Washington State: Charter School Backers Want to Oust Judge Who Authored Anti-Charter Decision

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Washington State: Charter School Backers Want to Oust Judge Who Authored Anti-Charter Decision

"Billionaires don’t send their own children to public schools, but think they have the right to kill them because they prefer privately run schools," Ravitch writes. (Photo: Chris Devers/flickr/cc)

Voters of Washington State, wake up!

The billionaires who have been trying to privatize your public schools are up to their old tricks.

Bill Gates and his pals have been pushing charters schools since the late 1990s. There have been four referenda on charter schools in Washington State. The privatizers lost the first three, but swamped the race with millions in their 2012 campaign and won by a razor-thin margin, defeating the NAACP, teachers, parents, the League of Women Voters, and school board members.

Defenders of public schools sued to stop public money from going to privately managed charter schools. In 2015, Washington’s highest court agreed with them that charters are not common schools, as required by the state constitution, because their boards are not elected. Funding charter schools with public money, the high court ruled, was unconstitutional.

Now the billionaires are running a candidate against state Supreme Court Justice Barbara Madsen, who wrote the 6-3 decision against funding charter schools with public money dedicated to public schools.

Some of the biggest proponents of charter schools in Washington state are pouring money into the race to defeat state Supreme Court Justice Barbara Madsen, who authored last year’s decision declaring the privately run, publicly funded schools unconstitutional.

The political arm of Stand for Children spent $116,000 this month on independent expenditures supporting Greg Zempel, Madsen’s chief opponent, in what constitutes the biggest infusion of outside cash in a Washington judicial race since 2010. According to Mercedes Schneider, Stand for Children (aka, “Stand ON Children”) has collected $725,000 to knock out Justice Madsen. Justice Madsen has raised $30,000 for her re-election.

The group is funded by some of the same wealthy donors who supported the 2012 initiative to allow charter schools in Washington, which the court’s decision overturned.

Zempel, the elected Kittitas County prosecutor, has been critical of the high court’s 6-3 decision in the charter-schools case, as well as what he has described as the court’s tendency to be unpredictable in its rulings.

Madsen, the court’s chief justice, wrote the opinion in September that ruled charter schools cannot be funded the same way as traditional public schools, primarily because they are run by boards that are appointed rather than elected by voters.

State lawmakers passed a bill this year that aims to keep charter schools open, but the statewide teachers union has promised to challenge the new law in court as well.

Most of the Stand for Children PAC’s funding this year has come from a single source: Connie Ballmer, a wealthy philanthropist and wife of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who donated $500,000.

The PAC’s other two main donors are Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix; and Vulcan Inc., which is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The billionaires can’t buy the state Supreme Court, but they are trying their best to oust the judge who dared to stand in their way. Billionaires don’t send their own children to public schools, but think they have the right to kill them because they prefer privately run schools.

Hastings advocates for killing elected school boards and replacing teachers with technology.

There is only one thing that can defeat billionaires who want to buy our democracy: Voters.

Tell your neighbors. Tell your friends. Tell your colleagues. Save your public schools. Vote!

Show the billionaires that they can’t punish judges, they can’t privatize public schools, and they can’t subvert democracy!

To learn more about Bill Gates and his efforts to undermine public schools in Washington State, read parent activist Dora Taylor’s reports:

Emails reveal OSPI in contempt of Supreme Court ruling on charter schools in Washington State, https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/emails-reveal-ospi-in-contempt-of-supreme-court-ruling-on-charter-schools-in-washington-state/

Emails reveal the “Gates Machine” in action after the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision that charter schools are unconstitutional, https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/emails-reveal-the-gates-machine-in-action-after-the-washington-state-supreme-courts-decision-that-charter-schools-are-unconstitutional/

The Mary Walker School District rescinds their request for charter schools in the Seattle Public School District, https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/the-mary-walker-school-district-rescinds-their-request-for-charter-schools-in-the-seattle-public-school-district/

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. Her most recent book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.  Her previous books and articles about American education include: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform, (Simon & Schuster, 2000); The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Knopf, 2003); The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know (Oxford, 2006), which she edited with her son Michael Ravitch. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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