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Initiative I-1240: The money and the lies

Bill Gates is cranking it up a notch with his enablers, the League of Education Voters and Stand for Children. He and some other donors have put money into the pot to put a charter school initiative on the ballot this fall, Initiative 1240.

The money so far has been contributed by:

Mike and Jackie Bezos: $250,000

Bill Gates: $200,000

(Update: Bill Gates recently contributed an additional $800,000 to his cause and the Waltons recently contributed $600,000.)

Paul Allen: $100,000 (can someone give this guy a clue?)

Katherine Binder: $100,000 (who also contributed to Senator Patty Murray)

Nick Hanauer: $25,000

Gates provided $53,000 in in-kind contributions for surveys, etc. Other in-kind donations came from the League of  Education Voters, Stand for Children, and Democrats for Education Reform, for expenses.

That’s the money, now for the lies.

With the court’s approval on June 15th, signature gatherers took to the streets last weekend in an attempt to get enough signatures to put the charter school proposal on the fall ballot.

Several people, including myself, have gone up to these paid signature gatherers ($14 per hour plus a weekly bonus) to hear their pitch. To follow are the lalapalooza’s:

“They’re cheaper than regular schools.”

“This initiative would lower class sizes.”

I-1240 is just a “pilot” program for charters.

“It’s for low-income families.”

One signature gatherer said that they should sign so “40 non-profits could create schools.”

And my brief exchange with one of these pitchmen in Capitol Hill this weekend was the following.

“If you’re for public schools then you need to sign this.”

I shook my head.

“What? You’re not for public schools?!” he said mockingly.

“Don’t you want to just get this on the ballot!?” again asked with mocking disbelief.

I just said “Heck no!” and walked away.

This guy was being paid so getting into a conversation with him would have gone nowhere. He really didn’t care about education or what people might be signing, that was apparent.

I came across this signature gatherer at the Seattle Pride Fest. There were two young men on one corner and three on the same block stationed at another corner. Apparently these paid pushers were out in force this weekend.

   “Don’t Feed the Greed!”

“Decline to sign!”

So let’s take a look at this initiative that Bill Gates wants everyone to sign.

To follow are the highlights:

Charter Schools. Most charter schools are nonprofit charities described in Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). As nonprofits, charter schools often obtain certain benefits including exemption from federal and state income taxes, property tax, and sales tax. As nonprofits, charter schools also qualify for federal and state educational funding.

Must be nice to make a buck and not have to pay taxes for it.

A recent example of folks taking advantage of this potential largess is Eva Moskowitz with Success Academy. As Juan Gonzalez writes in his article Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Schools network rolling in money but still wants 50% increase in management fees from state:

Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Schools network rolling in money but still wants 50% increase in management fees from state:

Even in public education, the rich keep getting richer.

That’s the message the trustees of the State University of New York will send Monday when they vote to approve a huge 50% increase in the per-pupil management fee of one of the city’s wealthiest, biggest-spending and most controversial charter school operators.

The Success Academy Charter Schools Inc., run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, applied in April for an increase from $1,350 to $2,000 in the annual per student payment it receives from the state to run 10 of its charter schools.

SUNY postponed the vote following a public outcry over the agency’s failure to disclose any details beforehand.

Not until Friday morning did the agency finally release some documents to justify the increase.

Among them is a May 22 letter from Moskowitz that claims her network has been heavily subsidizing “shortfalls” in its management costs for years through outside donations and grants.

Those high costs have been a result, Moskowitz said, of a “quality and intensity of services that is far higher than nearly any other (charter operator) in New York City,” yet she has continued to augment her services despite insufficient fees from the schools.

But with the “deficit … increasing every year,” Moskowitz says, “the current situation is simply unsustainable.” In 2010-11 alone, she states, her network’s “shortfall” reached $4.7 million.

This will all come as a huge surprise to anyone who has bothered to examine Success Academy’s financial reports or who has witnessed firsthand its almost limitless spending .

The Success Network, in fact, is a fund-raising colossus, having received $28 million from dozens of foundations and wealthy investors the past six years, and millions more in state and federal grants.

On its annual tax forms, it has continually reported huge year-end surpluses for both itself and its individual schools. Those combined surpluses currently stand at more $23.5 million.

Last year alone, the network spent an astounding $883,119 on “student recruitment” – much of it for glossy flyers mailed to hundreds of thousands of parents; bus stop and Internet ads and an army of paid recruiters to go door-to-door soliciting student applications.

Hardly the picture of financial woe.

And from Diane Ravitch on the subject of Success Academy, How Charter Schools Get a Bad Reputation:

Whenever there is a public hearing about closing schools, hundreds of Success Academy children and parents are bused in–all wearing identical T-shirts–to insist on closing more public schools so that Success Academy can take their space and open more charter schools. Why would charter students demand more charters? They are already enrolled in one and they can only attend one school. They are used. You can imagine the opprobrium that would be heaped on a public school principal if he or she hired a bus to take children to public hearings to demand more space or more funding. The principal would be called out, rightly, for using the children and would be fired.

Today Success Academy will appeal for more public funding. It gets whatever it wants from city and state officials (Eva’s charter PAC–called Great Public Schools– made a $50,000 contribution to Governor Cuomo’s campaign).

So much for the term “non-profit”.

Also in the initiative is either a stealth-like play on words or someone didn’t double-check this initiative before it went out.

First:

Allow a maximum of up to forty public charter schools to be established over a five-year period as independently managed public schools operated only by qualified nonprofit organizations approved by the state;

Then:

Require that there will be annual performance reviews of public charter schools created under this measure, and that the performance of these schools be evaluated to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed;

So, with these two statements, the state of Washington is “allowed” a maximum of 40 charter schools over a five-year period but on the other hand, that maximum can be raised. Hmmm.

And the next phrase of interest:

Require that teachers in public charter schools be held to the same certification requirements as teachers in other public schools;

This is interesting because just last year Teach for America, Inc. recruits were raised to the level of “highly qualified teachers” within the Seattle Public School district and also by the Federal Government through pressure put on legislators by the millionaires and billionaires who have bought them out.

So then what does “same certification requirements” actually mean these days? Anyone with a pulse can teach?

As an aside, the idea that recruits with five weeks of training can be considered “highly qualified” has been recently overruled by a Federal Appeals panel.

And now for the next phrase:

Require that public charter schools be free and open to all students just like traditional public schools are, and that students be selected by lottery to ensure fairness if more students apply than a school can accommodate;

This idea of a lottery is a sales ploy with all of the hype of a state lotto. Unfortunately it creates the idea of winners and losers which is an abhorrent way to treat our children. Within the option school system in the Seattle Public School district, if there are more students who want to enroll than seats in the classroom, which happens often with our progressive alternative schools, a waiting list is created and eventually every student is able to enroll. My daughter had to wait one semester to enroll into Nova but it was well worth the wait.

This is what Diane Ravitch has to say about the charter school lottery system on her blog Diane Ravitch’s Blog:

A while back, I read a story in the New York Times that really bothered me.

It explained that neighborhood public schools are now compelled to “market” themselves because of competition with charters. In Harlem, charters are omnipresent, and the city administration has closed many public schools to make way for charters. New York City Department of Education officials make clear their preference for charters, leaving no one to fight for or defend the public schools against their competitors. If charters want public school space, they get it, usually over the opposition of the parents and community.

But what was so striking about the story–and you have to read to the end to find this–was the contrast between the resources of the public school and the invading charter. The public school had $500 or less to market itself, with flyers, brochures, volunteers. The charter–in this case, Harlem Success Academy–spent $325,000.

Wow. How can a public school compete when the charter can expend $325,000 to persuade people to participate in the lottery?

This story made me realize that the lottery isn’t really about admission to the school. The lottery is a marketing device. By whipping up interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm, all that money produces large numbers of applicants for the lottery. The lottery is an extravaganza with balloons, the turning of the wheel, the announcement of the winners, the disappointment of the losers. The daughter of a hedge fund manager in Connecticut, who is deeply involved in the charter school “movement,” produced a documentary called “The Lottery,” to promote charters.

Marketing is part of the business plan. Public relations is part of the business plan. Promoting the idea that charters are a cure for the ills of poverty is part of the business plan.

So much for the lottery system. You can strike that item off the initiative list.

And the next phrase:

Require public charter schools to be authorized by a state charter school commission, or by a local school board;

Thanks to the Seattle Education Association (SEA) unwittingly signing on to the MOU for Creative Public Schools, they have now set a precedence for no school board oversight for any schools within the Seattle Public Schools district (SPS). No wonder Micheal DeBell, School Board President, was so pleased after the school board meeting when the Creative Approach schools proposal was passed.

Of note is that City Council member Tim Burgess also attended that same meeting. Tim Burgess? Who I have not known to ever attend a school board meeting? Some say that he’s gunning for the mayor’s seat in the next election, but why would he be at that specific meeting?

Allow public charter schools to be free from many regulations so that they have more flexibility to set curriculum and Code Rev/SCG:crs 4 I-2563.1/12.budgets, hire and fire teachers and staff, and offer more customized learning experiences for students; (So how’s that argument working out for ya SEA?)

One of the arguments that SEA  leadership gave for signing on to the Creative Approach Schools proposal was that it would deter the powers that be with the money from pushing chatter schools at least in Seattle. A very weak reason but one that was given. So how is that working out for you now SEA? Bill Gates and his poverty pimps still want charter schools in our state. Unless every member of SEA is willing to knock on doors and explain to the voting public what the plan is, this MOU in terms of saving us from charter schools is worthless.

The MOU basically states the initiative phrase written above because Creative Approach schools are Innovation Schools which are charter schools in sheep’s clothing.

Charter schools being free from regulations is a debacle waiting to happen. Some of examples of this are:

Charters ‘nix 23% of kids: Boys will be boys, but nonpublic schools are quick to expel average little rascals

Loopholes In Florida Law Mean Little Oversight of Charter Business Deals

State looks into loss of funds by start-up charter schools

I encourage everyone to talk to your friends, get the word out on Facebook, talk to your children’s teachers and even pass out a few flyers to let people know what this initiative is really all about.

Dora

4 comments on “Initiative I-1240: The money and the lies

  1. Scott James
    July 10, 2012

    I was pressured into signing by one of the petition collectors.
    After a little research I didn’t like what I saw.
    I contacted yeson1240.com and asked if it would be possible to remove my signature from the petition.
    They disputed my original concerns, and then told me, and I quote:
    “As to removing your individual signature, Washington law does not allow removal or withdrawal of voter signatures from initiative petitions. However, we submitted a total of 356,593 voter signatures for Initiative 1240, which is over 100,000 more than required to place the measure on the November ballot. I’m glad to say that out of all of these signatures, yours is the only request we received with a concern about removing a signature. ” – Karen Webster

    My concerns were that there was a possibility some charters would include religious studies as part of the default curriculum. It sounds like there are other serious concerns that would inspire the request to remove my signature.
    I guess I was the one idiot who thought he could take back a mistake and save some face.

    • seattleducation2011
      July 11, 2012

      Scott,

      I would check on the purported “law” because I am leery of anything that these people do or say.

      Dora

  2. carolinesf
    June 25, 2012

    Just for any of your readers who may not be clear, “nonprofit” is a status that means no investors get to keep extra revenues. Nonprofits don’t have investors. (“Investors” might mean a single founder or many shareholders.) But that doesn’t mean the organization can’t be rolling in money, pay its management big bucks and lavish perks, etc.

    • hb
      July 11, 2012

      caroline: they have investors; they’re investing in the destruction and privatization of public education.

      not to mention their side investments in testing companies, real estate, school services corporations, for-profit educational management corps, etc.

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