I’ve been following issues in education since 2009 when my daughter entered the Seattle Public School system and therefore don’t have any previous history with the League of Education Voters (LEV) before that time. I can only tell you what I have observed in the last few years.

LEV is an education advocacy group. They do not have members and rely on funding from individuals to keep going. In 2007, they began to receive generous donations from the Gates Foundation. Bill Gates is a great proponent of charter schools, larger class sizes and putting kids in front of computers. He and the other venture philanthropists who have been pushing their notion of “education” on us are also no big supporters of the teacher’s union or any other union for that matter. Did his generous donations affect how LEV “advocates” these days? I’ll let you be the judge. Are they attempting to break the back of the teachers’ union over time as I stated recently on the PTA list serv? I’ll let you decide.

In 2007, LEV started to receive serious money from Gates, $835K “to support capacity building for education advocacy programs”. In October of 2009 LEV received $1.5M “to support the research, public engagement, policy development and coalition work in early learning, college ready and postsecondary”.

In June of 2010, the Gates Foundation gave $40,000 to the League of Education Voters “to support a series of education-related speakers in Seattle” and the same year received another $105K “to support raising awareness of educational attainment issues in King County”. In 2011 LEV received a total of $215K from the Gates Foundation. All of this information can be found at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website.

[Note: Since this posting, the Gates Foundation has revised their website, therefore the links to the grants are no longer valid. I have decided to keep the links where they are because the foundation is no longer providing information on past grants to LEV. The only grant they now show is for $3,000 for a research internship. Sue and I believe that legally the foundation is required to make such information publicly available but that can be a discussion in another post. Dora Taylor]

In the fall of  2010 the League of Education Voters offered up a who’s who of charter school franchise CEO’s  to speak as part of LEV’s imaginary “revolution”, “Voices from the Education Revolution Speakers Series“ featuring:

Richard Barth, CEO of the KIPP Foundation which does not hire union teachers, Steve Barr, Founder & Emeritus Chair of Green Dot charter Schools another charter franchise that does not hire union teachers and moderated by Don Shalvey, former CEO and founder of Aspire Charter Schools and Board member of the Greendot charter franchise neither of which hires union teachers.

Also arriving in town that year complements of LEV was Kevin Johnson, Sacramento mayor and backer of a charter school in his state.

As Sue stated in a post regarding that “Charterfest”:

 Here’s a revealing tidbit that LEV boasts in one of its blog posts about the forum:

“In 2007, Steve Barr sought to take over a failing high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). When the district said no, Steve took a page out of a Wall Street playbook and became the first charter school organization to conduct a hostile takeover.”

So there you have it, spelled out quite plainly, the ed reformers’ MO: apply predatory Wall Street techniques to our public schools. A hostile takeover is indeed what they appear to be trying to do to our entire public school system. Apparently the folks over at the League of Education Voters think this is a good thing.

Back to this loose use of “innovative”: What’s innovative about slapping kids into uniforms, and regimenting them? Why, that’s as old as British boarding school or the military.

In August of 2010, Sue and I posted The Fallacy of “Merit” and “Performance Pay” as Teacher Incentives — they don’t SERVE anyone well. In the post we stated:

In an article in the April 6 Seattle Times “Schools group urges contract changes”, the Alliance and LEV claim to have formed yet another group, “Our Schools Coalition”, and are trying to convince the media that it represents people like us and we all want “merit pay.”

None of us know what this is or how it came about. And it doesn’t represent any parents or public education supporters I know. It is clearly another faux grassroots (aka Astroturf) organization and an effort by billionaire education “reformers” to influence the upcoming teachers’ contract negotiations here in Seattle, and to weaken the teachers’ union.

As for the poll that the “Coalition”/Alliance/LEV/Gates/Broad paid for that allegedly claims parents and community want “merit pay,” by all accounts it started off as a highly questionable and biased “teacher quality” survey, which was withdrawn when genuine school community members protested, and reemerged as a very slanted push-poll taken of a curious cross section of community members (including some teachers via their private cell phone numbers).

 In a follow-up post we noted an announcement on the LEV website:

From the League of Education Voters website:

Give Me a “V”: Way down yonder in Tacoma way, folks aren’t waiting around for the legislature or policy makers or Superman to make change, the people are doing it for themselves. The new Vibrant Schools Tacoma went “live” last week to much fan fare. The coalition is rallying around the Tacoma teachers contract negotiations. The diverse group is focused on  academic achievement, supporting teachers and putting a community voice into the negotiations. Modeled in part after the Our Schools Coalition that worked for change to the Seattle teachers contract, Vibrant Schools represents a new way forward in community engagement.

The tactics used in Tacoma were from the same playbook that was used by LEV in creating Our Schools Coalition to push the contract negotiations but in Tacoma it backfired. The teachers went on strike.

In a follow up Seattle Education post in May, 2011, Strategies 360/DMA Marketing Caught Red Handed in Tacoma describing the LEV strategy that worked in Seattle but failed in Tacoma and with additional information on Our Schools Coalition, the bold typeface was our own:

Our Schools Coalition has not been active since September of 2010 after congratulating themselves on being a part of the bargaining process between the teacher’s union and the superintendent.

According to their website:

The coalition formed here strongly supports the following changes to the Seattle Public School teacher contract, to be renegotiated beginning April 2010 for agreement by the start of the 2010-2011 school year. We advocate that all reforms outlined below be fully implemented in time for the 2011-2012 school year.

Our Schools Coalition proposed changes to the teacher contract*: (This is when they used their push poll to justify their argument by putting polling numbers next to each of their reform items.)

To follow are excerpts from their website:

5. Student academic growth should be used as a significant factor in teacher evaluations. (…polling shows 66% of taxpayers, 59% of parents and 21% of teachers agree.) (By “student academic growth” they meant measuring a teacher’s performance based on test scores and specifically in Seattle, the MAP test.)

6. Teacher performance, as opposed to seniority, should be a significant factor in staffing decisions, including placement, transfers and layoffs. (Polling shows 83% of taxpayers, 79% of parents and 40% of teachers agree.)(Test scores, test scores and more test scores should determine the fate of a teacher in our school system.)

7. Currently, the process to remove ineffective teachers can take 18 months or longer. Instead, the lowest performing teachers should be removed in less than 12 months.(Polling shows 82% of taxpayers, 82% of parents and 63% of teachers agree.) (If specific guidelines are not followed, a company or a school district can be sued for unlawful discharge.)

8. There should be opportunities for increased compensation for teachers based on performance, additional responsibilities, subject-matter expertise in hard-to-staff areas, and placement in high-need schools. (Polling shows 88% of taxpayers, 90% of parents and 58% of teachers agree.) (This is basically merit pay based on test scores.)

9. The teaching profession in Seattle should be opened up to attract additional talent, including through programs such as Teach for America. (Polling shows 72% of taxpayers, 60% of parents and 51% of teachers agree.) (Ah yes, Teach for America, Inc.)

I would love to know what 72% of taxpayers and 60% of parents they are referring to when asked about Teach for America, Inc. because many people didn’t know until very recently who TFA, Inc. was and most people still don’t know.

These inaccurate numbers were used to convince the union leaders and teachers that the majority of citizens in Seattle were for the edicts of corporate reform.

In February, 2011 LEV brought into town Teach for America, Inc. founder Wendy Kopp.

Then there was the big push for TFA, Inc. by LEV. Many charter schools are populated with TFA, Inc. recruits. They are less expensive than unionized teachers and because they have less experience, they are not paid the going salary of a more seasoned professional. Here is what Seattle Citizen had to say about LEV on the Save Seattle Schools blog:

seattle citizen said…

It’s not the Seattle Foundation (SF), it’s SF and the League of Education Voters who want to bring TFA to Seattle. SF is working with/for LEV. Here’s all the info from the SF website on this:

” OVERVIEW: Teacher quality has a greater effect on student achievement than any other factor. Yet, as a nation and as a region, we have not found a way to ensure that our strongest teachers are working with the students who need them the most. Only 34 percent of low-income 6th graders in the Puget Sound region are achieving at grade level in math (compared to 70 percent of non-low-income students). Sixty-one percent of low-income 6th graders are reading at grade level, compared to 84 percent of their more affluent peers.

“Teach For America (TFA) is a national leader in the movement to end educational inequity by enlisting the country’s most promising future leaders in teaching, leading and advocating for schools that serve high numbers of low-income students. TFA recruits and trains top college graduates who commit to teaching in urban and rural public schools, and who ultimately become lifelong advocates of high-quality education for all students. Since 1990, TFA has grown to include more than 24,000 corps members (teachers) and alumni who have taught more than 3 million students across 35 regions nationwide.

“There are a number of donors and funders who are supporting this effort, including the following:: The Seattle Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Raikes Foundation, The Bezos Family Foundation, Intelius Inc.

“ACTIVITIES AND RESULTS: TFA plans to bring 150 Teach for America teachers to the Puget Sound over three years, beginning in Fall 2011. In order to do so, TFA must achieve three key milestones by August 1, 2010:

Secure partnerships (and commitments totaling $1 million over 3 years) with 3-5 school districts

Develop an agreement with a partner—most typically a local university—to certify TFA teachers

Secure $5.2 million in private sector funding

“RECENT GRANTS: In order to bring TFA to the Puget Sound region, TFA must secure $5.2 million in private funds. The Seattle Foundation will dedicate $250,000 to this effort, and is committed to raising an additional $250,000 from TSF donors and contributors (for a total of $500,000).

“GET INVOLVED: Make a contribution: Help us bring the important work of Teach for America to the Puget Sound region by making a contribution to this important initiative. Give online or call (206) 622-2294. Learn more: Become involved with the League of Education Voters and support their work to bring Teach For America to Puget Sound area schools. Contact Caroline Maillard, Education Element Lead at The Seattle Foundation, at (206) 622-2294 or c.maillard [at] seattlefoundation.org to learn more about Teach For America and other efforts to support high quality public schools and give children the skills they need to succeed in school and life.”

And then in another post that we wrote on Seattle Education:

Also just in time for the onslaught of corporate driven pressure on our state legislators in the coming session to allow charter schools in our state, Chris Eide, a former Teacher for America, Inc. recruit who worked in charter schools throughout his career before coming to Seattle where he taught within the Seattle Public School system for a year, decided recently to opt out of teaching  to focus on his new group, Teachers United. His new organization has predictably been featured on the League of Education Voters website. The first words out of his mouth are “seniority” and “last in, first out” which is the argument used to justify breaking up unions, specifically teachers’ unions.

Last year Sue and I posted this on our blog:

The Broad backed, Gates funded League of Education Voters is at it again with another one of their spam e-mails. So far they have backed both bills that propose to determine teacher layoff’s by student performance, basically test scores, and permanently fire teachers if there is a school closing, Senate Bill 5399 and House Bill 1609. They desperately want folks, under the guise that it’s all about the children and not their salaries, to call their representatives in support of Bill 5399.

And this year LEV was at it again with their “megabills” as Kelly Munn with LEV proclaimed them to be referring to the teacher evaluation bill and the charter school bill. Ms. Munn tooted her own horn on the LEV list serv providing the inside scoop on the upcoming bills by providing a summary of the charter school bill. See the post The League of Education Voters Charter School Proposal Annotated.

And now what are they up to? Pushing their megabills, one for charter schools and the other for teacher evaluations based on test scores.

This is WSSDA’s description of these teacher evaluation bills:

  • HB 2427/SB 6203 would make student growth data a significant factor in the evaluation process and would allow for student input (for teachers) or building input (for principals) to be included. OSPI would be required to establish common components of the teacher evaluation systems for school districts to use in the 2013-14 school year. Beginning September 1, 2014, any employee who received an unsatisfactory under the old system or the lowest rating under the new system in two consecutive years would revert to provisional status. By this date, districts would be required to update policies and collective bargaining agreements to consider performance evaluations before other factors, such as seniority, when making reductions in force decisions due to enrollment decline or loss of revenue, or for recall decisions.
  • HB 2451 does not address the entire evaluation process, but would change only school district policies and collective bargaining agreements to provide that contracts of classroom teachers who received comparatively lower evaluation ratings would be nonrenewed before contracts of classroom teachers who received comparatively higher evaluation ratings. The bill would apply to new contracts after the effective date of the bill and on collective bargaining agreements renewed or extended after the effective date.

LEV has created three bills that basically determine the fate of a teacher’s professional life on their student’s test scores.

So who is LEV listening to? Certainly not the people of the state of Washington who have voted three times against having charter schools in our state, they’re not paying LEV’s rent must be the big money behind LEV.

I’ll let you decide.