Last year legislation was pushed through referred to as the Innovation Schools bill.

Sue and I called this bill a charter school bill in sheep’s clothing.

Then, our district’s union leadership decided to take this on to show that we could have innovative schools in Seattle and therefore didn’t need charter schools even though we have “Option Schools”, which are progressive alternative schools, Montessori, STEM, the IB program and other schools and programs that could be considered “innovative schools”. There were objections to the term “Innovation Schools” because that was too close to what charter schools were so the leadership renamed it “Creative Approach Schools”. Same difference. It’s still a charter school in sheep’s clothing.

According to the, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Seattle Education Association (SEA) and the Seattle School District, there is to be no oversight by the school board and teachers lose their collective bargaining rights that are usually shared under one umbrella. In exchange for that, the staff can develop their own curriculum. The sad part about this is that the option schools including STEM were already receiving waivers from the straitjacket of curriculum alignment so this was completely unnecessary. The other very sad part is that the Seattle Education Association (SEA) led the way with this plan, marching down the path of ed reform with their membership following blindly behind them with the exception of a few teachers who have filed a lawsuit regarding this approach.

And the very worst of it is that it plays right into the hands of ALEC.

At the website ALEC exposed there is a list of bill templates that can be used in several different categories including education that have been developed by members of ALEC. One of the templates is for  Innovation Schools and parts of this template are word for word what the district is doing to itself. There is also one for charter schools by the way. For the people driving ALEC, it’s all about union busting and the privatization of all aspects of American life.

What makes it even worse (yes, it does get worse) is that some brain trust added no school board oversight  of these schools in the agreement. That goes beyond what even ALEC dreamed of! I don’t know whose idea it was to add that verbiage but inquiring minds do want to know. That will determine whether it was just plain stupidity or a willful action on the part of a community member who is on board with corporate reform.

When there is little to no oversight of regulations, students and parents lose their right to appeal to what they consider unfair treatment and there is no adherence to requirements such as enrollment of any and all students. This is what happens in charter schools. Students, for instance, are kicked out of the school and the student has no right to appeal because either the parent signed a form relinquishing all rights or the charter school claims that it is not a public school and therefore doesn’t need to follow the rules and regulations that a public school must adhere to.

This path that SEA and the school board has chosen is a slippery slope down a very steep hill.

You can compare the ALEC template to the original Innovation Schools bill proposal that was presented in Olympia.

By the way, Eric Pettigrew who dropped the charter school bill this year, was one of the sponsors of this bill. He’s also very chummy with the League of Education Voters (LEV) being a part of some of their events and featured in  a pamphlet distributed by LEV.

Here are parts of the ALEC template for Innovation Schools:

(2) A description of the innovations the public school would implement, which may include, but need not be limited to, innovations in school staffing; curriculum and assessment; class scheduling; use of financial and other resources; and faculty recruitment, employment, evaluation, and compensation;

(1) On and after the date on which the state board designates a school district as a district of innovation, any collective bargaining agreement initially entered into or renewed by the local school board of the district of innovation shall include a term that allows each innovation school and each innovation school zone in the school district to waive any provisions of the collective bargaining agreement identified in the innovation plan as needing to be waived for the innovation school or the innovation school zone to implement its identified innovations.

(2) For an innovation school, waiver of one or more of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement shall be based on obtaining the approval, by means of a secret ballot vote, of at least 60 percent of the members of the collective bargaining unit who are employed at the innovation school.

(3) For an innovation school, waiver of one or more of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement shall be based on obtaining, at each school included in the innovation school zone, the approval of at least 60 percent of the members of the collective bargaining unit who are employed at the school. The innovation school zone shall seek to obtain approval of the waivers through a secret ballot vote of the members of the collective bargaining unit at each school included in the innovation school zone. The local school board for the innovation school zone may choose to revise the plan for creating an innovation school zone to remove from the zone any school in which at least 60 percent of the members of the collective bargaining unit employed at the school do not vote to waive

(4) If a local school board, in collaboration with the innovation school or the public schools included in the innovation school zone, revises the innovation plan as provided in Section 10 and the revisions include changes to the identified provisions of the collective bargaining agreement that need to be waived to implement the innovations that are included in the innovation plan, the local school board shall seek such additional waivers or revision or revocation of the existing waivers of provisions of the collective bargaining agreement as are necessary to implement the revised innovation plan. Any changes to waivers, or additional waivers, of the identified provisions of the collective bargaining agreement shall be subject to approval in the same manner as provided in Paragraphs (2) and (3) of this Subsection (A) for the initial approval of waivers of provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

Any revisions to the innovation plan shall require the consent of a majority of the teachers and a majority of the administrators employed at and a majority of the school advisory council for each affected public school.

And finally:

Section 12. {Safety Clause} The [State] Legislature hereby finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.

Approved by the Education Task Force on July 16, 2009.

Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors on August 27, 2009.

The next step is to find out who dropped the Innovation Schools bill originally in Olympia.


Post Script:

For more on ALEC and their goal to have no democratically elected schools boards see:

A Smart ALEC Threatens Public Education

Coordinated efforts to introduce model legislation aimed at defunding and dismantling public schools is the signature work of this conservative organization.

“Common throughout the bills are proposals to decrease local control of schools by democratically elected school boards while increasing access to all facets of education by private entities and corporations….(ALEC’s proposals) reduce the influence of or eliminate local school districts and school boards (Ladner, LeFevre, & Lips, 2010, p. 96) to be carried out through model legislation such as Charter Schools Act, Innovation Schools and School Districts Act, Open Enrollment Act, Virtual Public Schools Act, and Next Generation Charter Schools Act.”

A legislative contagion seemed to sweep across the Midwest during the early months of 2011. First, Wisconsin legislators wanted to strip public employees of the right to bargain. Then, Indiana legislators got into the act. Then, it was Ohio. In each case, Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures had introduced substantially similar bills that sought sweeping changes to each state’s collective bargaining statutes and various school funding provisions.

What was going on? How could elected officials in multiple states suddenly introduce essentially the same legislation?

The answer: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Its self-described legislative approach to education reads:

Across the country for the past two decades, education reform efforts have popped up in legislatures at different times in different places. As a result, teachers’ unions have been playing something akin to “whack-a-mole”—you know the game—striking down as many education reform efforts as possible. Many times, the unions successfully “whack” the “mole,” i.e., the reform legislation. Sometimes, however, they miss. If all the moles pop up at once, there is no way the person with the mallet can get them all. Introduce comprehensive reform packages. (Ladner, LeFevre, & Lips, 2010, p. 108)

ALEC’s own “whack-a-mole” strategy also reveals the group’s ultimate goal. Every gardener who has ever had to deal with a mole knows that the animals undermine and ultimately destroy a garden. ALEC’s positions on various education issues make it clear that the organization seeks to undermine public education by systematically defunding and ultimately destroying public education as we know it.

To see this article in full, go to Education Week.