Tag Archives: Great Seattle Schools

Desperate Suzanne Dale Estey PAC Strikes Again — 3 negative attacks in one campaign

Signs of Desperation?

As my campaign predicted, the political action committee (PAC) created to get political lobbyist and consultant Suzanne Dale Estey elected to the Seattle School Board, has stooped to yet another low, and attacked my candidacy yet again.

Their latest dishonest mailer arrived in mailboxes citywide Wednesday.

This is the third time the PAC for Dale Estey has launched a smear attack in this campaign, unprecedented for a Seattle School Board race. (See: My Opponent’s Side Goes Negative: My Response.) It’s also very disappointing.

Demonstrating the negative influence of excessive money  in political campaigns (a hot topic in Seattle right now, where we have two initiatives addressing campaign funding on the current ballot), the “Great Seattle Schools” PAC has amassed over $100,000 from a small group of wealthy individuals (with no children in Seattle Public Schools) who are apparently desperate to buy the election for my opponent and will resort to any means they think necessary.

What’s more, their latest claim is absurd. They refer to a factual flow chart created three years ago by Seattle Education Blog co-founder Dora Taylor and myself, in which we illustrate the flow of money from two of the largest private funding sources in public education: The Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation.

They label it a “conspiracy theory.”

It is neither. In fact, the primary source of the information for this chart was the Gates Foundation itself. Its informative  online database of awarded grants lists where it has invested its money. It’s no secret that education is one of the foundation’s key areas of focus.

Called “The Lines of Influence,” when we posted our diagram three years ago, we received an overwhelming positive response nationwide, for it connected various dots. It documented the role and influence of private foundation money  in public education.

If this is nothing more than a “conspiracy theory,” then the New York Times is also a conspiracy theorist. See: Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gatesby Sam Dillon, May 21, 2011, The New York Times

Rick Wilking/Reuters Bill Gates's foundation spent $373 million on education efforts in 2009, the latest year for which its tax filings are available.
Rick Wilking/Reuters
Bill Gates’s foundation spent $373 million on education efforts in 2009, the latest year for which its tax filings are available.

(…) For years, Bill Gates focused his education philanthropy on overhauling large schools and opening small ones. His new strategy is more ambitious: overhauling the nation’s education policies. To that end, the foundation is financing educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies on issues like the seniority system and the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.

“We’ve learned that school-level investments aren’t enough to drive systemic changes,” said Allan C. Golston, the president of the foundation’s United States program. “The importance of advocacy has gotten clearer and clearer.”

The foundation spent $373 million on education in 2009, the latest year for which its tax returns are available, and devoted $78 million to advocacy — quadruple the amount spent on advocacy in 2005. Over the next five or six years, Mr. Golston said, the foundation expects to pour $3.5 billion more into education, up to 15 percent of it on advocacy.

Given the scale and scope of the largess, some worry that the foundation’s assertive philanthropy is squelching independent thought, while others express concerns about transparency. Few policy makers, reporters or members of the public who encounter advocates like Teach Plus or pundits like Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute realize they are underwritten by the foundation.

“It’s Orwellian in the sense that through this vast funding they start to control even how we tacitly think about the problems facing public education,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who said he received no financing from the foundation. (…)

Bloomberg is in on the “conspiracy” too

And apparently Bloomberg BusinessWeek is a “conspiracy theorist” as well. See: Bill Gates’ School Crusade, July 15, 2010.

(…) Now a new generation of philanthropic billionaires, including Gates, homebuilding and insurance entrepreneur Eli Broad, members of the Walton family that founded Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), and former hedge fund manager Julian Robertson, want public education run more like a business. Charter schools, independent of local school districts and typically free of unionized teachers, are one of their favorite causes. “We don’t know anything about how to teach or reading curriculum or any of that,” Broad said last year at a public event in Manhattan. “But what we do know about is management and governance.”

Diane Ravitch also joins this group of ‘theorists’ with her best-selling books about corporate ed reform, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (Basic Books, 2011) and Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (Knopf, 2013).  So I am in good company.

Jabe Blumenthajabel

This ‘conspiracy theory’ theory was first circulated last week  in emails by two supporters of my opponent, Jabe Blumenthal, who was           felisamDFERatured in the Seattle Times last year for threatening to vote against his own political party’s gubernatorial candidate over education policy (Dems draw fire from top donors in rift over education reform — Several well-heeled Democratic Party donors have split with the state party and legislative leaders over education reform), and Lisa McFarlane (pictured),  formerly of the League of Education Voters, who now works as a political and charter school lobbyist for the controversial  national political enterprise, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

Dora Taylor dissects their absurd claim here: “Lisa McFarlane of WA DFER, and now Suzanne Estey, with their conspiracy theories.”

Already I have gotten responses from people around the city who received this mailer, ranging from utter disgust with the Estey campaign (always the risk with negative campaigning), to compliments for the informative flow chart.

Clearly Dale Estey and her backers are worried that they cannot win this race on her own merits. In fact, there is increasing evidence  that my opponent’s alleged merits are not all that they seem, as her credibility has come into question on various counts.

Disappointingly, Dale Estey’s supporters are apparently not interested in discussing the real issues facing our schools, families and students, like serious overcrowding, class sizes, policies that are out of touch with the realities of our communities, curriculum, excessive testing, and equal resources and opportunities for our district’s 51,000 students, just to name a few.

I urge voters to sort through the facts themselves and not be swayed by the distortions  of a small group of wealthy special interests (and a candidate who fails to denounce them) who are desperately trying to buy this election, by any means necessary.

I believe the Estey PAC has underestimated the intelligence and integrity of the Seattle electorate.

As a trained journalist and public education advocate, I remain committed to facts and the truth, as I have demonstrated in the past, and will continue to demonstrate this commitment if I am elected to serve on the school board.

Thank you for your support. Please remember to vote. Clearly the stakes are very high in this election.

–Sue Peters

UPDATE: The Dale Estey PAC mailed yet another dishonest flyer to Seattle voters on Friday, for a total of four such attacks on my candidacy since July. This one is truly bizarre. It falsely attributes to me words and images that were posted on the Seattle Education Blog last year from, I believe, the No on 1240 (anti-charter schools) campaign. The title is “Evil Doers” and it is truly tabloid-esque. My opponent has yet to denounce the mendacious tactics of her supporters. Sadly, some people will say or pay anything to win an election.  11/3/13

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Matt Griffin & the Role of Big Money in Local Politics — including the School Board Race

Real estate developer Matt Griffin and his wallet. Is he trying to buy a Seattle School Board election?Real estate developer Matt Griffin and his wallet. Is he trying to buy a Seattle School Board election?

There was an interesting article in The Stranger recently by Cienna Madrid about the role of wealthy individuals in local political campaigns and the effort to limit that influence with

Proposition 1 (which I support). Madrid referred specifically to one of the top local political donors, real estate developer Matt Griffin. (Who Wants to Keep Big Money in Local Politics?, The Stranger, Sept. 16, 2013.)

The article caught the eye of my campaign because Griffin has also gotten involved in the Seattle School Board race this year, creating a political action committee (PAC) with the purpose of getting my opponent, Suzanne Dale Estey, and in District 5, Stephan Blanford, elected. His PAC, “Great Seattle Schools,” is also funded by former ex-Microsoft millionaire Christopher Larson, neither of whom have children in SPS, and CASE (Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy), the PAC of the Chamber of Commerce (the parent organization of the Alliance for Education).

In the August 6 primary election, Larson and Griffin’s PAC spent $32,500 on behalf of my opponent, Suzanne Dale Estey, $16,000 of which on two dishonest mailers attacking my candidacy.  (See: “My Opponent’s Side Goes Negative: My Response.”)  I believe such negative attacks are unprecedented for a Seattle School Board primary.

Now, just a few weeks ago, on Sept. 16, Matt Griffin deposited another $15,000 in his “Great Seattle Schools” PAC. So my campaign is expecting a third attack on me sometime soon. (I’ll report on it here.)

At a total of $32,300 (so far), Griffin’s financial contribution to my opponent’s candidacy adds up to more than the total contributions of all my supporters combined.

This year, for the first time, there are campaign finance limits for the Seattle School Board race, an idea I have supported for a while. Each individual or organization can contribute a maximum of $900 per candidate, per race (primary and general). But PACs have no limits, effectively offering an end-run around campaign finance reform, and arguably, an end-run around democracy, for it allows individuals with the most money to have greater influence.

Food for Thought

When asked about the behavior of the “Great Seattle Schools” PAC on her behalf, my opponent told the Seattle Times’ Linda Shaw that she is “not going to illegally try to inhibit their freedom of speech” of people like Griffin and Larson.  (Independent group enters school board campaign with negative ad, Seattle Times, August 1,2013.)

Well, here’s the question: Are we really talking about free speech — or undue influence? Democracy — or something else? Should our elections be won by those with the most money, or those with the best ideas and qualifications?

My race is a clear example of this choice.

In fact, the primary has revealed a clear distinction between my opponent and myself. I am backed by progressive, Democratic and labor organizations, community leaders and educators, and my top contributors are retired teachers, parents and friends. I am the only candidate in this race endorsed by every Democratic Legislative District (except the one that held its endorsement the day before I joined the race!), and have the sole endorsement of the SEA (the teachers’ and paraprofessionals’ union), M.L. King County Labor Council and the King County Democrats, community leaders like Kay Bullitt, Estela Ortega,  elected officials including King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, City Councilmember Nick Licata,  State Senators Maralyn Chase and Bob Hasegawa, State Representatives  Sharon Tomiko Santos, Gerry Pollet and Cindy Ryu.

My opponent’s top contributors include Microsoft CEO Steve and Connie BallmerJeff Raikes, the CEO of the Gates Foundation, businessmen Matt Griffin, Christopher Larson — who support  controversial and discredited ed reforms like charter schools, merit pay, and an emphasis on standardized, high-stakes testing. The person who put I-1240 (the charter school initiative) on the ballot last year has also endorsed my opponent (Tania de sa Campos, of DFER).

mollyiJournalist, author, humorist Molly Ivins (1944-2007)

As I said to the audience at the Horizon House forum this past Monday, “To quote the late, great Molly Ivins: You gotta dance with them what brung ya’ — and that’s who’s bringing” my opponent, the backers of corporate ed reform.

(At the 37th District Democrats endorsement meeting last month, my opponent claimed not to know who her top five contributors are–  the CEOs of some of the largest corporations and foundations in the world.)

This race prompted Dr. Diane Ravitch to write: Seattle: Status Quo Crowd Fears Sue Peters

UPDATE: On Oct. 11, Seattle Mariners co-owner Chris Larson added $15,000 to the “Great Seattle Schools” PAC pro-charter ed reform PAC Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), added another $10,000, and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer added $10,000.

On Oct 14, Hanauer added another $10,000, bringing the total cash amount in the political action committee to elect Suzanne Dale Estey to an unprecedented $96,000. Combined with Estey’s campaign funds of nearly $100,000, this is on track to be the most heavily funded School Board candidacy in Seattle history.

Seattle Mariners co-owner Chris Larson

Chris Larson,
co-owner of the Seattle
Mariners ($30,000)

 

NickH

Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer
($20,000)

lisamDFER

Democrats for Education Reform – DFER ($10,000)
(DFER WA State Director, Lisa McFarlane)

If you believe that a few wealthy individuals should not decide who our school board members should be, and have undue influence on our elected officials and legislative bodies, please support and contribute to my campaign. And please remember to vote by November 5.

Thank you.

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My Opponent’s Side Goes Negative: My Response

For the Record….

Last week, a mailer was sent out to thousands of voters in Seattle School District 4 by a small group of supporters of Suzanne Dale Estey: Suzanne Naughton of the Great Seattle Schools, the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE, the political action committee of the Chamber of Commerce), local businessmen Matt Griffin and Christopher Larson.

It contains false and incomplete information about my campaign. My views, qualifications and endorsements are misrepresented or omitted altogether. Though there are three candidates in the race, I am the only one singled out for this treatment.

Like many others, I was disturbed to see supporters of my opponent resort to such dishonest tactics on her behalf, and so early in the race.

Yet, it is also an indication of the strength and appeal of my candidacy.

I am proud of our authentic and smart grassroots campaign, which has focused on ideas and solutions to serious school district issues. Already we have been able to achieve a great deal, powered by dedicated volunteers, and connecting with supporters throughout the city. Our campaign has managed to win significant and sole endorsements, including that of The Stranger, the M.L. King County Labor Council, and various Democratic organizations, and has earned the highest marks in the race from the Seattle Metropolitan Elections Committee.

The Company We Keep

I was gratified to hear from many voters that the mailer had the reverse effect of what was intended. It made them more inclined to support me, and disgusted with the negative tactic. It even resulted in a surge in our campaign contributions that week. Though her own campaign did not generate the ad,  my opponent, disappointingly,  has not denounced it.

Meanwhile, I remain focused on issues that are important to the public who value my nearly 10 years of experience and deep knowledge of the Seattle Public School District, my local and national advocacy and service for public education as a Stanford-trained journalist, and my commitment to representing all the people of the Seattle Public School District.

In the interest of truth and accuracy, here are some corrections, for the record.

–Sue Peters

Hitcorrection2HIT3

UPDATE: Dale Estey supporters send second dishonest mailer

August 2, just a few days before the primary election, the same group of individuals who launched a smear campaign against my candidacy the previous week sent a second, similar 4-color, two-sided mailer to thousands of voters in Seattle’s District 4. 

Once again, real estate developer Matt Griffin, former Microsoft executive Christopher Larson, the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) the PAC of the Chamber of Commerce, and “Great Seattle Schools,” a new PAC created to support the school board candidacies of Suzanne Dale Estey and Stephan Blanford, has issued another negative mailer targeting me.

This is a clear attempt to influence the election using unlimited independent expenditures and illustrates the negative influence of unchecked funding in politics. It’s ironic that this group, which is criticizing me for being concerned about the unaccountable, unelected influence of private money on public education, would illustrate my very point with their attempt to influence this election with their private money.

This unprecedented leap into negativity in a school board primary has caught the attention of the local media, Publicola (Independent Expenditure in the …  School Board Race), even the Seattle Times (Independent group enters school board campaign with negative ad), and has now made national news with my new endorsement from the Network for Public Education, Dr. Diane Ravitch’s new advocacy organization.

Meanwhile, my opponent, Suzanne Dale Estey, has told the Seattle Times that she agrees with the dishonest message her supporters are spreading.

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Or send a check to: SUE PETERS FOR SEATTLE SCHOOL BOARD, 2212 Queen Anne Avenue North, #611, Seattle, WA 98109

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