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Thoughts on the Washington State PTA Convention

I had watched the charter resolution develop over the last several months from the time that the original plank was developed by Chad Mangendanz and Alison Meryweather through until the convention when Chad got up and talked about his visit to KIPP in San Diego as a school board member and how wonderful the school  was and how there was a graduation rate of 95% and on and on.

Chad called charter schools another “tool in the tool box” during his impassioned plea for the vote on the resolution. The tool reference has become a worn out phrase used by the corporate privatizers when describing everything from TFA, Inc. to merit pay and now charter schools. But from my vantage point, I believe that the WSPTA was used as a tool by corporate reformers and it was an effective tool indeed.

All it took were a few people with an agenda to turn the voting process in their direction. Kelly Munn with the League of Education Voters (LEV), Chad Magendanz with Stand for Children (SFC), and Alison Meryweather who is a LEV Key Activist as well as a SFC activist, hail from the well to do suburbs of the Issaquah/Bellevue region, Region 2, the area with the greatest number of memberships and involvement. That region had the largest presence at the convention also. Whether the membership was there before and was taken advantage of by LEV and SFC or if the numbers were increased over time based on who would be leading the charge, remains to be discovered.

The irony of this is that the charter schools that Chad referred to are targeted in the urban minority areas of Seattle and possibly Tacoma. If only his concern and fervor, and that of the others in his group, would carry over into other areas that would make a real difference in South Seattle, what a different world it would be.

The quandary for many at this time is whether to leave the organization in great numbers in our state or stick with the WSPTA and take it back. I am not expressing an opinion on that but I will say that others saw an opportunity and went for it. Now the headlines read “WSPTA supports charter schools!” It’s a sad day for the WSPTA and the rest of us.

Do we want just anyone with an agenda to come in and take over the PTA knowing how easy it is due to a lack of participation or concern on the part of most of us? We have had this soft image of the PTA with moms having bake sales and raising money for special events but that is not today’s PTA. It now has a hard edge and a political agenda, at least in our state.

To take it back would take time and energy but I would like next year’s headlines to read “WSPTA taken back by parents, teachers and students!”

What do you think?

Dora

For additional information on the corporate reform connection, see: Stand for Children, School Board Elections, Washington State PTA and Charter Schools.

Post Script: More to follow on the 95% claim made by Chad.

15 comments on “Thoughts on the Washington State PTA Convention

  1. Pingback: Washington's Charter School Fight—Let's Set the Record Straight | Radio Free

  2. seattleducation2011
    May 10, 2012

    Jim,

    Yes I do believe that someone like Ramona being an LEV Key Activist and PTA Government Relations executive is a conflict of interest.

    Dora

  3. jenyum
    May 9, 2012

    Last weekend was just unpleasant. I don’t know how else to describe it. I did not do a good job of disguising my disappointment, but it really bothers me to see all of those “Celebrate diversity” ribbons, the speech from the new outreach coordinator, and all the lip service about equity — and then contrast that with the reality of that convention.

    PTA members – even local unit presidents – were turned away from voting because they didn’t have the right kind of voter credential card, or they never got a voter card in the mail, or it was their first time participating at the convention and they just didn’t realize how backward the system was. (You have to have a card that is mailed to the home of your PTA president, which your PTA president may not even know to look for in the mail) I almost didn’t get to vote because the card I’d had on my refrigerator for the past two months was for legislative assembly and not for the convention. The credentials people allowed me to vote after calling our local unit president, but then turned away another woman who is her local unit president because she didn’t have a card. Mind you – they have all of your member information in a database which they were able to reference right there at the booth. There is no good reason they can’t verify you are a voting delegate before the convention, since they ask for this on the registration form. (A simple ID check would serve to prove who you are at convention) They certainly had no problem cashing the check from our PTA, so that I could attend.

    If you were lucky enough to get a voting credential, you were subjected to an introductory speech where a giant graph was shown listing all of the PTA regions by their level of political participation. Political participation was defined as the number of times members contacted legislators through the WSPTA’s online advocacy tool. Region 2 made impressive use of this mass email tool, while the rest of us were informed that we just are not politically active. (That is news to us, here in Tacoma.)

    After that discouraging slideshow, we moved on to the vote on resolutions. Although I could see the “Motion” sign on the big screen prior to time running out, the facilitators declared that all time for debate had elapsed on the charter resolution, prior to even opening debate on the resolution as a whole. They seemed to be suggesting that the member making a motion for more time should have simply taken the current speaker by the shoulders and thrown her, bodily, away from the microphone in order to make her motion. While I’m glad she didn’t do that (since I believe you were speaking, Dora) she clearly shouldn’t have had to. The facilitators expressed an interest in finishing up and getting out of there, and did not appear to notice or care that one geographic region – a geographic region they acknowledge is already participating in great numbers – was allowed to dominate.

    Many of us in Region 10 did get up and leave after that. I’m told there were people who were happy the “outsiders” left. Well, how do you want it WSPTA? Do you want diversity, or do you want a social club? I didn’t think I was an outsider until I went to the convention. If you want diversity you have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Holding the convention in Bellevue next year is not sending the right message.

    • seattleducation2011
      May 10, 2012

      Wow, “the outsiders”. That pretty much says it all right there.

      Dora

    • seattleducation2011
      May 10, 2012

      Someone on a list serv just referred to the price of attending the convention as a poll tax for voting. Some of you might not know what that is but during the Jim Crow era when whites didn’t want African Americans to vote, they would require that you had to pay a tax to vote to discourage blacks from voting. The cost of participating in the convention, combined with potential voters being turned away at registration is very reminiscent of that time.

      Dora

      • jenyum
        May 10, 2012

        Yes, no kidding it is a poll tax. For those of you reading who don’t know how it works, in order to vote you have to register for the convention, at a cost of $120-150. Voting took place Friday night at 6:30, but voter credential exchange (which you have to do on site) closed at 6. If you tried to attend after work and you had any trouble with your credentials, you wouldn’t be voting. “Washington State PTA Supports Charter Schools” doesn’t really describe the situation. 190 people (out of the 900+ at the conference) who paid $150 and were free on a weekday (mostly from the Bellevue/Issaquah area) voted for charter schools.

  4. John Young
    May 9, 2012

    Reblogged this on Transparent Christina and commented:
    disturbing similarities in Washington State.

  5. carolinesf
    May 9, 2012

    JimCap, you can always decertify your school’s PTA unit and become a PTO. But then you end up with the same problem I described above — the corrupted PTA still exists to fight against you and do harm to children and schools. Meanwhile, PTOs exert no advocacy weight at all, as they speak for individual school communities only.

  6. carolinesf
    May 9, 2012

    TAKE BACK YOUR PTA!!!!!

    It would be at least as much work to build a new organization or campaign; and if you did that, the sold-out PTA, corrupted by the education “reform” sector and their dirty money spent electing their puppets to school boards in wealthy suburbs, would still exist as an obstacle. The corrupted PTA would be able to continue leveraging the momentum created by sincere, beneficial advocates for schools and children to use against schools and children.

    Clean out the rot and take it back!

  7. JimCap
    May 9, 2012

    Also, is there anything preventing our local school PTA from withdrawing from the WSPTA? What if all local schools formally severed their ties with the now corrupted WSPTA?

    • seattleducation2011
      May 9, 2012

      There is nothing to prevent a school from withdrawing their membership.

      If all local schools did that, it would certainly send a message to the PTA and the press that privatization is not what we want for our schools.

      Dora

      • JimCap
        May 10, 2012

        That’s good to know. It might be worth considering as another option. Having a truly “Independent” PTA, at each of our schools, would definitely send a strong message to anyone following this issue closely, particularly in the media and our legislature.

  8. JimCap
    May 9, 2012

    I say, STAY AND FIGHT! We have to at least give this our very best effort before we essentially surrender. The first thing we have to do is to let the media know that there is a STRONG dissident voice here, and it represents the majority of actual WSPTA members.

    Some questions:
    1. Are Meryweather, Mangerndanz, and Munn employed by these Education Privatizers? Is that why they’ve have the time most of us do not have, giving them the ability to take control of the WSPTA?

    2. How much money did WSPTA receive from “Reform” groups, with a privatization agenda and what were those funds used for? And did that funding cause the management of WSPTA to push this policy in return?

    3. What is the process for getting this odious pro-privatization resolution reversed? Who is responsible for its adoption and to whom are they accountable?

    Obviously there are more questions to ask, but these are good for starters.
    I’m not giving up without a fight. Expect more school resolutions against this soon.

    Keep fighting for we parents, Dora. Your good work is absolutely vital and so appreciated!

    • seattleducation2011
      May 9, 2012

      Mangendanz was supported by LEV and SFC during his successful campaign for school board In Issaquah. Chad is now running for state legislator and I have not looked up who his donors are but I would put money on a few of them being LEV/SFC people.

      Also LEV states that they not only will fund campaigns but also provide feet on the ground in terms of support.

      Munn is paid by LEV which is backed by Gates.

      I have not discovered financial ties with Meryweather to SFC or LEV but then again, I haven’t looked in that area for her.

      The WSPTA received $90,000 from Gates in 2010 for developing “communications”.

      From my observations, the funding worked along with the agenda. Chad and Meryweather pushed through the merit pay plank in 2010 just as the WSPTA was receiving funding from Gates. I would suggest that there were dealings going on before that due to the LEV Activists who were part of the PTA at that time including Ramona Hattendorf, Kelly Munn and Meryweather as well as the ties to SFC through Meryweather and Chad.

      Member have until June 1st to submit resolutions and that would be the time to submit a pro-public school resolution. Here’s a link to the form, http://wsptagrassroots.blogspot.com/2012/05/what-will-be-our-new-top-5.html. I would recommend that if you have any questions to contact someone at WSPTA because they are sticklers for the rules whether you know what they are or not.

      You can contact me at dora.taylor@gmail.com if you would be interested in working with others on a resolution.

      Dora

      • JimCap
        May 10, 2012

        Thanks so much for this, Dora. Very helpful information.

        However, how can Ramona Hattendorf be employed by WSPTA and be heavily involved with LEV? Isn’t that a VERY obvious conflict of interest for an organization that claims to represent everyone, fairly and equally, with no pre-existing bias?

        I will admit to being shocked when I followed your suggestion and went to the WSPTA link you provided to submit a pro-public school resolution. The person IN CHARGE was Ramona Hattendorf! My reaction was somewhere in between incredulity and absolute fright.

        When all this billionaire and hedge fund cash can be spread around, directly or indirectly, to “influence” almost any person or organization, maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised at what we’re seeing.

        I almost feel like this is a real-life version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”; people I’ve known and trusted for years, good friends, progressive on every issue…suddenly are talking about “the need to reform our absolutely awful, failing schools…” mouthing every cliche and talking point they’ve been hearing for several years.

        But, there is hope. I’ve turned around several of these folks by—gently and respectfully—giving them my perspective on it; showing them my copy of Diane Ravitch’s latest book or article; sending them links to sites like this, and other related actions. And it’s increasingly effective.

        I know we’re starting to gain traction because in many of the online debates I’ve been having with “Education Reformers” over the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing them say things like “Now, all of a sudden, people are acting like we education reformers are somehow a bunch of corporate shills or closet conservatives. How did that get started?” or “I’m tired of the increasingly hostile and suspicious questions I’m beginning to see on my (“ed reform”) blog! Who is spreading these rumors about us? Since when is “Waiting for Superman” so hated? Why are people saying such bad things about Michelle Rhee after all the good she did in DC?”, etc.

        My response is that we parents were admittedly “asleep at the wheel” for a long time, lulled into inattention by nice phrases like “choice” and “opportunity for disadvantaged minorities”, etc. and the fact that “progressives” like “Bill and Melinda Gates” are supporting it…blah blah blah…yadda yadda yadda…

        But that’s over now. We parents are waking up. And now we’re coming—peacefully and with respect for all—to take back the heritage and the future of America’s universal public education system: a gift and promise that belongs to all of us.

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