Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Latest from Liv Finne

Liv Finne has written a blog piece about the WSPTA's vote in opposition to I-1240. The article appears on the Washington Policy Center blog and also on Crosscut.

Her premise is that the PTA Legislative Assembly voted to support charter schools, but the WSPTA Board, in a fit of anti-democratic elitism, negated that vote by deciding to voice opposition to I-1240, thereby going against the will of their constituents.

It's an effective bit of rhetoric that will be convincing - for folks who don't know anything about the issue other than what Ms Finne has told them. It is also, of course, completely false.

Let's begin with the WSPTA and the anti-democratic nature of their legislative assembly. The meetings and the vote are held over two days in a SeaTac hotel. So first of all, the only people who can attend and vote are those who can afford to spend two days in SeaTac. Sorry, working people, not you. Sorry middle-class folks from outside the area, not you. Then, in case that wasn't enough of a barrier, there is a registration fee of over $100. So let's not pretend that the legislative assembly represents some ideal of democracy. The vote on charters at the assembly was 170-92, which means that out of the tens of thousands of PTA members, only 262 got to vote on this resolution. Hardly a shining example of democracy in 2012 when the PTA could have allowed every member to vote online at almost no cost. It wouldn't have been a good example of democracy in 1912 when every member could have voted by mail.

But never mind that. Didn't they vote to support charter schools? Yes, they did. Actually, if you bother to learn more about it than the headline, they voted to give conditional support to charter schools. The legislative assembly voted to support charter schools only if the charter school law meet conditions for local control and only if it includes assurances of family involvement in decision-making. I-1240 doesn't include those elements and therefore does not meet the conditions for WSPTA support.

So the WSPTA Board vote endorsing a NO vote on I-1240, rather than negating the position of the WSPTA Legislative Assembly, actually aligns with the position of the Legislative Assembly.

I presume that Ms Finne knows this. This means one of two things. Either she is making an intentionally false argument to try to counter the impact of the WSPTA Board's vote on an ignorant electorate, or she represents something much more dangerous: dichotomous thinking.

Could it be that Ms Finne's understanding is that there are only two possibilities: either you are for charters or you are against charters. Does she think that there is no middle ground, no place for nuance, and no conditional response possible? Does she think that either you support them, all of them in all cases, or oppose them, all of them in all cases? That would be very bad. It would be particularly bad for the Charter School Commission because one of the qualification for eligibility to serve on that commission is support for charter schools. How could someone who supports charter schools ever decide to close one?

If the members of the Charter School Commission support charter schools in this dichotomous way, they would never vote to close one. That would negate all of the assurances of accountability for charter schools in this initiative. That's a negation of a vote that I would complain about.


Unknown said...

The best you can say about Finne's arguments is that they are sometimes clever pieces of hackery admirable for the skill she employs to hoodwink her unsuspecting readers rather than to honestly persuade them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, the Legislative Assembly was last fall and the Convention was in May. So the two places she references votes were then.

However, the Legislative Assembly blindsided many people who did not expect that charters would be one of the items to be considered for the platform of items to push in the Legislature.

And, like in the Legislative Assembly, there was quite the feel of being railroaded at the Convention. Many PTA members - without me asking - complained about how the vote was carried out. Charlie has pointed out the many barriers for many regular PTA folks to even attend that convention (and the charter supporters knew it).

However, Finne is wrong and I'm pretty sure she knows it. The WSPTA is standing up for the principles that are in the National PTA's position on charters. They clearly state that charter law has got to have clear parent involvement (I-1240 doesn't) and local oversight (it does but frankly, I doubt there many school boards that would become authorizers given how hard this initiative would hit their districts and their budgets). That would leave the Charter Commission which has NO oversight and there is nothing local about them.

Again, the WSPTA did the RIGHT thing. I'm sure if this initiative had been better written (and I have to wonder why it is so vague and so aggressive but then, they used a template from out-of-state), the WSPTA would have supported it.

Browbeating the WSPTA is not going to change their minds. That certainly is an affront to their integrity to even suggest such a thing. I don't even want to think what PTAs would think if they did such a thing.

Jack is right; Finne never lets facts get in the way. She's bright enough to do her homework and know the real facts and then ignore them in her zeal to get what she thinks is right.

I sense some desperation here.

Jan said...

I think I sense much optimism in sensing desperation. Desperation implies that she thinks she may lose, and is spinning and dissembling in a frantic effort to save a dying cause. I hope you are right. But when I read this, what I sense is a bad combination of hubris and condescension. I think that she and her allies in this cause simply believe that voters are too ignorant and too unsophisticated to see through the deceptions, the spin, and the huge flaws of this bill -- and will vote for it because they surround it with the (fake) puppies and rainbows of choice, cost control, and educational opportunity.

I hope you are right. I hope she has ample reason to feel desperate and just as Washington voters saw through the spin and faulty reasoning of the initial liquor reform bill (written by and for the benefit of Costco), they will read this legislation and realize that it was written by, and for the purpose of lining the pockets of, the national, for-profit ed reform industry. It is a bald-faced, flat-out transfer of public tax money into private hands, with virtually no controls with respect to effective use of transferred funds, academic results for students, or long term positive effect on the state's public education system.

seattle citizen said...

Speaking of spin around charters, and how the few who are pro-1240 might be getting desperate, Danny Westneat, in the Times today, argues for local effort and contributions to our elections instead of out-of-state or just a few rich...men...buying the election such as we see with the millions being spent on the pro-1240 charter effort.
Out-of-state money chooses what we vote on
"What's refreshing about the gay-marriage fight in Washington state is that, so far, it is unexpectedly unspoiled by out-of-state poison. Unfortunately, rumor has it that's about to change....
the charter-schools measure, Initiative 1240. It ]the pro-charter few] spent a staggering $2.6 million on signature gatherers — more than $6 per signature.
That was a few rich folks, Bill Gates and some others, just buying their way onto the ballot. Probably because there was no army of impassioned volunteers burning to go door to door in the name of charter schools."

TracyM said...

This year, the Legislative Assembly will be held in Bellevue, which is fitting, because the majority of people who attend Leg Assembly and Convention are from Region 2.