Upcoming Elections and Public Education in Seattle

This fall the citizens of Seattle will be voting for mayor.  As of now, I believe there are seven candidates.  I have interviewed one of them - Peter Steinbrueck - and have Kate Martin on tap.  I will reach out to Mayor McGinn but from working with him over the last several years, I have a good idea of his views. 

One of the candidates is Councilman Tim Burgess.  The Councilman has been deeply involved in Seattle public education and was a big supporter of the Families & Education levy.  He also has shown a propensity for behind-the-scenes con-fabs with high-level SPS leaders and it is unclear to me whether he ever shared any of this information with other councilmembers.  (We have public disclosure e-mails to thank for this info.) 

Now I see that Councilman Burgess is being thrown a fundraiser this week by the following people:
Michael and Marie DeBell, Sherry Carr, Clover Codd, Bree Dusseault , Chris Eide, David Elliot, Christina Gonzalez, Chris Korsmo, Peter Maier, Lisa Macfarlane, Harium Martin-Morris and Steve Sundquist.

I'm assuming the other Board members weren't invited but who knows?

I have a request into the Councilman's campaign office to ask about this fundraiser vis a vis his vision for Seattle public education and ed reform.  I note that that sponsor list is a virtual who's who list of ed reform supporters in Seattle. 

I also wanted to bring up what is happening out in LA with their Board elections via the Daily Kos:

A group of billionaires and astroturf groups is trying to buy a Los Angeles school board election to expand the corporate education policy agenda in that city. One big goal is to defeat one-term incumbent and former teacher Steve Zimmer. The "Coalition for School Reform" has gotten $1 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But the group wasn't exactly broke before Bloomberg's contribution, according to the LA Times:
Education and arts philanthropist Eli Broad leads the way with a contribution of $250,000 to the coalition, which includes L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Also in for $250,000 is billionaire A. Jerrold Perenchio, who headed the Univision network for years. Lynda Resnick, the entrepreneur behind POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and other ventures, has donated $100,000 to the coalition. Investor Marc Nathanson and his wife, Jane, have together given $100,000.
Bloomberg's former schools chancellor, Joel Klein, who now runs NewsCorp's education division, looking to turn corporate "reform" into profit for Rupert Murdoch, also chipped in $25,000, followed by another $25,000 this week. Also this week, Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst threw in $250,000.  

Millions of dollars for a School Board seat?   Things that make you go, "hmm."

From the LA Times:

The 2013 school board races have barely started and they have already attracted more than $4 million in donations. Compare that to 1978, when Bobbi Fielder spent $56,000 to win a seat on the board.

Unlike in Fiedler’s time, most of the money this year isn’t coming from individual donations. It’s coming from independent committees that can raise unlimited amounts of cash.

For years the teachers union was the outside group that spent the most. It got Mark Slavkin elected in 1989. But the scale was still much smaller.

“Mostly we were getting checks in the mail every day from individual teachers to $10, $12, $15,” he said. “It was a massive, grass roots effort and at the end of the day all this combined, we raised just over $250,000.”

Spending jumped again in 2009. That’s when new laws removed limits on how much independent expenditure committees for school board races could raise and spend. By this time L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had renamed Riordan’s group the Coalition for School Reform.

The Coalition’s campaign manager, Janelle Erickson,  said the group supports candidates who’ll push for reforms to teacher evaluations, grow charter schools, and support Superintendent John Deasy.

“What’s at stake (is) our superintendent who’s turning our school district around and what’s at stake is a reform minded, progressive school board,” Erickson said.

From the LA Times:

Veteran journalist Jamie Alter Lynton also has donated $100,000. She's married to Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Like Chernin, she's on the board of the fundraising nonprofit organized by Deasy.

Lynton's new venture, launched in August, is the L.A. School Report, which has covered the school board elections extensively. In a December editorial, she criticized the teachers union for opposing legislation that would speed up the dismissal of teachers accused of gross misconduct, faulting union leadership for continuing "to insist on sacrificing student well-being to protect even pedophiles."

First of all, no teachers union is protecting pedophiles.  That is a nasty and unpleasant thing to say without a shred of evidence. 

Second, is this what is coming for us?  I predict:

- At least one ex-TFA being a School Board candidate (and let's just go with Chris Eide since he seems to be trying (desperately it seems) to have a high profile in this town
- Massive amounts of money spent including money pouring in from outside interests.  Now this seemed to not matter a whole lot for the charter schools campaign so maybe it won't matter come this fall to voters.  That said, one person donating a million dollars to a school board campaign would likely get a lot of attention.
- A very nasty and not-focused-on-what-REALLY-needs-to-get-done campaign.

We might to start connecting the dots now for people who might be missing what is coming.


Anonymous said…
As a school board candidate in the 2011 election cycle, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank 36th District State Rep. Reuven Carlyle for taking action in 2012 to include school board races in the same state campaign limit guidances as apply to county and city races.

Reuven Carlyle's sponsored legislation (HB 2210) was eventually passed into law and took effect 6/7/12.

This legislation was important for three reasons:

1) It acknowledges the powerful role that board members play in steering the direction of a school district. Washington State was rather behind the times, until recently, in understanding the political and social pressures often placed on local school board members.

2) It discourages the perception that a school board member has been "purchased" to advance the cause of a specific individual agenda. (Note I say "discourages"...as there are indeed well-organized local, regional and national persons and interest groups wishing to finance specific board candidates to advance particular public education philosophies...and that is their right, as long as the contributions adhere to campaign finance law.)

3) It encourages a wider group of citizens to step up to run for public service. School board positions should not be perceived as obtainable only for retired, wealthy, or connected-to-wealth candidates. A variety of perspectives and backgrounds is important for school districts to serve their diverse communities.

In short, Carlyle's legislation will have a positive effect in 2013 and beyond on school district races throughout Washington State.


Michelle Buetow
Anonymous said…
Looks like the business education reform set is locked and loaded for the mayoral election. How kind of them to show their faces early, so I know how not to vote. If only they'd included a few PTSA names - I know they're lurking in that group - we could have had a full list of the busiest beavers working to undermine a system that needs help not dismantlement.

If anyone out there attends the party, do let us know who else attends.

How appropriate that my anti-robot code to type in below is "911"

Anonymous said…
Now I see that Councilman Burgess is being thrown a fundraiser this week by the following people:
Michael and Marie DeBell, Sherry Carr, Clover Codd, Bree Dusseault , Chris Eide, David Elliot, Christina Gonzalez, Chris Korsmo, Peter Maier, Lisa Macfarlane, Harium Martin-Morris and Steve Sundquist.

Thanks, now I'm certain I'm not voting for Burgess.

Solvay Girl
Watching said…
Thanks for keeping up with Burgess. I particularily appreciate the FOIA requests.

This is a crowded race and Burgess is no way guaranteed a win. I'll do all that I can to prevent it, too.

Burgess never took a public position on I 1240 despite calls from his constituents'; the same constituents that voted for the Family education levy- and recently passed $1.2 BEX and operational levy. He cleverly (atleast he thought) told Publicola that he didn't "support" I 1240, but he didn't opppose it either. Nice play on words, but he isn't fooling anyone.
Charlie Mas said…
How many board members can get together before they violate the open meetings act?

I expect there is an exemption for social events. There should be.
Patrick said…
Charlie: I expect there is an exemption for social events. There should be.

Why should there be such an exemption? If the point is for some of them not to making deals or alliances behind others' backs, the last thing you'd want is them chatting over drinks, isn't it?
Anonymous said…
The people no doubt headed for the Burgess fundraiser are some of the same people who now won't be able to pony up huge checks this fall to create a Burgess & School Board Corporate Reform Cabal.

Glad to know from Buetow's post that Carlyle put a stop to the cocktail ed reform's Millionaire Donors strategy. Good for him despite the fact that I still think he has allegiance behind the scenes to some of that group. I guess time will show that.

Anonymous said…
So three board members have made endorsements for mayor already? I want to know who the other four are backing. Melissa, Charlie, this would be a good question for the Blog to ask. Especially Smith-Blum because she runs this year doesn't she? She is sometimes slippery in her commitments. Who does she align with for mayor? Stake in the ground and all that. I want to know from the other 3 too. And whether any of them give actual $$ to the candidates.

Burgess absolutely played a game about 1240 because it works well for him. He had no political courage to go either way and that's something to remember as well.

Charlie, I'll ask about that number of Board members in one place socially. I already have a call into the Ethics officer on another issue.
Linh-Co said…
What does it take to have a mayoral take over of our district? Can Burgess suggest this if he wins?
One thought, though, this is a political event so I'm not sure they get to take off their political hats if it is.
Someone said…
I actually wondered about that open meeting act thing too - I think this quote from a paper on the act illustrates where the "line in the sand" might be drawn...

"To constitute a meeting, the event need not take place in a formal setting. "A meeting is any occasion at which action is taken." RCW 42.30.020(4). Action is defined as the "transaction of official business" and includes discussion, consideration, public testimony, review, evaluation and other deliberation, as well as final action."

So I read that to mean that there is not (nor should there be) an exception for social gatherings, if something the act loosely describes as "action" takes place. Ambiguous certainly - but interesting ;o)

Here's an example from the document, where a social setting still qualified as a OPMA violation:
In 1999, the auditor held that some members of the Monroe City Council violated the OPMA when they met at a local restaurant after public meetings...the members of the governing body discussed business in addition to
socializing. ...The business discussions constituted action, and thus the gatherings were meetings, held in violation of the OPMA.

Anonymous said…
So has anyone expressed interest in running for DeBell or Smith-Blum's seat this fall? Didn't this blog say DeBell isn't running again? I remember a bunch of solid candidates in Smith-Blum's district last time around...Jesse Hagopian who is now nationally famous, and Joanna Cullen who knew her neighborhood issues very well and Mary Bass, who was the incumbent. No one ran against DeBell last time, I think? Who will step up there?

Anonymous said…
@ Linh-Co: A mayoral candidate can propose anything she/he wants. McGinn came close to proposing a city takeover of SPS in the last election, though he never outright said that, I think, and he subsequently seemingly backed away from the idea.

Certainly we should all be asking candidates on their opinion about this.

It also just occurred to me that a Burgess mayoral administration would be a likely place for ex-school-board members aligned with him to find employment. The other names on tomorrow's fundraising list - from LEV, DFER, Teachers United, would no doubt support such appointments.

It will certainly be an interesting mayoral election.

Someone said, I found that same quote and I think they very much will be skirting that line. The invitation says it is a "discussion" and for Board members, a discussion is action. And, there will be three of them there.

I interviewed McGinn about that mayoral takeover last time. He was only saying if there was a crisis.

Now Burgess, he'd do it and in a New York minute. If he thought he couldn't control the Board and the Superintendent, I think he would. He would have to get it through the Legislature but hey, with a pal like Rodney Tom, it's possible.
Anonymous said…
Interesting to see DAVE ELLIOT is on this Burgess for Mayor bandwagon. Dave is the principal at Queen Anne Elementary, one of the Creative Approach to Schools (CAS) sites. There was some suspicion that QAE would be taken over as a Charter School but that was dismissed by parents who worked to get CAS status. Seeing Dave's name on this fundraiser list with so many Charter advocates gives me pause.

QAE parent
mirmac1 said…
District Watcher,

Based on my read of public records (many which are not posted online), I see KSB as carefully walking the tightrope between the cabal and the great unwashed. I believe she remembers every slight those blowhards threw her way. I sure would...
Just Saying said…
Burgess will ask you for dollars for the F&E Levy and he will ask you for your endorsement, but he is unwilling to answer the call of his constituents on important issues.

My guess is that he is more than willing to support charter schools, take the levy dollars that we ok'd..and take your ability to control tax-payer (and levy0 dollars out of your hands and place it into the hands of
an unelected board i.e Charter Commission.

I wouldn't worry about Smith-Blum. She is a strong and independent woman that has taken many unfair blows from Varner and Brewster. I'm confident she will do right by our children.

Anonymous said…
Suppose that the SEA-WEA wasn't completely compromised / sold out with their seat at the table "strategy" - they'd be ramping, now, up to pay Burgess back in this primary.

Suppose that these purported grassroots democratic organizations, such as the teacher's union, weren't fixated on phake top down grassroots - suppose that solidarity meant "GET OUT AND DO SOMETHING", instead of

'get out and do what we tell you do to, oh crapped on and peed on and stomped on grassroots' -

of the almost 5000 SEA members and 70 or 80,000 WEA members, there would be PLENTY of people working to politically pay back Burgess.

Good for timmy - the "leaders" of his opponents are bleating outside timmy's door, waiting for their dose of mush, terrified of losing their seat at the kidde table.

Good thing for timmy - 'grassroots' is so dysfunctional

Linh-Co said…
It's interesting that the invite says, " Join Seattle Educators to support our friend Tim Burgess for mayor." How many of these people are actually educators? Sara Morris and Greg Wong are also on the list of supporters.
If the gang of four and DeBell think Mr Burgess is a suitable mayoral candidate the only logical conclusion is he is an unsuitable candidate. I was on the fence, not now.
Luckily I have other media friends who are interested in the mayoral race. I hope they pick up on this one and ask some hard questions. Or, at least keep an eye on this.

Burgess doesn't have a lock on anything (and may have forgotten that 1240 lost in Seattle).
Nick Esparza said…
1240 did Win in Washington State so deal with it Melissa Westbrook
Patrick said…
Nick, the point is that having supported 1240 is not necessarily going to make him more popular with Seattle voters.

n said…
Seattle schools principal at Queen Anne Elementary David Elliott? That's interesting. I don't see principals often involved in politics for some reason. At least not publicly.
Anonymous said…
The Susan Enfield Fan Club that is hosting this event must be terrified of the principled and intelligent stand of the Garfield teachers.

These real educators are the nightmare of the poseur hosts, who either left the classroom and school building ASAP or never served in one in the first place.

Hopefully, the SEA can get some backbone from this MAP episode. Having a union in name only has enabled these ineffective politicos to co-opt the name "educator", while seeking self gain at any cost.

Real educators need to oppose in full force an ambitious sycophant like Tim Burgess.

--enough already
Enough, you raise a point that does confuse me. I see SEA leadership as very much going along with a lot of what is being done.

Now, is this going along to get along? Meaning, better to be at the table, trying to shape the discussion rather than just fighting it?

Is it a cynical thing for some in leadership who want power (and hanging around with these powerful people will rub off)?

I don't know because I'm not privy to union politics. I don't see WEA acting as SEA does.

But if I were in the union, I'd be asking some hard questions. One of them would be "Did you or any SEA rep attend this party?"
Anonymous said…
Melissa, for many decades millions have been convinced that there are appx. 2 choices - the supposed 'seat at the table' OR zip, nada, nothing.

We know no bodies keep voting for 'seat at the table' "Leaders" and we keep suffering. WHY have the bottom 90+% of us been steam rolled by the minions of the 1%? Well, when your goal is to rip off 99% of the population, you need to be really good at lying.

It REALLY helps when your slick lies convince the other side that the latest lie is a moderate, bipartisan, grown up choice! It REALLY helps when your opposition "leaders" are politically pathetic, or, grovelling for their table scraps.

In 4 years of some SEA-WEA involvement, I've seen ZERO evidence of "leaders" having learned lessons that Clinton & Obama learned after Mondale, Dukakis and Gore. YOU and YOUR BLOG did more to fight against the charter bill than the last minute few hundred thousand the WEA tossed in.

The real question SEA members should be asking - why isn't their union "leadership" figuring out how to pay back Burgess & his band of privateers.

Anonymous said…
I recall SEA Prez J Knapp twisting himself into contortions to get the Creative Approach Schools MOU through, while Burgess sat at the back of the Board meeting room like a Mafioso crime boss.

Anyone but Burgess
Anonymous said…
In my passionate questioning, I forget a couple of key sets of questions.

Given the millions of members of the teachers unions, given the hundreds of millions a year in funds they collect, why is the choice being a toady at the chump table, or, saying "No!"?

Why isn't there counter messaging which is effective, instead of pathetic? Why is the messaging always some kind of "Love The Way You Lie" kind of garbage? 'We better accept this little whomping or they'll whomp us worse!'

It is exactly what the right wing has done to a complacent branch of the Democratic Party for decades - and when you're 1 of the 1/2 million households in WA living on over $100,000 a year, instead of 1 of the 2,000,000 living on less, you can afford to call the latest sell out a "compromise".

Oh well, since the union is concerned with its survival, first, last and always, Burgess and Rodney are better off with a sould out company union than getting rid of the unions!


Anonymous said…
I had the same response as Solvay Girl. I saw the list of folks fundraising for Tim Burgess and knew I would never vote for him.

I wouldn't anyway. My observations of him in small meetings regarding the Family and Education Levy has me thinking "slimy" every time I hear his name.

I don't trust him or his agenda.


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