Who Was Propping Up Washington State Charter Schools After Supreme Court Ruling?
I finally received one charter school's documents that I had requested via public disclosure; these were from Green Dot's Destiny Middle School.
Now it took some doing because initially a couple of charters did not want to give me anything, saying they weren't public schools. When I pressed them on handing over documents that were created during the time that they were charter schools, then I got an okay but was put off to "March or April." I'm still waiting for a couple of other schools. (I note that Rep. Gerry Pollet also got this runaround which should tell you something.)
Green Dot itself only sent them to me in hard copy which, of course, makes it more difficult to copy from and track. They said they have to buy special "software" to send them to me electronically. Guess what was in the huge stack of documents? A letter dated October 2015 to a law firm saying that Green Dot would be sending them public disclosure documents...electronically.
Here's the narrative I wrote about the time right after the September 4, 2015 Supreme Court ruling that struck down the charter school law to about the end of December. The narrative does have an Executive Summary but really, to get the full impact, you should read the entire narrative.
Busy, frantic, scheming is how you would describe the actions of the charter schools in the e-mails, their supporters, OSPI, State Superintendent Randy Dorn and, most of all, the Washington State Charter Schools Association.
About the Supreme Court, the head of Excel charter school, Gillian Williams – in a September 6, 2015 e-mail to other charter school leaders - said this:
"This fight is not over and the truth-telling about the crass media play of this court at the cost of students who most need support has not even begun."
September 4, 2015 Tom Franta CEO of WSCSA to charter school leaders:
Guys, The Supreme Court just ruled, and it looks bad…very bad
Anne Martens at the Gates Foundation wants to throw a bake sale at charter school rally for PR stunt to get the media to yet another rally. She wrote to Bree Dusseault at Destiny Middle School and Jen Wickens at Summit Sierra:
The teacher Union in Seattle is organizing a soup drive to feed the teacher(sic) as they go on strike and the media is loving itBut Jen Wickens at Summit didn't want to do this because they had told families they DID have the money for the year and didn’t want to confuse the issue.
Did you note that Wickens said they told families they had money to finish the school year? Yes, within the week, they had the money.
from Chad Soleo, Vice President of Advancement at Green Dot Public Schools.
We have cleared a big hurdle already in this step. We’ve secured financial commitments to keep us open throughout the year without reliance on public funding.From a September 12th e-mail from Dave Stewart at Vulcan to Andrew Jassy at Amazon (Mr. Jassy is on the board of
Ballmer is contributing $5M. He has not yet allocated the amounts, but it will be spread across bridging local charter schools, advocacy and other support.Why did they want to wait? Because then they could continue to find more funders, could ask charter families for money and
Nick Hanauer, Eli Broad and Alice Walton are also likely to make significant contributions, although it is not clear to what extent it will be allocated to bridging existing schools, advocacy or other support.
The charter association and funder representatives agreed to wait 2-3 weeks before announcing these grants.
schools have money from existing grant sources to maintain operations into October. Therefore, we anticipate waiting until late-September, early October to release any funds so that we may determines the final funding gap needed.So there was no fire to put out on that front. In fact:
September 23rd e-mail from Marguerite Kondracke (Social Venture Partners Seattle) to Marco Petruzzi (CEO of Green Dot Public Schools) as well as Bree Dusseault (head of Green Dot Washington) and Andrew Buhayar (on charter board at Excel: )
So we are still going to receive payments from the state, according to the Seattle Times? If so, let’s put it in a reserve account. Odds are, we will be asked to pay it back if the court ruling stands.Reply from Marco Petruzzi to Bree Dusseault at Green Dot as well as Marguerite Kondracke and Andrew Buhayar:
I think we spend the funds, since we have a backstop with Gates. I’ve rarely seen a situation where we would have to return funds. But this may be it.It's a lovely thing to have not one, but two pots of money to fund your schools.
Who else was helping to prop up these schools?
Sep 7th e-mail from Rekha Bhatt at WA Charters to Charter leaders
On agenda for conference callSeptember 12 e-mail from Mitch Price, Director of Policy and Government Relations at WA Charters
School operations - work with Randy Dorn and Rob McKenna to ensure a path forward (independent schools, home school, ALE possibly pilot)
I see no need for schools to collect or submit homeschool petitions this week, given the expedited reviews of private schools applications and the ALE contract process, the fact that OSPI has said ALE apportionment dollars could flow even before an ALE contract is executed and the email fro Dierk starting (sic) that school districts have no authority to refuse to accept a declaration of intent to homeschool past the 15 day window.Here's the one that was most troubling:
Nov. 19 Dave Powell at Stand for Children to Franta and Green Dot
But with the signature on transfer forms - we know the District staff are much more open to charters than the Board. I can call Josh Garcia, whom I have a good and candid relationship with and ask directly him directly (sic) about how they would direct their staff on signing transfer forms, I feel like there is a way to get the senior staff there to give a quiet go-ahead to their staff under the boards (sic) radar and if the board gets wind of the signing of transfer forms, there is a pretty easy answer back from the Supt that its(sic) biz as Normal. Let me know if such a call is desired or helpful. Don't want to tip people off either though.To note, Josh Garcia is the Deputy Superintendent of Tacoma (he was awarded the "leader to learn from” award by Education Week this year) and yet Mr. Powell at Stand for Children believed he could persuade Mr. Garcia to direct Tacoma School District staff to act “under the boards (sic) radar” AND figured an “out” for Mr. Garcia. Mr. Powell of Stand is stated at Green Dot's website as one of the "founders" of the Green Dot school in Tacoma.
Nov. 22 Bill Kiolbasa at WSCSA to Tom Franta at WSCSA, Stand for Children, Green Dot:
I agree on coordinated effort, but I think this is a good start. The overall ALE agreement may be a district issues, but if choice transfer forms are signed all the time, and we have some mid-level allies who will do this, that would seem to be simple cover"On what Mary Walker School District should do, here's the advice WA Charters gives them:
Nov. 30 Maggie Meyers at WA Charters writes to Kevin Jacka at MWSD:
First, we want to thank you again to your willingness to work with us and your commitment to providing a quality, public education for all Washington students. As this issue gains attention we wanted to provide you with a media response plan in the likely event that press reach out to you directly. Our recommendation is that Mary Walker decline any interviews and instead provide a short statement. Our team can handle any further questions.Washington State Charter Commission
September 12, e-mail from Mitch Price at WA Charters
The other looming question is whether the Commission will consider it a breach of contract to shift to another designation. Yesterday I ran into Josh and he told me that he and Eileen (Aileen) were "looking into it" but considering saying we breach our batter contract if we go homeschool and removing our charter status if families apply. My assumption is applying for private school or ALE would warrant the same response of homeschool does, given homeschool is the lowest level of breach.'This issue has never been publicly addressed. Would charter schools be in breach of contract with the Washington State Charter Commission because they were now providing services to students in a manner different than described in the contracts that were signed? Or if they aren't charters but public schools now but go back to being charters...exactly what does this all mean?
If this was all happening in just three months of existence for these charters and this is just one school's public disclosure documents, I wonder what else will turn up.
You cannot have charter schools and their supporters believing there is a way to circumvent regulations and laws.
You cannot have charter schools and their supporters believing that it's okay to go around (or around the backs of) elected school board members to get what they want.
You cannot have charter schools and their supporters taking money from two sources to support their schools and not publicly revealing that fact.
I have given other reasons why the Governor should not sign the charter school bill before him but now there is all of this.
It is deeply troubling and he should veto the bill.