School Board Race Analysis and Thoughts

In some ways, it's been a disappointing School Board election season.  With no challenger for Betty Patu and no real challenger for Stephan Blanford, neither have really been heard from.  For whatever reason, more forums have only featured Suzanne Dale Estey and Sue Peters.  This is something of a disservice to voters because, while I like Betty Patu, I think anyone running to retain their seat should be questioned.  Ditto on any new candidate like Blanford.

But to the marquee race that is Peters versus Dale Estey.  

Dale Estey's own campaign has raised a little over $124k (spent $70k).
Peters' campaign has raised  just under $31k (spent $13k).
PAC for Dale Estey's campaign (Great Seattle Schools) - $102k (spent $52k).
Blanford's campaign has raised just under $31k (spent $22k).

So Dale Estey's supporters have raised about $226k.  There has NEVER been that kind of money raised before in the history of Seattle School Board elections.

An interesting comparison is the number of high-end donors.

Dale Estey - 25 people or PACS (including Eli Lilly of Indianpolis) giving $900 (some twice).   That about $22,000 right there.
Newest contributors - again, former CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer and his wife and Bill Gates, Sr. and companies like Eli Lilly (for the second time) and Vulcan.  That's some kind of firepower for a Seattle School Board race.
As well, Dale Estey has about 150 people who gave between just under $900-100.  Most of that is in the $750-400 range which is very big number of upper-end donors (keeping in mind that campaign rates are $900 per election, for the primary and the general).  Ask anyone who is running a current candidate campaign if they have that kind of percentage of donors in the high end range.  I'd bet the answer is no.

Dale Estey said at the Maple Leaf event that there was nothing wrong with taking money from businesses and that there were lots of small business owners out there.  Yes, but that's not reflected in her donor list.

Peters - six people gave $900 and 45 people gave under $900-$100, most of those in the $100 range.

One final word on Dale Estey's money - she wants more.  Her campaign claims they need another $20k to mail flyers.  Folks, I ran a political campaign and believe me, her campaign has more than enough money to send flyers to every voter in the city.  No, I think the money is needed because they want to do tv ads (like Peter Maier did last time) but I believe they hope to have enough money for either one of the three big networks and in primetime.

For example, Dale Estey has far more elected officials but Peters has the overwhelming majority of Democratic legislative districts.  That's an interesting thing that the elected Dems favor one candidate versus the more grassroots legislative districts (who do a lot of heavy lifting to get those Dems elected).  Why the disconnect?

Dale Estey's endorsement list is deep but also contains a who's who of ed reform in the state.  There is no missing that and I note that it now includes former TFAer Dean Tom Stritikus and former TFAer Chris Eide.

Dale Estey can say SHE doesn't support charters or TFA but boy, most of her supporters - especially the big money ones - do.  Again, that's quite the disconnect.

I tried to check Dale Estey's newest endorsements but neither her website nor her Facebook page provides that kind of update.

Peters' newest endorsements are: the Green Party, the Seattle Medium (the largest African American owned and operated newspaper in the Pacific Northwest) and the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO.  

Both candidates believe the other is being unfair.  Dale Estey says Peters' campaign is disrespectful (I'm unclear what that is about beyond the charge of saying that it appears that most of Dale Estey's support comes from ed reformers.)  Peters says that Dale Estey's campaign has omitted/ignored factual information about her and played unfairly (see Jean Bryant's e-mail).

On that issue, I note that Dale Estey's Facebook page (not her campaign website where most voters would go) says this:

Over the last few days, I’ve been asked about one of our campaign volunteer's actions. We have had a great outpouring from volunteers across Seattle, so I was surprised as anyone to read about these issues. To be clear: I do not condone negative campaign tactics by anyone who works for, volunteers with or supports my campaign. I hope my opponent would be willing to say and stand by the same, as the disrespectful attacks by her and her supporters have been consistent for months and are extremely disappointing. 

First, I warned Dale Estey about Jean and this possibility occurring.  Either Suzanne did nothing about it or asked Jean not to send the e-mail and Bryant sent the e-mail anyway.  Either one is not good.  But for Dale Estey to say "I was surprised" is a surprise to me.  (I also note that she still includes Bryant on her list of endorsers as an "education leader."  That surprises me and says maybe what Bryant did did not really matter to her.)

Second, I'm not sure what the "disrespectful" attacks are and I hope she doesn't mean me because I have said good things about her qualifications.   

Issues (remember those?):
Dale Estey's website confuses me because she has "priorities" and "commitments."  Both are as bland and unfocused as the first time I read them.  Take out the Seattle/Washington State references and it could be a school board race almost anywhere.  

Here's another example from her Facebook page:

I know we can eliminate out of school suspensions (through restorative discipline) and achieve 100% graduation rates (with diplomas that mean something) if we get focused and work together.

What does that really mean?  I don't know.  Is she saying that the current Board and entire district is not focused and doesn't work together?  (Again, that's going to be one interesting first day on the job if she gets elected.  I'm thinking between what she has said about the Board and the district, things might be a bit chilly.)  And fyi, there is NO urban district in the country that has now (or ever) achieve 100% graduation rates.  

Here's what Peters says under "Why I'm Running for School Board":

Learning from the experience of other states and nations, it is clear that the right direction is away from the current national obsession with high-stakes standardized testing, uniformity, overcrowded classrooms,  antagonism toward professional teachers, and instead a move towards richer and solid curricula, creativity, collaboration, respect for the teaching profession and a dedication to promoting  the joy of learning in our schools and all our children.

We need to foster a public education system that embraces and celebrates the individuality of all our children and facilitates their ability to reach their full potential, whether that be through the arts, sciences, mathematics, humanities, music, or all of the above.

We need to make fiscally responsible decisions that prioritize directing resources to the classroom.
I believe that too often there has been a disconnect between decisions that are made at district headquarters, and the needs and realities of our schools and families.

Also kind of bland but she goes out on a limb and says she favors less testing and uniformity, lower class sizes, and richer curricula with more arts and sciences.   And then, there's my favorite, "fiscally responsible decisions."   I have been on this bandwagon for a long time and I suspect that sometime soon, this issue of being fiscally responsible is going to flare up again in this district. 

I have one more separate thread to write about this issue of Board dysfunction that Dale Estey and her supporters say over and over, .  I note that yet another Dale Estey supporter (and uber-ed reformer), Lisa Macfarlane, sent out her own personal e-mail to people she knows (which is fine).  Well it would be fine but, like a lot of information sent out in Dale Estey's support, is distorted. 

The separate thread is going to parse out what Macfarlane says and will contain something I found at the district archives while looking through Board minutes (and seeing that Dale Estey went to four-five whole Board meetings during her high school service time on the Inter-High Council).

 It's the words of a departing Board member in the late '80s and her take on the School Board.  Might give some backstory to this whole "the Board is dysfunctional"cry.


Big Money said…
Pretty shocking when you look at the ratios of the totals. Dale Estey (including the PAC) has raised $226,000 and spent $122,000. Sue Peters has raised $31,000 and spent $13,000.

That means Sue Peters is being outspent 9 to 1 so far and, in the end when everything is spent, will be outspent over 5 to 1. Hard to believe anyone can compete against that kind of disparity. This election looks bought and paid for.
Heard The News said…
Sue Peters is also endorsed by the WEA/SEA.

via: WEA-PAC results
Anonymous said…
It didn't work in LA: the reformers candidate had lots of money, but Monica Ratliff - the community's candidate - won. Perhaps the same will happen here. There are plenty of people I've run into who are turned off by all the big money in the race and are planning to vote Peters solely for that reason. All the big donors - out of state donors , no less - make them nervous. They wonder who will be pulling Estey's puppet strings if she wins.

Unknown said…
I just received another flyer for Susanne Dale-Etsey, with a curious and prominent endorsement by "Monica Mace, NE Seattle parent and PTA leader." I'm pretty sure candidate endorsements by PTA's or their leaders puts the PTA's 501(c)3 status at risk. Interesting.
Crownhill said…
There'e s a good post on PTA candidate endorsement rules on this site out of Massachusetts - since the rules are Federal, worth knowning the score.

As Mary states, it's problematic for that parent to be using her PTA role in an endorsing publication but depends on how it was worded I think

Endorsing Candidates. The organization itself is prohibited from endorsing candidates. Individuals associated with PTAs can publicly endorse candidates for office, but should not use their PTA title or office. The IRS will allow personal endorsements of candidates by PTA officials as long they do not use the organization's financial resources, facilities, or personnel. Also, the officials must clearly and unambiguously indicate the actions taken or statements made are those of the individuals and not of the organization

IRS, Politics and Non-Profits
Eric B said…
Mary, the PTA can't endorse, but the person can endorse as a private citizen. Calling them a PTA leader is getting into a slightly gray area, but it probably still OK since the PTA didn't take a specific vote to endorse Estey.
Eric B said…
Tacking on to what I said a minute ago, they don't use Ms. Mace's specific title, so they're on the edges of the law, but probably OK. Per what Crownhill said, if the endorsement read "Monica Mace, Bryant PTA President" it would be on the wrong side. Still, I dislike campaigns that carefully walk the right side of the knife edge.
Po3 said…
"I dislike campaigns that carefully walk the right side of the knife edge."

Well said and to me this feels reminiscent of MGJ's tenure and the MAPS contract.
Sarah said…
Estey's web-page and she doesn't go out on a limb on anything. As a matter of fact, Estey's web-page is silent on the issue of charter schools.

I give Peters credit for taking positions on controversial issues.

Estey wants prenatal care and I agree this is very important, but it is not the role of a school board member.

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