October 30, 2013

Will the Ultra Wealthy and Disinformation Triumph in Seattle's School Board Race?

An election contest of national importance is occurring here in Seattle:  the Seattle School Board race between Sue Peters and Suzanne Estey.

One one side, there is the "corporate ed" or "school reform" lobby supported by billionaires and multimillionaires.  Individuals and organizations pushing Charter Schools, Teach for America amateur teaching, heavy testing of students, fuzzy math, substantial control of teachers,  and national Common Core standards.  They are supporting a candidate with little track record in the Seattle public schools or education but from a business background:  Suzanne Estey.

On the other side, there is the candidate I am supporting:  Sue Peters.  An individual with a decade of intense efforts in education and Seattle Public Schools, and someone who has joined me in pushing for better math instruction.  Sue has volunteered in the classrooms and was invited to serve on high level task forces such as the Superintendent Search Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee that will set the course of the district for the next five years.   She is against Charter Schools, supports treating teachers like professionals and not factory workers, and has misgivings, as I do, about the Common Core standards (whose math standards are inferior to the ones we have now!).  Sue is supported by many of the Democratic organizations in town, labor unions, and national educational reformer Diane Ravitch, to name only a few.

What makes this race so critical is that the Seattle School board now has a 4-3 majority that has made giant strides and one that has pushed back on corporate-ed education.  If Sue wins progress will continue.  If she loses, the corporate-ed viewpoint will take over.

The wealthy interests, including the ultra-rich like Steve Ballmer, who don't live in our district  or have children in our schools, are now investing huge sums of money in this election.  Historically unequaled amounts of funds.  They have even found a way around the contribution limits by establishing a Pac called Great Seattle Schools.

You will not believe the money they are spending on polling, consultants, print and other ads, and media.

First, they have collected roughly $130,000 in candidate donations. The Ballmers are on the top of the list.

And their Pac, Great Seattle Schools, has ANOTHER $ 95,000, with huge sums from Matt Griffin and Chris Larson.

A total of around $ 230,000!   Never has a Seattle School Board race had anywhere near that kind of funding for a single candidate.  Not even close.

What has Sue Peter collected?  No Pac for her, just $ 35,000.  Roughly 15% of Estey's resources.  Talk about David versus Goliath.

In a community meeting, Suzanne Estey claimed that she had no idea who was sponsoring her (proof on this video at 10:30 into it).  As they say, if you believe that I have a bridge to sell you.

Estey claims she will be an independent voice, but why are the the wealthy interests investing so much in Estey?    There is an old southern saying the provides some insights into this situation:

   You dance with the one that brung you.

Estey, an inexperienced candidate with little past interactions with the School District, is being supported at record levels by folks with a clear agenda.  You fill in the rest.  A number of media outlets have spotlighted this extraordinary push by the wealthy to take control of Seattle Schools (e.g, KUOW, the Seattle Weekly).

But as bad as this heavy-handed effort by plutocrats to push their candidate might be, perhaps even worse is the disinformation campaign by Estey and her campaign.

For example, Estey is constantly calling the current Seattle School dysfunctional (she states than in the video noted above).  The truth is very different.  Under this active school board, the scandals have stopped and student performance has risen substantially.  Students are flooding into Seattle Public Schools.  And as documented by the respected Seattle Schools Community Forum the current board has acted unanimously or 6-1 roughly 98% of the time.  The majority of the current school board is supporting Sue Peters.   Whose election do you think would lead to a more collegial functioning?    The candidate that is calling them names or the one they support?

Estey's mailers have including patently untrue statements, including that Peters is against the Seattle School District accepting money from the Gates Foundation.  She claimed she did not not know what was going into the mailers.
This is not an acceptable line for a candidate for a major office.

And Estey appears to be embellishing her resume and claiming positions and experiences that don't jive with the factual record (more on her embellishment here).  For example, she has claimed in public fora that she "ran Gary Locke's office" and on her website she put down that she was a "Federal Legislative Analyst for Washington State Governor Gary Locke".  The truth?   She was a three-month summer intern in the office (see the Seattle Schools Community blog for details and proof).   There are many more of these excursions from the truth.  Do you want a candidate that is not being frank about her background?

In summary, this is a critical election.  One candidate, Sue Peters, has great experience with the district and education issues (see my past blog or the Sue Peter's web site for more information on this).   A candidate with coherent and well thought out positions supported by facts.   The other candidate has little experience, but is being pushed by an agenda-heavy collection of rich folks who thinks their business experiences make them education experts.  And this candidate is a bit loose with the facts.

If you live in Seattle, please vote for Sue Peters and support her candidacy.  Some of you may not be thinking of voting in this election, please.....pull out that ballot and help Seattle kids by voting for Sue.  This election will be close and your vote can make a real difference.

Announcement:  Special Dinner and presentation (by me) on the storm that destroyed Ivar's Mukilteo landing restaurant in 2003.  Where? When?  At the rebuilt restaurant, next Thursday, November 7.  More information here.  Limited to 40 people.


  1. Cool calling the ploutocandidate on the Schultz defence. Good luck!

  2. Cliff, thank you for your efforts to bring this issue to light. This is so reminiscent of the corporate, profit-driven approach of Michelle Rhee. She is willing to sacrifice the education of our young people for her own personal aggrandizement.

    I voted today and sent in my ballot. I voted for Sue Peters.

  3. Thank you. Well done. I found it funny that Estey was surprised that her money sources should harm her campaign.

  4. Cliff, thank you for your advocacy with this issue. Reading you analysis changed my mind at least.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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