(AP/John Minchillo)

Bill Gates should be ashamed: His back-room, charter-school power play hurts kids, public education

Gates and his pals talked Washington legislators into an end-around on charter funding. It's a rotten deal for kids


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Diane Ravitch
January 23, 2016 12:35AM (UTC)

Washington state has a school problem. The legislature confronts two court decisions that it doesn't like.

First, the highest state court ordered the legislature to fund the schools fairly. For every day the legislature fails to do so, it pays a fine of $100,000. This affects 1,070,000 children.

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Second, the court ruled that charter schools are not public schools and cannot receive public funding. This was a direct rebuff of Bill Gates, who lives in Seattle and spent millions on a referendum supporting charters that won by less than 1%. He and his friends want the legislature to bypass the court ruling so charters can get public money. This affects 1,000 children.

Which issue do you think the legislature acted on? 

The one that mattered to Bill Gates and 1,000 students, of course.

The State Senate voted 27-20 in favor of a "fix" that allows charters to get public funding that helps 1,000 children. The legislature has done nothing to increase the fair, equitable funding of 1,070,000 children.

The dissident senators understood what an epic fail this vote was:

"Yet some legislators disagreed that the bill was the measure that was needed when the legislature is being fined $100,000 a day by the state Supreme Court for failing to fully fund education. Referred to as the McCleary lawsuit, legislators questioned whether that sweeping imperative should take priority over the fate of charter schools. Some proposed amendments to the charter school bill, which would have added language to confirm the precedence of fully funding K-12 education.

“We have a systemic divestment in public education in this state,” said Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle. Jayapal said she didn’t look to pit one issue against the other, but argued that the Senate needed to address its paramount duty.

"Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, agreed, adding that a move to create smaller class sizes — something she heard charter students testify was beneficial to their learning — should be accessible to the other 1 million children in the state’s K-12 system, not just the roughly 1,000 students in charter schools."

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Now the other house of the legislature will decide whether to address the problem of the 1,000 students in charters or the 1,070,000 children in public schools.

Parents and teachers should contact their representatives at once. Send letters, emails, phone calls. If the parents or guardians of more than 1 million children spoke up to defend their children, the plutocrats would lose.

The issue is this: the common good or special interests? Why doesn't Bill Gates, with his $60 billion or so, pay to keep the charters open and insist that the legislature meet its constitutional obligation to the children of Washington state? Why not promote the greatest good for the greatest number?

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Diane Ravitch

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