Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Tuesday Open Thread

The race for Supreme Court justices continues to heat up with the news that yet another billionaire has teamed up with a legislator to target Justice Barbara MadsenFrom KPLU:

Ken Fisher of Camas, Washington is a Forbes-listed billionaire. Rodney Tom is a Medina Democrat who joined with Republicans to take control of the Washington Senate in 2013. 

Recently Tom formed and Fisher funded a new political action committee called Judicial Integrity Washington. In recent weeks, the PAC has spent $100,000 on radio ads for Kittitas County Prosecutor Greg Zempel. He’s challenging Chief Justice Barbara Madsen for her seat on the Washington Supreme Court. 

To date, independent expenditures in this Supreme Court race have outpaced spending by the candidates by a margin of more than seven to one. 
News of this funding by ed reformers (both inside and outside our state) has drawn national attention. The Washington Post, Diane Ravitch and bloggers in other states are tracking this race.

Troubling news from the Bellingham Herald on the rate of teen suicide in Washington State.
Across the U.S., 1 of every 9 adolescents aged 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode in the last year, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Of the 10 states with the highest rates, four were in the West: Oregon, Arizona, Utah and Washington state. Oregon ranked first, with nearly 15 percent of teens reporting major depressive episodes. Washington state ranked seventh, with 12 percent.
An average of two youths kill themselves every week in Washington state, with another 17 attempting suicide, according to the Youth Suicide Prevention Program in Seattle. And the state’s report found that 20 percent of the state’s 10th-graders had seriously considered suicide in the previous 12 months.
In 2014, firearms were the leading cause of suicides in Washington state, accounting for nearly half of all deaths. In 2014, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that called on the state’s Department of Health to create a suicide prevention plan for people of all ages.
Good opportunity for musical students: Meter Music School Youth Scholarships.  Application due by August 15th.

Olympic Hills' principal, Helen Joung, sent a letter to parents announcing her departure from their school to become the new Executive Director for the SW.  This is a good thing for schools in the SW and a bad thing for Olympic Hills as well as the soon-to-open Cedar Park Elementary.

Principal Joung had been a leader in trying to explain to the district and the Board on the folly of the make-up of the student body at Cedar Park especially in light of this new lens of "equity."  

A couple of notices from SPS:

Student Health
The Washington State Department of Health is urging parents to make sure their kids’ immunizations are up-to-date before heading back to school this fall.  The State Department of Health now requires two doses of chickenpox (Varicella) vaccine for all students in grades K through 12.
School nurses will review each student’s vaccination records and notify parents through regular postal mail by the end of the current school year if a student needs additional vaccinations.
A complete list of immunization requirements is available at the following Washington State Department of Health website.

Before/After Childcare - a bit of a interesting notice given the district's moves towards possibly closing some of them because of capacity needs (or maybe for City pre-k space.)
Ninety three percent of SPS elementary schools have on-site care programs.  Programs offer fee-based before and after school, school break, and (usually) summer care for elementary school-aged children. Many also offer preschool for 3-5 year olds (full day or part day).
The Blue Angels flew overhead yesterday as I was eating lunch outside at a restaurant in Georgetown.  So heads up (ha!) for that.

What's on your mind?

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't charachterize Ken Fisher as an education reformer. His donations over the year have all been to Republican candidates and to campaigns to fight income taxes. He may be more interested in fighting the minimum wage issue or the 2/3 for tax hike issue. According to the article, "Tom pointed to recent court decisions striking down charter schools and two-thirds for tax hikes and upholding a $15 per hour minimum wage for Sea-Tac Airport workers as motivation for efforts to unseat incumbent justices." I see this as a larger effort than just the people who are unhappy with the charter school issue. People need to get educated about voting for judges. I recommend the website http://votingforjudges.org/16pri/supreme/index.html. Just like when the Building Industry Association of Washington targeted specific judges back in 2005 by waging huge campaigns against sitting judges, this kind of a campaign threatens the independence and impartiality of the judiciary system.
--GL

Anonymous said...

If you click on the links on the bottom of each judicial candidate, you can find the pdc page which lists each candidate's campaign's donors. In the case of Zempel, he has received quite a lot of money from Fisher, Fisher's wife Sherri, and several of Fisher's businesses, including Fisher Creek Campus, LLC, totaling $8,000. Similar Supreme Court justices who are running against sitting judges have received similar donations from those entities. Fisher is probably best known for teaming up with Clyde Holland to sponsor Tim Eyman initiatives. One of their PAC's ran afoul of disclosure rules on the $30 car tab initiative.

--GL

Charlie Mas said...

GL wrote: "I wouldn't characterize Ken Fisher as an education reformer. His donations over the year have all been to Republican candidates and to campaigns to fight income taxes."

That pattern does make Mr. Fisher a pretty typical Education Reformer. Corporate Education Reform is mostly about reducing taxes. It is only secondarily about re-directing public funds into private hands.

Anonymous said...

From Friday, July 29 Open Thread:

Diane Ravitch reports:

"Mike Pence is the most far-right candidate nominated for a national office in modern times.

He addressed the annual meeting of ALEC, the American Legislative Executive Council, of which he is a member, and declared that he supported ALEC “before it was cool.”

https://dianeravitch.net/2016/07/30/mike-pence-alec-is-a-model-for-the-nation/comment-page-1/#comment-2581426

Follow-up – comprehensive list of how Pence is destroying Indiana:

http://www.thomhartmann.com/bigpicture/why-do-people-indiana-hate-mike-pence

Thom talks about the long list of Republican and Libertarian policies that Mike Pence instituted in Indiana, and why the people of his state view him so unfavorably.

-McClureWatcher

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

I guess I wasn't clear. What I meant to say is that because there is unhappiness in certain sectors over more than just the charter school issue, the issue of replacing these judges has appeal to a far broader audience than just the usual suspects.

--GL

Melissa Westbrook said...

GL, kind of true except for the presence of Stand for Children which is largely about charter schools. Here's a comment from the KPLU story answering my comment:

Michael J. Fox Mel Westbrook • 2 hours ago

"I voted for the Charter Schools initiative, but I now agree that it is unconstitutional. I'm a retired Superior Court Judge, and have read the Supreme Court decision thoroughly. It is well reasoned and firmly based on our State Constitution, just as is the McCleary decision which found that the State was not meeting its "Paramount Duty" to adequately fund public education. The Washington State Constitution was passed at the height of the Agrarian Populist Movement and has many unusual provisions and clauses, and many citizens find them inconvenient, and out of date with the times. That may very well be the case. But the duty of the Supreme Court is to follow that Constitution until the people decide to change or replace it. This campaign against Justice Madsen is a campaign to install result driven judges, who will do what their funders want."

NO 1240 said...

It is not easy to over-turn a Supreme Court decision. So, for this reason, GL's comment makes sense.

I agree with Melissa's comment, too. Why is Stand On Children involved?

NO 1240 said...


Stand On Children:

“We’re just concerned that the decision about charter schools was based on political beliefs rather than impartial judgment,” said Stand for Children spokeswoman Deborah Jaquith. Madsen authored the 2015 majority opinion that found the charter school initiative unconstitutional."

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

Hey, gutless anonymous poster, how do you like those results for Madsen? She's whipping the reformie-backed Zempel by more than a 2-1 margin.

-- Ivan Weiss

Charlie Mas said...

"We’re just concerned that the decision about charter schools was based on political beliefs rather than impartial judgment" so they want to replace the justice with one who will base decisions on a different set of political beliefs.

Eric B said...

I found it ... interesting ... that Madsen's race was the only statewide race that the Seattle Times didn't make an endorsement. It wasn't even one of their wishy-washy dual endorsements (vote __ (D) or ___ (R) ). Just crickets even though they made endorsements in lower court races. I don't think they'll be able to duck the race in the general. I'd love to see that endorsement one way or the other. Either they back Madsen against a purely partisan hack or they bow to the funders and try to weasel something about how Madsen is too liberal and politically motivated. I suspect the latter.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Eric. Considering how many other endorsements Madsen already has, the crickets were quite loud from the Seattle Times. Of course, when Stand on Children is trying to buy the race, and we know how much the Seattle Times LOVES its ed deform groups, it does make a bit more sense.
Regardless, I was happy to see how poorly Zempel did in comparison to Madsen, and hope that continues in the general. Zempel is tied to Tim Eyman, who is considered toxic in many places, and if he ends up in jail, I don't think that will play well for Zempel, Stand on Children, or all the billionaires who would never deign to donate money for a public school playground or for library books for public schools, but who happily hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars to be wasted on campaign ads. But its all about the kids!

CT

Anonymous said...

I'm somewhat alarmed that the Soup for Teacher's folks are trying to go find PTA budgets. Just like the Randy Dorn lawsuit this probably has potential to harm individual schools without actually fixing the budget issue. I wish people would spend their energies on the election advocating for legislative candidates around the state who support their positions instead.
- CaveatEmptor

Anonymous said...

Oh look at that! All of the elitist NIMBY racists voted to build more low income housing and close the opportunity gap with the first African american woman on the ticket for Superintendent of Public schools. Maybe they're not so bad after all?!! I just wish I could trust the mayor with this new huge pot of money. I have a bad feeling he is going to ignore the people who approved the levi and steam roll the neighborhoods with more eastern Germany-style apartments. University District is next.

no murray

Liza Rankin said...

It's an independent group of parents. Since PTAs are all 501(c)3s, budgets are public info anyway, but available documents are a couple of years behind. The reason for asking for them is to show legislators and the public where those dollars really go, and how much parent fundraising is paying for basic education in our district. It's too easy for legislators to argue that parent fundraising doesn't have a meaningful impact on inequities when they think it's just bake sales and book fairs, but in many schools it's really classroom assistants, counselors and nurses, arts education, and math and reading specialists - things all schools should have as part of state-funded education. Individual schools will not be identified with their budget in any released report.

Lynn said...

Liza,

Charitable organizations are required to disclose their annual tax returns and their application for tax exemptions. I don't believe they must disclose anything else. The state public records act doesn't apply to them.

Liza Rankin said...

Right - the 990s are public, so you can see overall numbers, but not the breakdown of the budgets that we would like to show, to account for the effect of parent dollars. So hopefully PTAs will be willing to share their budgets.

Anonymous said...

The end state of this while well meaning is most likely to be restrictions on PTA's spending rather than increased funding from the gov't. For instance, this would be an awesome way to kill the language immersion schools or IB programs in the name of equity. *sigh*

-HarrisonB

Anonymous said...

@Harrison. I totally agree. Again we end up with school pitted against school instead of keeping the focus on the legislature properly funding education. I hope PTAs don't share their budgets. It will just be another distraction from the real issue of properly funding schools.
Divisive

Anonymous said...

@Liza. The explanation on Soup for Teachers is different than what you are saying here. The focus on Soup for Teachers is all about SPS and showing the district and parents about how much money PTAs supply to budgets, where that money goes for each school, and to highlight the disparity of positions/services between schools by types and location due to PTA money. There is nothing about the legislature.
What's up?

Anonymous said...

Interesting link:


http://www.k12.wa.us/Equity/pubdocs/ProhibitingDiscriminationInPublicSchools.pdf#AppendixD

FWIW

Liza Rankin said...

@Anonymous - sorry, that was just a mistype. "to show the district and the public." But it also goes to follow that the need for more dollars in general would be evident, yes? I see keeping quiet and not discussing the discrepancies as divisive, because it means that those who have what they need continue quietly funding basics with private dollars, while those who need more are left to fight alone. There are already murmurs about restricting PTA funding - wouldn't it be better to be able to show where the money is going, so that we can all advocate for getting those things funded through other means in a more proactive way rather than having schools get cut off without a plan?

Anonymous said...

Agree that it would just be a distraction and is unlikely to have the intended effects on state education funding. Supporting the candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction that has experience working in the state legislature - Chris Reykdal - may be a more effective means of working toward better funding.

-2cents

Anonymous said...

@Liza. No, I don't think that this is a proactive way to get things funded. I think this is a way to get the funding closed down for everyone, which would be anti-community building among SPS schools. I think Soup for Teachers has done a good job trying to break down barriers between schools, but this just creates more antipathy. We don't need to fight against each other. I think we should focus on where the money should be coming from- the legislature.
What's up?

Lynn said...

Agree with prior comments that this is not helpful. There is a theory making the rounds that parents whose children attend schools supported by PTA contributions aren't fighting for adequate state funding as hard as they should be and that this would be rectified if their children were less comfortable. The reality is that if conditions deteriorate, those who can remove their children will do so. Even parents at PTA-supported schools are much more aware of the funding crisis and willing to support solutions than uninvolved private school parents.

On the other hand, maybe this is just an attempt to gather information to inform the public. (The district already knows when parents pay staffing costs.)

Anonymous said...

From Soup for Teachers:

We are collecting budgets and surveys through August 30, 2016. All surveys provided will be confidential. We will combine data from budgets and surveys provided and no individual school names will be reported. We may report out by areas, for example, in North Seattle… Budgets will be analyzed for amount of funds raised, per student by area of Seattle, how parent contributions are used (staffing, afterschool programming, etc.), and data from surveys will analyzed for themes that emerge from responses. Our process for analyzing data collected will be inclusive of the wider community. We will be hosting a public meeting at several libraries in early October, which will be advertised. We plan to use the data to put together a policy statement to the Seattle Public Schools District and potentially publish our findings in an education journal for wider audiences. This is completely voluntary and we are doing this community survey as private citizens and parents.

I can only imagine what "themes" might emerge. How would a promise of confidentially be upheld? Published in an education journal?

What Lynn said.

Liza Rankin said...

To clarify - some Soup for Teachers members are doing this study independently, not Soup for Teachers as a group. A professional researcher has initiated and is leading this study. @Lynn: "On the other hand, maybe this is just an attempt to gather information to inform the public. (The district already knows when parents pay staffing costs.) " Yes to this. How do we have productive conversations around equity and funding without knowing where the imbalances are and what people value and are paying for in their schools? "Fully fund" education is all well and good to demand, but what, exactly, is in that demand? The general public, and many within SPS, too, have no idea how different the funding and resources are between schools. It's truly jaw-dropping. It's not practical to demand change without having agency about how that change comes about. The Mayor is inserting himself into the opportunity gap discussion without having a real understanding of what that even means in our schools, and where his responsibility lies (safety, basic needs, housing). We will have a new State Superintendent and an opportunity to address problems with a new ally in that position, whether it be Reykdal or Jones. The more information we all have to arm ourselves with, the more informed our advocacy can be. The system is already being disrupted and threatened from many directions - having better information will enable specific demands, and more informed voters and school communities. No one wants to blame the more moneyed PTAs for making their schools the best they can be, or see those students lose what they have. But it makes "public schools" a bit of a falsehood - if one were to look at the public resources going to each school, with some being extremely effective and some struggling - an uninvolved person could assume that the struggling schools are doing something wrong, since it looks "equal" on paper, and think maybe charter schools or something would be a solution, or that there aren't good teachers in the "failing" schools, and that isn't the case. But right now only part of the story of why some schools are more successful than others is tangible.

Anonymous said...

If you want a more complete picture of funding structures, don't you have to look at any grants and funds beyond the basic education dollars, not just PTA dollars? Take South Shore, for example. In 2015, they received a $2M grant from the LEV Foundation to support early learning initiatives (spread over 2 years).

http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/committees/A&F/2014-15/June%2011%202015/8%20South%20Shore%20LEV%20Grant_Stone.pdf

I'm not aware of any Seattle PTAs raising $1M.

-big picture

Melissa Westbrook said...

Big Picture, South Shore has gotten about $1M a year for the last 15 years, first from New School Foundation and now LEV (who absorbed New School.)

Anonymous said...

@Liza. I read your words, but I don't believe you. No one who has spent anytime looking at schools would assume that the reason a school with a high SES is doing better than a school with a low SES is because the school with the low SES is doing something wrong. Even SPS groups schools by FRL when comparing them to each other.

It seems to me that you think higher SES schools are getting things that lower SES schools don't get, and you want them to have those things too. You want the PTA info so you can use it to advocate for equity, as you define equity. Basically taking away things from some schools to give to poorer schools.

Why not just be honest about it? That is really the discussion. Do people think that parents should not be allowed to give money to schools unless the money is evenly divided...or perhaps divided so that schools with kids with more needs get more PTA money than schools with kids without as many needs.

I know you rationalize away all of the Title 1 money that schools get by saying there isn't much freedom with that money. Isn't that what you are trying to do? Take away choice from PTAs so that parents no longer have control over what is going to happen with the money they give to schools.
Honesty please