Sunday, November 22, 2015

Guest Post: Rep Gerry Pollet Meets with Charter School Parents and Students

By Representative Gerry Pollet, 46th District:

Thursday offered a “learning moment” for students in charter schools, parents and legislators.

Blue-shirted charter school students and parents came to the state capital to urge that legislators “save” their schools. Ironically, the Supreme Court released its opinion the same day reaffirming its prior unanimous opinion that charter schools were not “common schools” and its majority opinion striking down the entire charter school initiative as unconstitutional.
A group of 8 or 9 Summit Sierra Charter HS 9th graders and two parents were leaving my office as I returned from committee hearings. Although I had a large group waiting for their scheduled appointment with me, I didn’t want to disappoint high school students who had made the trek – and, were eager to tell me about the “unique” learning experience offered by their school.

So, I stopped to engage them. It was a learning moment for me, and I hope for the students as well – as students and I found some pre-established notions challenged by thought provoking questions. There are questions which legislators should be asking – and, they have surprising answers.
First, it’s important to know that Summit Sierra was pitched as a charter school to serve “a diverse group of students and families in South Seattle, with a particular focus on either Southwest or Southeast communities, helping to close the significant demographic achievement gap.(from their own website.)

The political and educational policy pitch for charters, and Summit in particular, is about serving the students in that high need area.

However, I had received numerous emails from constituents in North and NE Seattle (served by excellent, but horribly overcrowded schools, I should note) complaining that their children who had just started attending Summit would be losing their excellent new educational opportunity. Out of the 120 newly enrolled ninth graders at this charter school, pitched as deserving public investment to help close the achievement gap for SE and SW Seattle’s diverse populations, it seemed odd that at least five families from in or around the 46th District in North Seattle had children enrolled. Was this an anomaly?

I asked the students who were in Olympia where they lived and where they had previously gone to school.

The students who had stopped by my office included one from Ravenna in NE Seattle, students from Queen Anne and other points north, and from as far south as Des Moines – with two from S and SE Seattle.

Two of the students had previously attended private schools, plus one attended TOPS, and one had attendedOrca K-8.

They were eager to tell me about the unique educational experience at Summit, which features project-based, self-paced and experiential learning. Their zeal for this educational experience was infectious. They told me that this educational experience was unique and could only be offered by the charter school experience.

As a parent activist in Seattle Public Schools for many years, their passion reminded me of exactly the same zeal of students seeking to save alternative elementary and K-8 programs featuring the same type of curriculum and pedagogy over the years.

So, I turned to the student who had attended Orca and asked if his alternative school experience in a Seattle public school had featured the same type of learning?

To the surprise of his fellow students, he turned to them and said yes, that the style of teaching and learning was a continuation of his experience at the alternative public school he had attended.

This was a “learning moment” for the students. Their experience was not unique to a charter school.

Since alternative schools with similar learning styles exist in public schools, and in Seattle, I asked, did the students and parents see that perhaps their parents and others could work to have their alternative high school within the Seattle Public School system? This would be within the constitutional framework of public schools as the Supreme Court has defined it.

Rather than letting the students answer this, one of the parents replied that this “was impossible because of the teachers’ union.” Further, the individualized attention her daughter receives – including for special needs and dyslexia - was not possible in Seattle Public Schools due to the union, she opined.

WEA is the greatest advocate in Olympia for providing the training needed for special needs students, I responded.This parent chose this emphasis because she knows that I have championed this issue since I arrived in Olympia (Seattle will have to spend $28 million of local funding to meet Special Ed needs not funded by the State this school year. That’s nearly the full amount of “new” funding added to Seattle for lower class sizes in 2015, and is a major reason why Seattle’s classes remain so overcrowded). Who fights for investing in professional development, I asked her, or the investment in properly staffing classroomsIt’s the union which her new school’s teachers are barred from joining by the charter school law. If she is moving her child to take advantage of the low student-to-teacher ratio which enables individualized time with every student, who had led the fight to provide that same opportunity for every child in our state?

This was the students’ day in Olympia and their opportunity to discuss their education with a legislator.

So, I turned to the students and asked if they thought it was fair that their school could cap enrollment and turn away every student over their class of 120, in order to preserve their low class sizes – while every other school was overcrowded? Was that fair? Was it fair that their lower class sizes meant that other schools would have to have 150% more students in a class?

The students know they benefit from individualized attention – similar to that in a private school – from having much lower class sizes, and a much smaller school, than in the surrounding public schools. I could see them pondering the fairness of their privilege. It was clear that this was a new light for the students – a learning moment.

The students’ sense of fairness and equity had bumped into their own privilege.

One of the two parents came with her daughter to my drop-in discussion time on Saturday. I was fortunate to also be joined by a well-informed parent organizer for Washington’s Paramount Duty, as we continued this discussion. What I found was that the charter parents did not know that the Charter School Commission, when it met the week before school opened, allowed their charter to open with only 4 of 7 teachers being credentialed in Washington, or with a board answerable to a California corporate board. Nor are they informed about how the local school district has to provide services for every student out or local levy funds, including the higher cost of special ed, bilingual and highly capable – while the charter is entitled to local levy funding. We discussed how this provides a charter school an economic advantage and higher per student funding than the public schools in the district - under the now unconstitutional initiative.

Are the Summit charter parents willing to put this energy into working with Seattle Public Schools to have an alternative learning program high school, the same way other parents before them have worked to open or continue alternative elementaries and K-8 schools, or new programs like IB for high schools? Or is this only about working for their children and not working to have an option for all Seattle high school students?

Lessons and Options:

The Supreme Court has finalized its order. Its decision lays out a clear path for parents who want to have their school continue: work with the local district to have the curriculum and pedagogy incorporated into a public school.

The private corporate planning process that led to Summit corporation’s school’s opening with this particular curriculum, however, cannot be allowed to supplant the public planning process assessing what high school curriculum is being sought by parents and educators in Seattle. There are other programs with high demand that may be compatible with, or may have higher priority than, the program which these 120 students enrolled in. It is important to recognize in this discussion that some of these 120 students are not from Seattle, and many are not from the geographic area which Summit said it was focused on closing the achievement gap for.

Steps if the path laid out by the Supreme Court is followed:

Parents and legislators should recognize that the school will not get to cap enrollment outside of the capacity plans adopted by the district. In working out agreements with the district, determine if legislation is needed. The charter school advocates in Seattle have apparently spent the past three months seeking to “save” their charter school as it existed under the unconstitutional law, rather than beginning a discussion with Seattle Public Schools.

Recognize that the needs of SE and SW Seattle and the SPS assignment plan may not enable students from other areas with numerous high school options to attend this program.

Recognize that levy funding priorities may not include an automatic allocation any longer to Summit charter high school. The Summit community will have to advocate that it is more deserving than the schools that just lost teachers and special educators.  

For districts with severe overcrowding and too little capacity, such as Seattle, the notion of SPS or another district spending its woefully inadequate capital funding to take over a lease or capital investment in a building which is way too small for a public high school is not a meaningful long-term option. Using that capacity for a year or two, however, may be an option if the full capacity is available to alleviate other overcrowding, provide early learning program space, or to provide “swing’” space while renovating other public schools to increase their capacity.

Recognize that Seattle Public Schools have far higher capacity needs – including meeting the Supreme Court decision to lower class sizes – than taking over a location on S King Street which is not well suited for a public high school, and was not chosen to serve SPS populations.

First Place presents different challenges. This school was in existence serving a unique high need population of children who come from homes with domestic violence, incarcerated or drug abusive parents, foster homes… Approval as a charter school has been widely recognized as having been premature, including by its own board members. Private funding sources were proving inadequate. A special funding allocation apart from a prototypical school may be appropriate if the school seeks to come within the umbrella of SPS public schools, rather than returning to its non-profit roots.

Hard questions need to be asked: Who are the 120 students at Summit high school in Seattle? How do we serve thousands of high school students whose needs are not fully served today, who are in overcrowded classrooms (often with 35-40 students)Is it appropriate to expend more resources per student on 120 students who applied for a much more individualized learning experience? How do we justify expending scarce district funds for Summit after the District found it could not afford to continue serving the high needs “Middle College” high school students at High Point who were overcoming severe challenges, e.g., teen age mothers, students who were not allowed to return to other high schools, students who dropped out and returned…?

Our first obligation is to provide EVERY child the full opportunity to learn by fully funding basic education. That includes the state paying for:
•Lower class sizes – for real (not just allocating more in the prototypical school model while students continue to sit in overcrowded classrooms because the state does not pay for the teachers’ and educators’ full salaries);
oDespite the increase in funding from the Legislature this year, there are still first grade classes with 25-29 students, and per student funding level is barely above the level provided by the state in 2009.•Special Education for all children in need, not just an arbitrary 12.7% of students;
•Bilingual and ELL for all students who need instruction
•Increased pay for our teachers and educators, not just the $3.5 billion needed to take over the local levy funded portion of their inadequate salaries;
•Training and recruiting enough teachers and educators to fill the current shortages and reduce class sizes and improve staffing ratios (e.g., special educators and ELL) in the next several years.  
•Closing the educational achievement gap for so many of our students.

Where does bailing out private corporate opened charter schools and 120 students in an alternative learning program fit into this set of priorities for Seattle legislatorsThe answer may be in creatively seeking to incorporate these students and their school’s learning model into a broader expansion of Seattle public high school capacity and offerings, to reduce overall teacher – student ratios, reduce overcrowding, and increase options. The ball is in the parents’ and school community’s court to engage with the Seattle school district. It’s unlikely that this would involve the same physical space – but, as most Seattle public school parents know, we often have to expect our children to shift physical location of their school while being renovated or due to shifts in assignment plans. Jumping the line for levy funding while other schools have just lost 53 teachers, bilingual and special ed instructional aide positions is not an equitable option – a value that the students may understand.


seattle citizen said...

Thank you, Representative Pollet, for your fair and considerate discussion with the charter students and their parents.
And particularly for this articulate description of the issues and the potential solutions you enumerare.
Spot on.

seattle citizen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Watching said...

"What I found was that the charter parents did not know that the Charter School Commission, when it met the week before school opened, allowed their charter to open with only 4 of 7 teachers being credentialed in Washington, or with a board answerable to a California corporate board."

Thanks to both State Representative Gerry Pollet and Melissa. We REALLY need a decent newspaper.(!) I hope The Stranger picks-up this story.

Anonymous said...

Excellent! I learned quite a bit from reading this.

SW Mom

SO Disgusted said...

In Olympia, Andy Hill states that funding charter schools will be one of their highest priorities.

We all know that Chad Magendaz(R) is a charter school supporter and he is up for re-election. Sadly, his opponent Mark Mullet (D) is on board with a legislative fix.

Miss Waterlow said...

Thank you!

Carol Simmons said...

Thank you Representative Pollet.

heidi b said...

Thank you Gerry for quite an insightful pist, your time and passion on education is so very appreciated. One point though, since these charter schools are not authorized by any school districts, they are not entitled to local levy dollars, only state dollars, which gives them less funding then Distrct schools. But your other points are well taken on their ability to cap enrollment so, etc.
thanks again,

Charlie Mas said...

I would like to explore the idea of annexation of the charter schools by the school district.

The school community could remain intact and remain in their building. As alternative schools or Creative Approach schools their enrollment would be altered a bit by the addition of a geographic zone, they would be under the authority of district staff instead of the local or national organizing body now in charge, and they would have to administer the standardized tests, but they could retain their culture and remain free to choose their own instructional materials and strategies.

Lord knows the District could use the additional capacity.

The charter school communities have to decide if their priority is to save their school for their children or save the ownership and governance structure for the adults.

TechyMom said...

I have read here that some of Seattle's alt schools were started by parents in non-district property in in the 1970s. Was anyone here around for that? How did it work? Was district money used? Can we do that again? Maybe that's a model for annexing charters, and for creating both more options and more capacity?

Anonymous said...

A state representative schools a group of teenagers in his office and shames them. He's so proud of himself that requests a guest post on this blog. Am I the only one horrified by his behavior? These teenagers trek down to Olympia and request a meeting with their representative to try to save their school. Instead of him respectfully listening to them and thanking them for their time, he chooses to preach to them about privilege.

And you people applaud him for that? What if it was your child? Some of you people are beyond contempt and redemption.

Melissa is right. I'm not willing to put my name on this blog and suggests that it's a lack of integrity. While I'm not going to share my name, I will commit to refraining from challenging people on this blog. My next act is to make an appointment with Rep. Pollet to see if he can school me on charter schools, school governance, school finance, and (of course) my privilege.

--- aka

Anonymous said...

aka: How do you know the kids were "shamed?" Were you there? I doubt that you were. The kids were being used as props. The parents and charter grifters who used them as props certainly knew what Gerry's position on charters was, and what his response to their so-obvious ploy would be.

Gerry very adroitly turned the tables on them, and moreover, has laid out his position and his reasoning for us here, in detail, and you're all butt-sore because he blew up your charter buddies' cheap theatrics.

Be "horrified" all you want to. We're going to terminate the charter school fraud in this state with extreme prejudice, and we're just getting started.

-- Ivan Weiss

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, you write that charters "would have to administer the standardized tests."
They already have to. The test scores are really the ONLY accountability written into the law - they have to meet certain benchmarks on the tests.

It's distressing that many charter parents don't seem to know this. They post comments about how bad CCSS is, and how bad the tests are, and how these are a problem with public schools, yet seem unaware that the tests are the only measure of their "accountability" and the tests are based on CCSS....

Anonymous said...


I don't see any shaming. Pollet provided another point of view to the high schools kids and he did it in a respectful manner. He had a conversation with them and treated them like adults. It is what most high schoolers want. To be taken seriously and treated as adults.

Summit sounds like the old Summit K-12.


Anonymous said...


I also don't agree that the high school students were shamed. They are high school students, and as such they should be able to listen to different sides of an issue and figure out what they believe in (on their own without parent input). Its called critical thinking and is the single most important skill that I would think we want all high school students to master.

Far too many people just want to hear parroting of their own beliefs and are "offended" when someone doesn't agree with them.

Charter schools are complicated and I do think in some areas some of them may do some good. However, this particular Charter sold a certain mission statement to the public, and then proceeded to admit students who did not fit that mission. I cannot support that type of bait and switch, particularly with public money.

-Garfield Parent

Watching said...

"... they are not entitled to local levy dollars, only state dollars..."

Charter schools WILL be entitled to levy dollars during the next election cycle.

I don't find Pollet's actions shameful. Why isn't aka railing against the fact that Summit didn't hire an entire staff of credentialed employees? Charter supporters have been using kids since day one. What would happen if SPS dressed their students up in blue shirts and provided transportation to Olympia.

I love Pollet's point about capping enrollment, while other high schools burst at the seams and have 35-37 students in a class. Equitable?

Lastly, involved parents send their children to charter schools. These are the same parents that would serve to strengthen the public system.

Watching said...

I have a couple of corrections: Charter schools will be entitled to levy dollars after the next levy campaign and I missed a question mark after the work Olympia.

Fixing the charter school law will become a major focus.

Patrick said...

Thank you, Rep. Pollet. Even if you didn't change any charter school parents' minds, at least you gave the kids something to think about.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that Rep. Pollet should be congratulated for using moment to encourage critical thinking among those students. That's a invaluable skill for high school age students to have. He listened. He suggested there might be an alternative interpretation of the situation. He did not shame them. And there is zero to be horrified about here. Only thankful that at least one State Rep is using HIS critical thinking skills.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Heidi, the two Spokane charters are overseen by Spokane SD.

AKA, those kids did not even have a meeting set with him. Did you read the piece? He was going to see people WHO did have a meeting and took time - a long time - to meet and see if they clearly understood the situation.

You can challenge all you want here but yes, people will push back. I just have a hard time when it feels like an attack and not a challenge.

Watching, whether charters will be eligible for school levy dollars is a bit of mystery to me. They will not get state funding after the end of November or until Dec. 14th (OSPI and AG aren't sure.) What then?

Well, the Legislature can make a colossal mistake of calling a Special Session to find money to keep them going. If that happens, then they are still public charter schools.

If not, and they get money from private funders, then what are they? Private schools. Because not only would they get funds from private entities, they would have no oversight (both Charter Commission and Spokane SD will have their charter oversight funding cut as well.)

So they can only access the levy money when they ARE charter schools. (Of course, of they get private funds to stay afloat until they are made eligible for state funds, they could go back and ask for the funds.)

There's a mess everywhere you look.

Po3 said...

I googled Summit Seattle and was surprised to see that they do not have a website, you are always directed to the corp website. So it is really hard to see what the Seattle school is all about. (The Tacoma charter school has the beginnings of the a website, but still pretty thin.)

On the Seattle tours/open house page, I watched the "Day in the Life" video thinking it would show the Seattle charter students at work. Nope, it is elementary students, sitting in front of computers for at least 80-90% of the video. It actually kinda made me ill to watch. But I guess that is how "go at your own pace works." I also thought it was interesting that all the videos are professionally done. At the high school level, I would think they would want to use student-produced videos.

Which brings me to another point that I find odd. There is absolutely no info about class offerings. All I could dig up were some staff pages that say what they teach. And did not see any staff teaching things like music, drama, art, PE. Just the basic Math, Science, English and Social studies. Very flat offerings! One of the great things about SPS high school websites is they have their course catalogs online, so anybody from anywhere can access them. So very strange.

I am confused about the statement that 4 of the 7 Summit Seattle teachers do not have their teaching credentials. The corp website FAQs doc states, "Summit Public Schools requires all teachers to hold a valid certification in Washington by the first day of school."

So was this requirement just not followed in WA state? And if so, why? And what assumptions do the Seattle Summit parents have about the teachers credentials?

It would be interesting to know how Rep. Pollet got this information.

Something else I found interesting is Summit claims on their employment page: "To date, 99 percent of Summit students have been accepted to one or more four-year colleges and its graduates are completing college at double the national average."

Acceptance is NOT attendance. What is the attendance percent? What I suspect is that all Summitt students are REQUIRED to apply to at least one 4-year college/university and am betting that Summit staff carefully picks the college(s) that will best ensure at least one acceptance letter.

Second, how does Summit know its graduates are completing college at double the national average? Do they really follow every grad for 4-6 years post graduation? And if so, how?

My impression is that Summit does a fantastic job of marketing, but when the rubber hits the road there may not much meat on the bone.

Anonymous said...

Dyslexia. Encountered this a decade ago, before the capacity crunch, raised PTA money, grant money for teacher training to help students. 10 years later, it's dyslexia what? Class size is too big, not enough money for inservice, etc. Charter might not be the answer, but woohee, neither was Pollet's answer. Or more money in this case.The whole bumping into privilege comment is just a sad throw to the losers who just don't know when to quit. Gad, I just felt a tug.

Monday blues

Anonymous said...

I appreciate Rep Pollet's commitment to public education. But where is Gov Inslee's commitment and action on McLeary?


Anonymous said...

If I don't live in the area shown by, can my kids still go to Orca?

Are there any project-based curriculum high schools?


Charlie Mas said...


The NOVA Project is a project-based curriculum high school. So it STEM at Cleveland.

Charlie Mas said...

You can apply for enrollment at ORCA regardless of your address. There is, however, a tie-breaker that gives priority for admission to students who live within the geographic zone for the school.

Lynn said...

Raisbeck Aviation High School is also project-based and anyone in the state can apply. Students there learn from teachers too - not computers. Four year graduation rate is 97.9%.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Po3, I challenged that 99% claim, both on your point and because of attrition. They told the Charter Commission that their grad rate is in the "high '90s." But did they offer documentation? Nope.

I think Pollet meant that 4 of the 7 didn't have their credential when the school started (but probably do now.)

I like Gov Inslee but yes, I wish he would put more heat on in any way he can.

Anonymous said...

Lynn said "Raisbeck Aviation High School is also project-based and anyone in the state can apply. Students there learn from teachers too - not computers"

I don't have any kids interested in aviation/aerospace. Also, it seems a little strange that there is a two week window for applying, but you cannot find out the requirements for applying until the beginning of that two week period...

I don't understand what you mean by "students there learn from teachers too" From their website, it seems they have people in the aerospace industry involved with the students. Are you just saying that they have regular teachers also?


Lynn said...

Sorry to be unclear. My too was meant to indicate that Aviation offers project based learning and the students are taught by the teachers in their classrooms. (As opposed to personalized or blended learning which relies on videos to teach the lessons.)

Anonymous said...

Rep. Gerry Pollet said "It’s the union which her new school’s teachers are barred from joining by the charter school law."

Does anyone know where it says that? I just looked at and couldn't even find the word union.

Or does it just mean that since the charter law has been overturned, it's OK to make inaccurate comments about charters like they receive local levy money or don't need to accept special education students or ELL students?


Anonymous said...

Thanks Lynn for the clarification.

I think the "blended" in blended learning means that students learn from computers and from teachers too.


Anonymous said...

Gerry Pollet said "This parent chose this emphasis because she knows that I have championed this issue since I arrived in Olympia."

It sounds like what the parent said is probably inaccurate, but I have to think that her emphasis on special ed is because she has a child who is special ed not because of anything Pollet has said or done.

Anonymous said...

the 2:04 comment was made by me.


seattle citizen said...

Lisa - Read 28A.710.040 of law:
"(3) Charter schools are not subject to and are exempt from all other [those NOT listed in this law] state statutes and rules applicable to school districts...for the purpose of allowing flexibility to innovate in areas such as scheduling, personnel..."
As the ability to unionize is covered under ("other") state statute, but isn't in this law, that ability is NOT granted to charter employees, as it would interfere with a charters ability to hire and fire at will in the name of "innovation."

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Or does it just mean that since the charter law has been overturned, it's OK to make inaccurate comments about charters like they receive local levy money or don't need to accept special education students or ELL students?"

Lisa, I'm not sure where you read that but it's probably not here as I am very clear on getting it right.

On your issue of unions and teachers, under the WA charter law, charter teachers can unionized but only at their school. They cannot join the WEA. That's not real collective bargaining if you don't have the numbers so it's a bit of window-dressing.

Charters here can get local school levy money but only if they are operating BEFORE the levy is on the ballot. For example, right now there are three charters in the Seattle School district region and they could access both Operations and Capital dollars in the next levy election in Feb. 2016.

However, the issue becomes this; what if the state does not restore funding for months? The WA Charter School Assn says "donors" will pay for schools (probably not all of them - it's not clear) to stay open.

So then are they quasi-private? And if they are when the election happens, and then AFTER the election get state dollars, still eligible for levy dollars? I'd think not. (And good luck getting the district to readily hand over those dollars - I wouldn't.)

I did reach out to the AG's office on about the charter school ruling and possible outcomes but they are taking this position:

"I’m afraid that we’re not in a position to address your questions beyond that assurance, for a couple of reasons:

- As you surmise, we have the court’s recent decision and its implications under review with our clients;

- Because the substance of our thinking on these issues constitutes advice to clients, it is subject to attorney-client privilege, so we are not at liberty to divulge our counsel. (Clients, such as OSPI, are free to waive the privilege and share legal advice that they receive, but we are not at liberty to do so)."

As to your comment about Sped and ELL students, I haven't seen many comments that they don't take those students. It's that many more charters don't serve the same numbers of Sped, ELL and homeless students throughout the country. That is a fact.

livfinne said...

I was present at this exchange between Representative Pollet and charter school students on the ground floor of the Legislative Building last Thursday. While Representative Pollet spoke at some length, he never explained why he wants to take charter schools away from these families. Our site has interviews with parents and students about why they like their charter schools, here:

Melissa Westbrook said...

He doesn't want to "take them away" - he wants public schools that are constitutional. The current ones are not (taking the Court's word for it.)

seattle citizen said...

Ms. Finne, it is pure rhetoric to write that "HE wants to take charters away from these families." While he evidently explained, with care and consideration, that there are much greater needs right now, and issues of fairness, "he" isn't taking charters away - the law is unconstitutional and THAT takes charters away.
Ms. Finne, your posts over on your WPC blog, like this one, rely waaaay too much on emotion. Public education in WA is complicated and we spend a lot of money on it. We have to rely on law, policy, and reason, not constant refrains about callous people not caring about kids. There are fewer than 1200 charter students; the needs of the million public school students are much more pressing.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, right, Liv. Gerry is going to wave his magic wand and "take charter schools away from these families." That's pretty ridiculous, even for you.

You know full well that the charter operators led these families on, and almost certainly never gave them any disclaimer that the Supreme Court might rule unfavorably on 1240. You also know, perfectly well, that the Charter Commission never directed them to, either. That's a pretty stunning abdication of responsibility, don't you think? After all, you conservatives are all about responsibility, isn't that right?

1240 is unconstitutional. Charter schools that are operating under 1240 are now illegal. You conservatives are all about law and order, isn't that right? Do you expect a state legislator, a member of the Washington State Bar no less, to promote or otherwise encourage an illegal activity?

The students at Summit Sierra and the other charters will be welcome at their nearby public schools, even though a lot of those public schools will have to stretch their available resources to accommodate them. That's because conservatives like you, and the legislators whom you support, are unwilling to raise revenue that would put the state into compliance with the McCleary decision.

This is Melissa's blog, and she sets the bar for who posts here and what stays on the site. But speaking for myself, you have a lot of nerve, and no shame whatever, in posting your untruths and your rotten policies here. Who exactly do you think will believe a word you say? I wish you the constant, ongoing thwarting of your policy goals, and all the possible frustration and anguish that might accrue therefrom.

-- Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

"Be "horrified" all you want to. We're going to terminate the charter school fraud in this state with extreme prejudice, and we're just getting started.

-- Ivan Weiss"

Really, Extreme prejudice?... that must be a newly minted Demoncrate term. Ivan Weiss you're getting a bit theatrical, so tell us which "we" are just getting started and what makes you the authority on where my "we" tax dollars are spent?

I think your "we" might be surprised by a few things my "we" are doing to prevent your "we" from controlling us "we" and our "we" tax dollars.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Whoa, Ivan. Too much. I post at Ms. Finne's blog (although she moderates the comments before they are posted) and she is welcome her.

Naturally, it's a bit more rough and tumble, given we allow all comments.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Seattle Citizen at 2:36 wrote "As the ability to unionize is covered under ("other") state statute, but isn't in this law, that ability is NOT granted to charter employees"

What is law 41.56.0251 about if not allowing employees of charters to unionize?

"Any bargaining unit or units established at the charter school must be limited to employees working in the charter school and must be separate from other bargaining units in school districts, educational service districts, or institutions of higher education. Any charter school established under chapter 28A.710 RCW is a separate employer from any school district, including the school district in which it is located."


Anonymous said...

At least I sign my name, pal.

-- Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

"heidi b said...

Thank you Gerry for quite an insightful pist, your time and passion on education is so very appreciated. One point though, since these charter schools are not authorized by any school districts, they are not entitled to local levy dollars"

heidi b, you might want to consider toning it down. I pay taxes, including levy taxes and based on the snarky-ness of comments like yours, I will be voting NO come Feb and contacting everyone I know asking them to stop the misuse of levy funds by voting NO.

Voting NO

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Melissa at 4:02 wrote "Lisa, I'm not sure where you read that but it's probably not here as I am very clear on getting it right."

I know you're very clear on getting things right. That's why I like this blog. It helps me understand how things work in WA which is very different than in CA.

It was said by Rep. Pollet in his guest post: "Nor are they informed about how the local school district has to provide services for every student out or local levy funds, including the higher cost of special ed, bilingual and highly capable – while the charter is entitled to local levy funding. We discussed how this provides a charter school an economic advantage and higher per student funding than the public schools in the district - under the now unconstitutional initiative."

Is there another interpretation for what he wrote?

You also wrote "They cannot join the WEA."
Is that because the WEA won't let them join?


seattle citizen said...

LisaG, I was unaware of the law, 41.56. 0251that you refer to, thank you for pointing it out. Though it seems at odds with the part of the charter I cited, which explicitly states that NO ed statutes, except those proactively cited in Section 2 of 28A.710.040, will pertain to charters...So while 41.56.0251 says charter educators can unionize (and many have been, nationwide, much to the horror of free-market charter supporters such as Ms. Finne), the charter law itself says that statute doesn't apply to charters. Better legal minds than mine will have to clarify.

But what Melissa writes is true: if they DID unionize, it would be a teeny tiny union of what, 10-20 educators, not affiliated with the surrounding district's union teachers. They would have very, very little bargaining power, as we've all read the anti-union sentiment of many charter supporters and a charter could merely lock out that tiny union and hire a bunch of scabs from TFA. They're cheap. ; )

seattle citizen said...

LisaG, you ask Melissa at 5:25 if the reason charter educators can't join the WEA is "because the WEA won't let them join", but you answered your own question in your reply to me, with your citation of 41.56.... , which states that "Any bargaining unit or units established at the charter school must be limited to employees working in the charter school and must be separate from other bargaining units in school districts..."

seattle citizen said...

Speaking of charters locking out unions and hiring TFA, I wasn't joking. See Diane Ravitch's blog post of a teacher at a Green Dot charter in CA (Seattle's Summit Charter is a Green Dot...franchise] experience, and note how many of that school's teachers are...or were, many left teaching "for personal reasons"....TFA. Hired cheap, abused, let go cheap....
The Inside Story of a Green Dot Charter School

Anonymous said...

Seattle citizen said...

They would have very, very little bargaining power, as we've all read the anti-union sentiment of many charter supporters and a charter could merely lock out that tiny union and hire a bunch of scabs from TFA. They're cheap. ; )

Really, you think TFA people are "scabs"? Your choice of words is derogatory.


Anonymous said...

Shutting down the charter schools midyear is draconian and petty. The legislature found a solution so a thousand or so students who didn't pass the legally mandated biology exam could graduate. Dorn and Duncan fixed a clerical error for the Kent school district this summer so the teachers could teach on.

Of the 181 teachers, 72 are in jeopardy of not starting their classes on time or not being present in their classroom when school begins Aug. 31. Edholm, who's been teaching for 23 years -- 18 of them at the Kent School district -- is one of those teachers.

"If I don't pass the test, and we are all nervous about it, my room will have a substitute teacher who will be teaching reading, writing, and math, and I will be able to teach art, science and social studies," said Edholm.

"The teachers are in a 'Catch 22,' " said Dorn.

Dorn has placed calls to Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan to ask for a waiver. He says legally, only the federal government can make an exemption because of the clerical error.

"I know I wish I had a resolution right now, but I'm hopeful in 24, 48 hours we should have a resolution," said Dorn. "I'm hoping that it's positive."


seattle citizen said...

Timely - IF the TFAers were hired to cross a picket line, THEN they WOULD be scabs. "Scab" is a time-honored term for those who cross a picket line.

Melissa Westbrook said...

NNNCR, TFAers are not scabs. They are young and idealist and that makes them candidates for manipulation.

What needs to happen for charters in WA state? Here's what I told other public ed supporters:

"The solution is obviously for the Legislature to call a Special Session between now and Dec. 12th and get funding to the schools pronto.

You can stop laughing now because we all know one thing - Frank Chopp would NEVER let that happen (for a variety of reasons.) (What also plays into this is the holiday season. It's a very bad time to get anything done."

There will be no Special Session to save the charter schools because how can they defend the wants of 1200 charter school parents against the needs - for years - of 1M+ public school parents?

Now private entities could step in and support the charters but what are they then? Quasi-private? If they go off the public ed grid as private schools, can they really come back on if the Legislature convenes and finds the money?

Very messy situation.

As I say, good luck with that. The Legislature has zero defense for supporting finding money for charters over McCleary. Zip, zilch, nada.

Watching said...

I'm glad liv Finne dropped-in.

I'm also interested in knowing when the WPC, Wa. State Charter Commission and charter school operators will acknowledge and take responsibility for opening their doors before the Supreme Court ruling? When did these groups talk about informing parents of pending court case? We hear about the "mean" Supreme Court, but those responsible for prematurely opening these schools- or advocated to open schools- are silent.

Lastly, why would you think it is ok to cap enrollment for a relatively few high school students when our high schools are busting at the seams and we have classes of 35-37 for many of Seattle's high school students?

Ryan said...

"Or does it just mean that since the charter law has been overturned, it's OK to make inaccurate comments about charters like they receive local levy money"

It's on page 31 of the original initiative:'s also something WSSDA and WASBO noted before the initiative passed, and it leads to the tricky constitutional argument of how you get locally elected money to a school that isn't overseen by the local school board. The answer: you don't, nor should you.


Watching said...

Liv Finne moderates comments.

seattle citizen said...

Timely, I read the TFA teacher's account you posted. I'll note that is DOES speak to the eagerness of some TFAers to serve, their idealism, which I appreciate. That's wonderful. But it also speaks to the naivete of some, the wide-eyed expectation that they can work miracles because they're well-intentioned...
The account certainly doesn't paint TFA training in a positive light, or TFA's support of these idealistic young people.
And charters, generally, LOVE TFA. Those idealistic students can replace experienced teachers at a much lower cost and are not likely to question the questionable pedagogical of many charters. Plus, since you're a charter, you can fire 'em easily, or let them burn out in a year or two (or a few months, like the hapless author of that account) and leave "for personal reasons" (see the account of another TFA teacher at a Green Dot - Summit - charter in CA I linked to) and can be replaced with

Anonymous said...

seattle citizen at 6:08 tries to explain to me why charter school teachers couldn't join the WEA even if both parties wanted to, but I'm a little too slow to understand the point.

Doesn't WEA represent teachers in the whole state? And don't teachers in different school districts negotiate contracts separately from teachers in other school districts? So why couldn't charter school teachers belong to WEA and, as there own micro-sized union chapter, be negotiating (without much power)for contracts at the charter? Or does WEA state somewhere that they will not represent charter school teachers?


Anonymous said...

seattle citizen also says that the Summit charter in Seattle is a Green Dot school. I think that is not correct. I think the Destiny Middle School in Tacoma is a Green Dot school.


seattle citizen said...

My mostake, LisaG - Summit is a product of the Summit chain out of San Francisco; Green Dot's school in SE Seattle is/was slated to open in 2016. My mistake.
Regarding the WEA, please go back and read your own post, where the law you cite says that "Any bargaining unit or units established at the charter school must be limited to employees working in the charter school and must be separate from other bargaining units in school districts..."

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Lisa, you need to go read the charter law. I'm not sure all of us here have the time to explain it all to you. I think I explained what the charter law says - charter teachers cannot join WEA.

Green Dot is one of the few charters that I know that allows their own union. A union is not a union with very small numbers.

seattle citizen said...

Each district has its own bargaining unit. Oh, I see what you're getting at: the law says that a charter school's union can't affiliate with another bargaining unit in that district, not that it can't affiliate with the overarching state WEA (or NEA.) Interesting point.
I suppose...maybe...a charter school's union could maybe perhaps (a cording to the law...maybe) affiliate with WEA. I just see little bargaining power in such a teeny union.
Again, someone with more legal knowledge than I would have to respond. Thanks for hammering at the point - I get what you're saying now and maybe...maybe my interpretation of the law is wrong.
This is why we have supreme court judges: laws are complicated. ; )

seattle citizen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
heidi b said...

Summit isn't in Spokane, I wasn't referring to Spokane :)
But yes, it's messy and unfortunate for all

Anonymous said...

seattle citizen at 8:31

I agree that they would not have a lot of bargaining power, but I would think that WEA would want them as members since at least some of them have taught at other WA schools before (and probably after).

But there does seem to be a big difference between it wouldn't do them much good to be unionized, and "It’s the union which her new school’s teachers are barred from joining by the charter school law." as Rep. Pollet said in his guest blog post.


seattle citizen said...

Not sure, LisaG - there could be some aspect of the law, or some reading of it, that precludes a charter union from joining WEA. For instance, charter employees "must be separate from other bargaining units in school districts" might mean that their little union must be separate from, cannot join, the bargaining unit (union) of the SEA, which, since it's a subsidiary of WEA, might mean they can't join the WEA. I don't know. Melissa states that it's in the law; perhaps it is. As I said, I might play a lawyer on TV, but I ha'en't a clue, as they say in bonnie Scotland....
Regardless, I hold to my claim that they would have little power.

leilamas said...

Tell ya what. Let's have a charter school teachers' union first. And then let's have that union want to affiliate with the WEA, and then we can find out if the law allows it and if the WEA allows it. Until then, it's too hypothetical to bother with.

leilamas said...

I'm glad that Liv Finne comments here. It's good to hear from people with a different perspective.

I also think it's very telling that there have been only three arguments made against the Supreme Court decision.
1. Emotional - the Court is closing these schools on 1,200 students, how mean.
2. Political - the Court is negating the Will of the People.
3. Conspiratorial - seven of the nine Justices should have recused themselves from the case because the WEA was a plaintiff and contributed to their campaigns.

What's missing, of course, is a legal argument. That's pretty strong evidence that the Court, which is supposed to base their decision on the law rather than emotions or politics, made the right decision.

Watching said...

We were told be those that pushed I 1240 that I 1240 WAS constitutional and that we had the best charter school law in the country.I agree with leilalmas. From Crosscut:

"Recent attacks levied at the integrity of Washington’s State Supreme Court justices are simply unfounded, factually and legally. All of these attacks have come from special-interest groups with limited, specific agendas and preferred outcomes.

The simple truth is this: Washington’s Supreme Court is ranked among the most respected state supreme courts in the nation. It has earned this distinction based on independent studies by legal scholars who have scrutinized our nation’s top courts for the quality of their opinions, independence and productivity."

Anonymous said...

@leilamas - There were several briefs submitted to the court --- from our current AG, former AGs, the charter schools association, et al --- making legal arguments that the court got it wrong. You can look up these briefs on the court's website to read the legal arguments.

Perry Mason

Charlie Mas said...

@Perry Mason,
I have read those. At least some of them. They all seem to complain that the law used as the basis for the decision is old. As if that somehow negated it. A couple others have said that the charter schools are common schools because the charter school law says that they are common schools. That's nutso. The charters don't meet any of the criteria for common schools. They aren't under the authority of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. They aren't part of a uniform system of schools. They aren't governed by elected boards. They are not common schools.

There may well be some better legal argument against the decision, but we're not seeing that argument made by anyone. Liv Finne isn't making it. The charter school operators aren't making it. The charter school supporters aren't making it. Maybe their lawyers made it, but not with any success.

Can you articulate a legal argument against the decision?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Perry, and... There are friend of the court briefs submitted all the time that support one or the other side. That there were ones in this case is not surprising. But it doesn't mean the Court was necessarily wrong in the first place.

And Watching is right; others in the country look to our Supreme Court as one the best.

I will point out that Randy Dorn has said - over and over, both before the election and after - that he is willing to help oversee charters. In fact, that is the second constitutional issue that may have to go back to court to be addressed.

Article 3 of the constitution is where executive department is created including SSPI.

This is his duty:

The superintendent of public instruction shall have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools, and shall perform such specific duties as may be prescribed by law.

Now, charters are not "public schools" under the "common schools" definition in this case. So, they don't have to be under that office's supervision. But if they DID, that would make them common schools being under an elected official's supervision, make them eligible for school funds and this would all be moot.

But that's charter schools - they want their freedom. Well, in this case, they got it.

Anonymous said...

Charlie said "Can you articulate a legal argument against the decision?"

Didn't the legislature in their brief to the court say that they had allocated general funds to go to charter schools?

If general funds are being used, then it doesn't matter whether charter schools are common schools, just like it wouldn't matter that road repair isn't a common school.


Anonymous said...


I guess my point about the charter schools and unions was more that it was one of several times in the guest post that Rep. Pollet was not exactly precise with what he said.

It was my first exposure to him, so now I know that his statements might not have been fact checked.


Anonymous said...

Watching said " From Crosscut:

"Recent attacks levied at the integrity of Washington’s State Supreme Court justices are simply unfounded, factually and legally...."

And thanks to suep's comment on another post, I learned from this Lines of Influence chart ( that Crosscut received $400,000 from Gates.

Does that mean anything from Crosscut is suspect? Or does that mean that not everything that receives money from Gates is tarnished?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Lisa, that point has been made before. That is the key point - charters aren't common schools, can't get those school funds and now it's up to the Legislature to find the money (and tell some other program/department that cuts are coming.)

I was not aware the "legislature" sent a brief to the court. I think that would have made news.

Lynn said...


What is your preferred outcome from this discussion? Are you hoping to influence those readers who are undecided on the charter question? Would you like to talk about what could/should happen to these students next month?

As I've pointed out in the past, parents in Washington are required to ensure their children are attending public schools, attending approved private schools or receiving home-based instruction. Have they already notified their resident districts that they are providing home-based instruction? (And does attending a charter school qualify?) If the schools are to be privately funded for the remainder of the year, they will need to apply with OSPI for approved private school status.

Anonymous said...

Melissa wrote "I was not aware the "legislature" sent a brief to the court. I think that would have made news."

I don't know why it didn't make news, but here it is:

page 3 of the memorandum (but page 7 of the .pdf) says "The operating 2015-17 budget expressly stated: State general fund appropriations distributed through part V of this act for the operation and administration of charter schools as provided in chapter 28A.710 RCW shall not include state common school levy revenues collected under RCW 84.52.065.


Anonymous said...

Lynn asked me what my preferred outcome for this discussion was.

I was happy to learn there was at least one project-based school in the Seattle school district, and used that opportunity to ask if there were any more. I had looked around, but hadn't been able to find out that information. It appears that there are 4 public schools in the Seattle area that offer this type of curriculum.

Other than that, Rep. Pollet made some comments which seemed surprising, so I was trying to find out what they were based on. I guess they were more ethos/pathos than logos.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Ah, Lisa, you used the word "legislature" which would have meant the entire group, but it's group of legislators. Kind of different.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you're right Melissa. Bad copy editing on my part.

I think I meant to write something like this: Didn't the legislator's brief to the court say that the legislature had allocated general funds to go to charter schools?


Anonymous said...

I was only responding to @leilamas' comment that there were not any legal arguments against the court's decision. I'm not agreeing with those arguments nor could I make them myself. I'm not a lawyer (although I might play one on TV). I just know there were legal arguments with the court's decision. That's all.

Perry Mason

seattle citizen said...

Perry, you can't PLAY a lawyer on TV; you ARE a lawyer on TV. Raymond Burr...Now HE could play a lawyer on TV, boy-howdy... ; )

Anonymous said...

I found the Crosscut's opinion piece on WA state Supreme Court insightful. It's even more insightful when you go and read the sources for the piece. There are aspects and measures of the WA Court ranking which got left out of the article, which by doing so, made it an opinion. Regardless, I have to give it to U Chicago law for being self aware in understanding its attempt to rank state courts competitively is akin to the usefulness and meaningfulness of US World & News ranking of colleges. There is also a good analysis of why and how US Chamber of Commerce decided to rank state courts. It's fascinating and reveals there are far more murkiness than this just being a list.

Courts are not immutable and static. I'm not sure why people need to paint institutions with such polarity.


Anonymous said...

I also have to add just because it's one of those head scratching moment, the Crosscut's opinion piece used the US Chamber of Commerce's ranking (based on a survey of corporate lawyers) to showcase WA Supreme Court as being in the top 3 for judicial impartiality. Yet several paragraphs later, the author decried the Chamber for pouring $4 million of big money interests into the 2006 election of WA Supreme Court justices in order to influence the make up of the court. I understand the author is trying to contrast the $ amount to the pittance from labor unions.

I have high regards for our justices, but this opinion piece doesn't do them justice!


MelissaP said...

Scanning through the comments on this blog, I wonder how many people here have actually visited Summit Sierra? You are all welcome - the school is very interested in people exploring, speaking with teachers and speaking with students. I'm a south Seattle Orca K-8 parent, a product of Summit K-12 (and AS#1), a past board member of Powerful Schools, a WMS parent and PTSA board member, a fundraiser for the Schools First levy campaign -- and the proud parent of a Summit Sierra kid, who opted to attend Summit because she did not feel attending a large school where tracking governs interaction was the public experience she wanted, but also wanted challenging academics. She's deeply engaged in project-based learning (in classrooms, with her peers and teachers). She is also able and supported to do much of her work at her own pace (in my own "alternative" experience, the support part was always challenging for our teachers, largely due to the way SPS only incidentally supported the mission). She has deep friendships with the most diverse set of friends she's ever had. Her classes are not small (25-26 or more) and extra-curriculars are limited. Teacher professional development is a huge priority (with a creative solution on how to enable that without exploiting teachers). The teachers have chosen the school - and seem well aware of their choices and trade-offs (they're adults, after all); many moved to Seattle to be a part of the project. Technology is an integral tool that enables a coherent experience for kids, teachers and parents, but as a former tech employee engaged in skills work (globally), it is the most appropriate implementation I've seen.

I voted no twice on charters, but saw in the last initiative the opportunity for innovation and real examples that might be extended by districts and that our state was going to proceed in a careful and controlled way, including oversight by a board of people (appointed by an elected official) who believe strongly in quality public schools, with the ability to revoke a charter should things go haywire. I'm pleased that Summit has figured out new ways of doing things that can be sustained (once fully enrolled/over three more years) on the current state allotment per kid. I'd love to see districts learn from these schools, IF IT WILL SERVE THE KIDS WELL, and suggest we all take some time to go and see and talk to those who've opted for these programs to learn first hand what they're experiencing.