Friday, October 18, 2013

"Could a Wealthy Few Decide Seattle's School Board Races?"

That's not my title - that's KUOW's for Ann Dornfeld very good piece on the one contested school board race - Sue Peters and Suzanne Dale Estey in District IV.

Seattle school board candidate Suzanne Dale Estey and her supporters are poised to raise more money than any other school board candidate in state history – even though a Washington state law passed last year put a cap on campaign contributions in school board races.

There’s a catch: Although campaign contributions are capped, donors can give to political action committees that support the board candidates. That has raised questions about whether a handful of rich donors could sway the school board races this year.

How much money:

The Great Seattle Schools PAC is not the first in the state to fund school board races. But it is the most flush. Campaign finance records show that the PAC has brought in $100,405 so far. Almost all of the money raised came from just a few people, including retired Microsoft executive Chris Larson and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer.

That spending is in addition to the $105,375 Dale Estey’s campaign has raised in direct contributions, compared with Peters' war chest of $28,289.

But Dornfeld goes beyond the numbers and puts out a big issue in public education today:

The spending highlights a fundamental conflict in public education today: Whether a wealthy few have too much influence on education policy, or whether they fund critical education reforms that help struggling students.


Dale Estey points out that many people do work in the private sector and so why not business people and corporate donations.  She also says she's not "in anyone's pocket."

But, again, wealthy people do NOT give money to political campaigns without some kind of agenda in mind.  Only a young or naive person would believe it's just that Dale Estey is the better candidate.  You just don't be that kind of action - getting a PAC set up for you, getting the head of Microsoft to donate, etc. - if there is not a larger agenda.

Sue Peters' take?

But Peters said it can’t be ignored who has spent the most to get her opponent elected to the school board.

"As [progressive political columnist] Molly Ivins said, 'You’ve gotta dance with them what brung ya,' and the people who are bringing my opponent are the corporate ed reform people.

30 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just got Dale Estey's flyer in the mail, it says something interesting.

"Seattle kids, teachers and parents cannot afford four more years of a dysfunctional school board.

The costs are too high; teachers overburdened with changing curricula and standards, precious resources wasted, and our kids left behind."

That's a pretty big statement with a lot of moving parts.

First, she loves to say how dysfunctional the board is based on her assessment of the scores the Board gave itself for getting along. Is that really the same as "dysfunctional?" I don't think so.
(And she continues to say the Board called itself "utterly dysfunctional" - that was her line at Olympic View - and it's just not true.)

The first part of the second paragraph - changing curricula and standards - does that mean she's against Common Core or worried about being ready for it or the added assessments? Because I'm sure teachers and parents would like someone who would fight to keep teachers in charge of their classrooms.

But I don't understand "precious resources wasted" reference nor "our kids left behind." Is that a reference to the changing curricula or the "dysfunctional board?"

Eric B said...

The most obvious "resources wasted" issue was closing schools to re-open them. That was a failure of Board oversight of staff. Dunno if that counts as dysfunction in the sense that she's using the word.

Anonymous said...

And if Eric B's example is what Estey is thinking of when she talks about dysfunction, how does she explain that it happened on the watch of DeBell, who has endorsed her? What does that say about his leadership (and hers by association)?

Now wishing I'd asked about defining "dysfunctional" at OV the other night.

-ML Mama

Melissa Westbrook said...

And, as Sue Peters points out, calling the entire Board "dysfunctional" during Dale Estey's whole campaign is not exactly the best way to start a relationship with 5 people who are going to be your colleagues. Personally, I would not necessarily just take it as "politics" if someone questioned the entirety of my work.

Also, there is a little bit of chutzpah in believing that one person is going to come in and change that "dysfunction."

Anonymous said...

I'm just glad I renewed my support for KUOW during their recent pledge drive. They are one of the few local news sources I still trust.

I got the mailer today as well. Can anyone enlighten me about who the "Education Leaders" they list as endorsers? I was sad to see Adam Kline had endorsed her as well.

SolvayGirl

Ed said...

Senator Kline seems to always be on the wrong side of issues anymore. And usually (as in this case) from the side of represented workers.

Anonymous said...

Just recieved a robocall from Don Sims in support of Etsey. Then there was the KUOW report on funding disparities.

voter

Anonymous said...

I just got that robocall too. No thanks, Ron Sims. I'm voting for Peters, and that stupid robocall just prompted me to fill out my ballot right now. If I recall correctly, he has often voiced support for mayoral control of schools. Just think, Seattle Public Schools could really be a mess then - just like Chicago Public Schools.

-CT

Anonymous said...

Sadly the PTA Popular Crowd in the NE - you know the clique -are all in favor of Estey. The email lists are abuzz. Estey is more their social type. Polished and proper. Peters wouldn't be welcome at Tuesday coffees and Friday drinks. Yes this really is the way it works from my perspective.

Northeast Unpopular

Melissa Westbrook said...

Solvay Girl, one was none other than Jean Bryant (who requested - via public disclosure - e-mails that Sue Peters had sent to her child's teacher/principal) and also Peter Maier. I find it odd that Dale Estey would not accept Steve Sundquist's endorsement (because he supports charters) but would Peter Maier (who was ousted for his lack of oversight during his tenure on the Board but she says the current Board is "dysfunctional.")

NE Unpopular, I hear you. I could feel this vibe from the time I was on the PTA Board at Eckstein. It was funny because I once asked a fairly connected Eckstein mom what she thought of Superintendent Olchefske and she said, "he's great at a cocktail party but as a superintendent?" I also got that vibe when I was co-president at Roosevelt that I wasn't quite in the club.

Just not right - we don't vote like we are voting for Prom Queen.

Anonymous said...

So,will one listen to the Gates crew and the other listen to the blog crew. I'm not sure which is better.

undecided

Maureen said...

Ok here's what I posted on Facebook (you guys are all my friends, right?!):

I haven't agreed with everything I have heard Sue Peters say over the years, but I really appreciate her passion for Seattle schools and her truly deep knowledge of the District. Suzanne Dale Estey clearly has the tremendou$ $upport of all of the movers and shakers in Seattle who seem determined to privatize education. I have a Masters in Economics (from Yale, for what that is worth)and I know that: Education is TRULY a PUBLIC GOOD. It will not be provided OPTIMALLY under a free market system. Estey may believe that she will be free to follow her heart, but those of us who follow SPS know that Peter Maier and Steve Sundquist (Board member co-opted by Seattle area gazillionaires) followed the money. We can only expect Estey to do the same.

Please, vote for Sue Peters!

YUCH!!! said...

Ron Sims is sending out robo-calls for Estey?! Check this out:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Sims
On June 14, 2011 - less than two years after accepting his HUD appointment - Sims announced his resignation and intent to return to Seattle, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.[6] Sims' announcement followed the release of official travel records toAmericans for Limited Government that showed Sims had spent 45 of 128 travel days during his tenure on trips to Seattle,[7] a statistic that the group said raised "questions about the legitimacy of these trips." A HUD spokesperson denied the travel records indicated malfeasance on Sims' part, noting that "every trip taken by Deputy Secretary Ron Sims was in response to a formal speech or forum participation request."[8]

Clueless Woman said...

I saw Estey speak at a forum and a sittin board member was present. Estey went on and on about board dysfunction and seemed totally clueless about the impact she was having on a seated board member.

The board member was outraged. Would this individual welcome Estey with open arms? I doubt it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Undecided, can I just say that the "blog crew" (at least here) consists of a wide number of parents and community. If you read, say, the boundaries comments there are parents in nearly every corner of the district. I hope that whoever wins will reach out to and listen to parents and community everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Bellevue College Radio Interview of Peters & Dale-Estey. Listen from 07:30 to 24:00.

High Info Voter

Anonymous said...

Click on hour 2, btw.

Hi Info Voter

Voting Peters said...

Peters gives a great interview on KUOW; clearly she is the candidate that has recent and personal experience within SPS. She understands the manner in which policy impacts classrooms.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am in the NE, but a bit further north, not the Laurelhurst area, and I don't think we're all for Estey up here. I will be reaching out to all my friends, neighbors, contacts, to tell them why it's important to vote for Sue Peters.

Can someone clarify: school board elections are voted on city-wide, but the board member serves as representative for one district? Or: school board members are voted on within a geographical district?

Thank you.

-flibbertigibbet

Anonymous said...

Ok here's what I do not get. Why would a person who has untold millions want to get involved in public education? Honest question.

The system is a mess locally and nationally. There really is no clear path to rectify this situation. The gazillionaire in question really gets nothing out of it but a bunch of trouble, grumblings from everyone, and spends a bunch of his/her money in a way that cannot be traced to really help anything. Sure one might contribute a small bit here or there but to jump in as if this was there thing to save the world. The gazillionaire just sends their kid to private school anyways. Let the minions haggle over the public school debate issue as it is not solvable as demonstrated by this blahg.
Dollar

Melissa Westbrook said...

Fibber, I have asked that question at King County elections and no one knows.

It is a very difficult campaign to plan because you must first have a base in your district to get out of the primary(and that's no small thing).

Then, you have to turn on a dime after the primary and campaign city-wide. That's where having a base can help to get work done but you are appealing to very different groups/areas.

And, because the voting numbers are lower for school board (people are either more interested in the "big" races and/or don't have a clue how to vote so they don't), every single vote counts.

Why this is for one single race is interesting but no one can tell me why it is so. And, directors are expected to know their region well (I believe in order to fill in the blanks for the other directors because to know each region well would be very, very difficult. And yet, they are city-wide directors.)

Makes for a more challenging campaign, and frankly, one that most strategists get wrong.

dan dempsey said...

To Improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.
=========
Some data:
1) In 2007 the Seattle Times stated that: THE LARGEST $$$$ amount spent by a winning School Board candidate prior to 2007 was $37,000 and predicted that 2007 winning candidates might spend as much as $50,000.

2) In 2007 winning candidates spent an average of $120,000 each (P Meier high at $166,000 and H Martin-Morris low at $65,000)

3) Meier and Sunquist spent far less in 2011 while still outspending their opponents by massive amounts (Meier about 5 or 6 to 1 and Sundquist around 3 to 1)

4) A piece in Crosscut after Meier and Sundquist lost stated that not enough money had been spent and that $200,000 to $250,000 will need to be spent on future School Board elections.

5) Estey + PAC has now surpassed the $200,000 mark and there is more time to amass more.

6) The $480,000 four from 2007 (Meier, Martin-Morris, Carr, & Martin-Morris) often ignored evidence, provided by the public, to vote as a block of four for Actions which were without supportive evidence but put forth by the superintendent.

======================

Please attempt to "Improve the System" .... Vote for Peters for a huge number of reasons.

Catherine said...

Dollar - here's what I believe is the answer to your question "Ok here's what I do not get. Why would a person who has untold millions want to get involved in public education? Honest question."

Because.. public education represents the largest remaining block of government funds not readily accessible to private corporations. For example, the WA State Budget for k-12 represents about 25% of the state's annual 35 billion dollar budget. That's a big chunk of changes and corporations would love far better access to that, especially with poor financial and outcomes oversight.

Anonymous said...

Exactly what Catherine said. If you need further proof, read Diane Ravitch's book "Reign of Error" and research her notes for yourself. I did some additonal research after a colleague pooh-pooh'ed some of what she wrote and found additonal studies that backed up some of her claims, most notably from David Berliner and the late Gerald Bracey. Some people connected the dots way before everyone else did, but it seems we had to get further into the mess before others began to believe it too.

-CT

Anonymous said...

Look no farther than the endorsements. Sue Peters is endorsed by School Board Directors Kay Smith-Blum, Sharon Peaslee, Betty Patu and Marty McLaren whose fragile majority on the board (fragile because KSB is leaving) has offered parents a ray of hope for SPS. Dale-Estey is endorsed by pro-downtown Director Michael DeBell and no-tactic-too-slimy SNAPP activist Jean Bryant. 'Nuff said?
- Ballard Voter

Noam said...

I think the points made about Adam Kline are not to be missed. While Adam fancies himself something of a 'liberal' because he supported LBJ or something, his credentials have really disappeared in recent years.

He has often sided with the Tim Sheldon/Rodney Tom/Steve Hobbes crowd in the Senate against teachers and the rest of the Democrats. We hope someone else who would better represent the 37th is eying that seat.

Kline is a lost cause and I find, knows little about education policy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, apparently KUOW's story hit a nerve. I'm seeing blowback via some Facebook pages (and good luck to you Facebook if folks in high places get mad enough - it seems to have happened at Publicola).

Seems that everyone is just being mean to point this out and that it really didn't mean anything when Sherry Carr got big money (but her money pales in comparison).

I think people are starting to think out loud what it all means and that's a very good thing.

Melissa Westbrook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Why do gazillionaires care? Money. The voters just gave the district 695 million $. Who wants pieces of that? You can never have too much money.

With the realignment of SLU/downtown in Lowell, not Hay, there is zero capacity reason to spend even $1 on a downtown school consultant or plan ... but do you think SDE will vote for or against spending $5 million on downtown school feasibility study? Money that, by the way, could renovate some school that is already full overcrowded. But her consultant and real estate development donors will talk, talk, talk about the need for a downtown school.

We already have two downtown schools, both of which need renovations: Lowell and TT Minor. But developers won't make any money out of those, only out of new space. The property people aren't giving to SDE from altruism, but because they think she represents their best interests. If they just wanted to improve a kid's life, they'd give to United Way of King County or Boys and Girls Club or Big Brothers/Big Sisters. But they don't, do they?

It's all about those contracts that are the consent items on the board agendas.

Jamie said...

Reposting for anon at 3:54:

Why do gazillionaires care? Money. The voters just gave the district 695 million $. Who wants pieces of that? You can never have too much money.

With the realignment of SLU/downtown in Lowell, not Hay, there is zero capacity reason to spend even $1 on a downtown school consultant or plan ... but do you think SDE will vote for or against spending $5 million on downtown school feasibility study? Money that, by the way, could renovate some school that is already full overcrowded. But her consultant and real estate development donors will talk, talk, talk about the need for a downtown school.

We already have two downtown schools, both of which need renovations: Lowell and TT Minor. But developers won't make any money out of those, only out of new space. The property people aren't giving to SDE from altruism, but because they think she represents their best interests. If they just wanted to improve a kid's life, they'd give to United Way of King County or Boys and Girls Club or Big Brothers/Big Sisters. But they don't, do they?

It's all about those contracts that are the consent items on the board agendas.