camped within the state’s capital. We’ve been told 22 lobbyists filled the halls of the state building.



SB 6194 got passed out of the R. controlled senate. The House had compelling testimony and would not allow the bill out of committee.



Title-only bills got passed out of committee. These bills have NO text and are intended to support charter schools and do an end-run around the state’s constitution.



Larry Springer drafted different legislation, and , less than 24 hours later the bill was on the House floor for a vote. The House holds a slim majority and, with the support of 9 Democrats, SB 6194 got passed out of committee. Here are the turn-coat Dems:


1. Judy Clibborn:



2. Christopher Hurst:



3. Ruth Kagi:



4. Kristine Lytton:



5. Jeff Morris:



6. Eric Pettigrew:

7. David Sawyer:



8. Tana Senn:



9. Larry Springer:



10. Pat Sullivan:



The bill will not satisfy the Supreme Court. Legislators know this and don’t care. Chad Magendanz made a speech and called for 2000 charter school students to protest next year.



I’m confident the charter “fix” will not pass constitutional muster. Here is what Paul Laurence (attorney that argued and won I 1240):



“But attorney Paul Lawrence, who represented those who filed the lawsuit challenging charters, said switching to lottery funds is just an accounting trick.



“That doesn’t strike me as any different from paying it out of the general fund,” Lawrence said. “I don’t really see that that accomplishes a fix.”




Sixty Chinese students studied for three weeks in Tacoma public schools. They practiced their English, but they had an unusual experience: they learned independence and creativity.



“In America, the classes are very open, and every person has a different idea,” noted 15-year-old Liu Hui Yu, who adopted an American name, Jennifer, for her visit. “It’s free. I like it.”


“I think the greatest thing I learned in America is their way of studying,” added her friend Jiao Xiao Yuan, also known as Caroline.


“They are not studying for a test, all the way around. They really read books, and they write what they feel about the book.”



Read more here:



Dora Taylor, a parent leader in Seattle, has written a post about how the Gates machine has stepped up to protect the state’s fledgling charter schools that are not currently eligible to receive public funding. The highest state court in Washington state ruled that charter schools are not public schools, and of course the Gates team is working the legislature to do an end run around the court’s decision.


But as Taylor explains, the Gates team has quietly set up a deal where a small rural school district is paid to supervise the charter schools and keep them alive while Gates and company works the legislature.


This is how it went. The Gates Foundation, contacted the Washington Charter Association and had them contact the Mary Walker School District to discuss with the Superintendent, Kevin Jacka, the idea of taking on the charter schools that had opened in the state and placing them under the umbrella of the Alternative Learning Experience program (ALE).


The Mary Walker School District is located in Springdale, Washington, which is a rural community in the northeast corner of Washington State. The district consists of eight traditional and Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) schools.


The plan was to have the Mary Walker School District provide oversight for the charter schools scattered around the state and receive a percentage of the per student state allocation before sending the money onto the charter school therefore providing tax dollars to the charter schools.


According to the contract between the Mary Walker School District and Rainier Prepcharter school, the Mary Walker School District will receive 4% of the per student state allocation of approximately $6,000 per student and the remaining 96% will go to the charter school.


You see, when you are the richest man in the country, you don’t give up. You win. Unless the courts and the legislature intervene to protect public education. If Bill Gates wanted to give the charter students an education (there are fewer than 1,000 of them), he could open private schools for them at less cost than he is spending to lobby the state. But he wants to establish the principal that privately managed schools should get public funding, even though the public has nothing to say about how they are run.


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