Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Update on “Our Schools Coalition”

This is a historic week in education reform in our state and across the nation.

The Obama administration recently announced that Delaware and Tennessee won hundreds of millions of dollars in the first round of Race to the Top funds. Combined, these states were awarded $600 million, which leaves $3.75 billion for Round 2.

This announcement shows that the Obama Administration is serious about rewarding states that take bold actions necessary to reform their school systems. Both states submitted applications that had comprehensive, statewide plans positively impacting all students with wide support from their respective unions and school boards. In return, Delaware and Tennessee will receive significant funding from the federal government to help increase student learning and close achievement and opportunity gaps.

Several months ago, Washington was not in a good position to apply for Race to the Top funding. But this past Monday, Governor Gregoire signed into law education reform legislation which gives Washington state a chance to secure Round 2 Race to the Top money.

Now that the legislation has become law, the real work begins. School districts across the state will now have a chance to sign on as partners with the state, and we have only a few weeks to put together a strong Race to the Top application that will be our blueprint for student success in the future.

Here in Seattle, the Alliance has convened the “Our Schools Coalition.” This coalition is a natural extension of the work the Alliance has been doing on teacher quality for some time now. This coalition is broadly representative of parents, students, local employers, and the community at large, and as such is reflective of the Seattle Public Schools District constituency in these negotiations. Many of these representatives had constituents attending teacher quality forums over the past month. From these forums and from teacher focus groups, the coalition formed based on the following core principles:

  • A strong teacher corps is the most valuable asset within any school system;
  • Teachers are respected as individuals, professionals, and community leaders, and
  • With professionalism comes the acceptance of responsibility for results

The Alliance is in a unique position to leverage relationships with SPS to move this dialogue forward.

All eyes are on Seattle as this is the first teacher contract negotiations taking place since the signing of the Race to the Top legislation. And not only is it the first negotiation, it’s happening in the largest school district in the state.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Coalition.

Mark Yango, Director of Communications, AFE


  1. I do not understand this focus on blame the worker, fire the worker, when there's a problem. Sure, if there's an isolated problem, then fire the worker. But wholesale? Where's the management?

    The Rhode Island thing particularly. Fire everyone? Who is really responsible for the situation? How come not go further up the chain and fire the managers who were supposed to oversee things and keep them from being so bad. The managers who should have been effective in selectively provided training and help, or showing untrainable teachers the door.

    You want a wholesale change in teacher quality? Look at the management. Concentrate on providing strong effective principals in every school. Give the principals enough autonomy to make effective change, to guide teachers, provide training and support for teachers who need it, support teachers in conflicts when appropriate, have them in place long enough to identify the untrainable bad teachers and help them leave the profession. Make the workplace safe and effective for the teachers. That would be showing respect for teachers as professionals.

    If you framed all this rhetoric in these terms, in terms of fixing management, then I'd wholly support it.

  2. The Gates Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation (you manage seven million for the first, about one million for the second) must be so proud: Their "teacher quality" campaign is going great guns! Congratulations for serving the koolaide in chilled glassses, a nice touch.
    Seriously...what are you people thinking? You're not a community coalition anymore (if you ever were) You sold out to the two groups named above a long time ago.
    How can you claim, with a straght face, to be repsresenting the Seattle constituency based on the results of seriously biased push-poll surveys, public meetings with no minutes apparently, that generate "key ideas" (the ideas promulgated by Broad/Gates)...
    And now you are ripping off the coalition b uilding efforts of Seattle Organizers group! You worked with them, talking to citizens as part of their coalition! Now you splinter off to become (again) the mouthpiece of Gates/Broad under some new name, what is it...ah, "Our Schools Coalition." Yeah right. Not YOUR schools, you are merely interlopers, spokespeople for the nine million dollars you manage for the District under Strategic Plan. They aren't "your" schools - YOU are Gates/Broad personified, with all the stink of the new "reform" about you.

    You know, I bet nobody in this town ever even thought of the term "teacher quality" until you brought it to us from Gates et al. Sure, people want evaluation, they want oversight....but this "teacher quality" business? What, aren't educators "quality" enough for you? What did the "teacher focus group" say about THAT?
    And hey, while we're at it, I'll ask again (tho it's like talking to a wall:
    1) What is "teacher quality";
    2) How would you have it measured?

    Think you could at least fill us in as to what the heck you're talking about? Or maybe you don't know. Probably not, because, as we're merely an agent for the Gates/Broad "reform" cabal - they fed you the "teacher quality" term and you swallowed it whole.

    Please. Enough with the "surveys" Enough with the
    "can we make teachers accept responsibility for the achievement of their students" quesitons.

    You're being assinine, disrespectful of REAL educators who DO accept responsibility for REAL achievement, when they are able to make it so, given the numerosu roadblocks in their way (for one, stupid stuff like "teacher quality" surveys that purport to mean something but really just paint an ugly picture of those dang union teachers.

    Please tell us what teacher quality is and how you would measure it. Please.

  3. The Folly of Merit Pay, by Alfie Kohn, with permission, Part I - EDUCATION WEEK September 17, 2003 (permissions end of last Part):

    There's no end to the possible uses for that nifty little Latin phrase Cui bono?, which means: Who benefits? Whose interests are served? It's the right question to ask about a testing regimen guaranteed to make most public schools look as though they're failing. Or about the assumption that people with less power than you have (students, if you're a teacher; teachers, if you're an administrator) are unable to participate in making decisions about what they're going to do every day.
    And here's another application: Cui bono when we're assured that money is the main reason it's so hard to find good teachers? If only we paid them more, we'd have no trouble attracting and retaining the finest educators that—well, that money can buy. Just accept that premise, and you'll never have to consider the way teachers are treated. In fact, you could continue disrespecting and de-skilling them, forcing them to use scripted curricula and turning them into glorified test-prep technicians. If they seem unhappy, it must be just because they want a bigger paycheck.
    In 2000, Public Agenda questioned more than 900 new teachers and almost as many college graduates who didn't choose a career in education. The report concluded that, while "teachers do believe that they are underpaid," higher salaries would probably be of limited effectiveness in alleviating teacher shortages because considerations other than money are "significantly more important to most teachers and would-be teachers." Two years later, 44 percent of administrators reported, in another Public Agenda poll, that talented colleagues were being driven out of the field because of "unreasonable standards and accountability."
    Meanwhile, a small California survey, published last year in Phi Delta Kappan, found that the main reason newly credentialed teachers were leaving the profession was not low salaries or difficult children. Rather, those who threw in the towel were most likely to cite what was being done to their schools in the name of "accountability." And the same lesson seems to hold cross-culturally. Mike Baker, a correspondent for BBC News, discovered that an educational "recruitment crisis" exists almost exclusively in those nations "where accountability measures have undermined teachers' autonomy."
    That unhappy educators have a lot more on their minds than money shouldn't be surprising in light of half a century of research conducted in other kinds of workplaces. When people are asked what's most important to them, financial concerns show up well behind such factors as interesting work or good people to work with. For example, in a large survey conducted by the Families and Work Institute, "salary/wage" ranked 16th on a list of 20 reasons for taking a job. (Interestingly, managers asked what they believe matters most to their employees tend to mention money—and then proceed to manage on the basis of that error.)
    Educational policymakers might be forgiven their shortsightedness if they were just proposing to raise teachers' salaries across the board—or, perhaps, to compensate them appropriately for more responsibilities or for additional training. Instead, though, many are turning to some version of "pay for performance." Here, myopia is complicated by amnesia: For more than a century, such plans have been implemented, then abandoned, then implemented in a different form, then abandoned again. The idea never seems to work, but proponents of merit pay never seem to learn.

  4. The Folly of Merit Pay, Part II:

    Here are the educational historians David Tyack and Larry Cuban: "The history of performance-based salary plans has been a merry-go-round. In the main, districts that initially embraced merit pay dropped it after a brief trial." But even "repeated experiences" of failure haven't prevented officials "from proposing merit pay again and again."
    "Son of Merit Pay: The Sequel" is now playing in Cincinnati, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, and elsewhere. The leading advocates of this approach—conservatives, economists, and conservative economists—insist that we need only adopt their current incentive schemes and, this time, teaching really will improve. Honest.
    Wade Nelson, a professor at Winona State University, dug up a government commission's evaluation of England's mid-19th-century "payment by results" plan. His summary of that evaluation: Schools became "impoverished learning environments in which nearly total emphasis on performance on the examination left little opportunity for learning." The plan was abandoned.
    In The Public Interest, a right-wing policy journal, two researchers concluded with apparent disappointment in 1985 that no evidence supported the idea that merit pay "had an appreciable or consistent positive effect on teachers' classroom work." Moreover, they reported that few administrators expected such an effect "even though they had the strongest reason to make such claims."
    To this day, enthusiasm for pay-for-performance runs far ahead of any data supporting its effectiveness—even as measured by standardized-test scores, much less by meaningful indicators of learning. But then that, too, echoes the results in other workplaces. To the best of my knowledge, no controlled scientific study has ever found a long-term enhancement of the quality of work as a result of any incentive system. In fact, numerous studies have confirmed that performance on tasks, particularly complex tasks, is generally lower when people are promised a reward for doing them, or for doing them well. As a rule, the more prominent or enticing the reward, the more destructive its effects.

  5. The Folly of Merit Pay, Part III:

    So why are pay-for-performance plans so reliably unsuccessful, if not counterproductive?
    1. Control. People with more power usually set the goals, establish the criteria, and generally set about trying to change the behavior of those down below. If merit pay feels manipulative and patronizing, that's probably because it is. Moreover, the fact that these programs usually operate at the level of school personnel means, as Maurice Holt has pointed out, that the whole enterprise "conveniently moves accountability away from politicians and administrators, who invent and control the system, to those who actually do the work."
    2. Strained relationships. In its most destructive form, merit pay is set up as a competition, where the point is to best one's colleagues. No wonder just such a proposal, in Norristown, Pa., was unanimously opposed by teachers and ultimately abandoned. Even those teachers likely to receive a bonus realized that everyone loses—especially the students—when educators are set against one another in a race for artificially scarce rewards.
    But pay- for-performance programs don't have to be explicitly competitive in order to undermine collegial relationships. If I end up getting a bonus and you don't, our interactions are likely to be adversely affected, particularly if you think of yourself as a pretty darned good teacher.
    Some argue that monetary rewards are less harmful if they're offered to, and made contingent on the performance of, an entire school. But if a school misses out on a bonus, what often ensues is an ugly search for individuals on whom to pin the blame. Also, you can count on seeing less useful collaboration among schools, especially if an incentive program is based on their relative standing. Why would one faculty share ideas with another when the goal is to make sure that students in other schools don't do as well as yours? Merit pay based on rankings is about victory, not about excellence. In any case, bribing groups doesn't make any more sense than bribing individuals.

  6. The Hazards of Merit Pay, Part IV:

    3. Reasons and motives. The premise of merit pay, and indeed of all rewards, is that people could be doing a better job but for some reason have decided to wait until it's bribed out of them. This is as insulting as it is inaccurate. Dangling a reward in front of teachers or principals—"Here's what you'll get if things somehow improve"— does nothing to address the complex, systemic factors that are actually responsible for educational deficiencies. Pay-for-performance is an outgrowth of behaviorism, which is focused on individual organisms, not systems—and, true to its name, looks only at behaviors, not at reasons and motives and the people who have them.
    Even if they wouldn't mind larger paychecks, teachers are typically not all that money-driven. They keep telling us in surveys that the magical moment when a student suddenly understands is more important to them than another few bucks. And, as noted above, they're becoming disenchanted these days less because of salary issues than because they don't enjoy being controlled by accountability systems. Equally controlling pay-for-performance plans are based more on neoclassical economic dogma than on an understanding of how things look from a teacher's perspective.
    Most of all, merit pay fails to recognize that there are different kinds of motivation. Doing something because you enjoy it for its own sake is utterly unlike doing something to get money or recognition. In fact, researchers have demonstrated repeatedly that the use of such extrinsic inducements often reduces intrinsic motivation. The more that people are rewarded, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. If bonuses and the like can "motivate" some educators, it's only in an extrinsic sense, and often at the cost of undermining their passion for teaching.
    For example, a recent study of a merit-pay plan that covered all employees at a northeastern college found that intrinsic motivation declined as a direct result of the plan's adoption, particularly for some of the school's "most valued employees—those who were highly motivated intrinsically before the program was implemented." The more the plan did what it was intended to do—raise people's extrinsic motivation by getting them to see how their performance would affect their salaries—the less pleasure they came to take in their work. The plan was abandoned after one year.
    That study didn't even take account of how resentful and demoralized people may become when they don't get the bonus they're expecting. For all these reasons, I tell Fortune 500 executives (or at least those foolish enough to ask me) that the best formula for compensation is this: Pay people well, pay them fairly, and then do everything possible to help them forget about money. All pay-for-performance plans, of course, violate that last precept.

  7. The Folly of Merit Pay, Part V:

    4. Measurement issues. Despite what is widely assumed by economists and behaviorists, some things are more than the sum of their parts, and some things can't be reduced to numbers. It's an illusion to think we can specify and quantify all the components of good teaching and learning, much less establish criteria for receiving a bonus that will eliminate the perception of arbitrariness. No less an authority than the statistician-cum-quality-guru W. Edwards Deming reminded us that "the most important things we need to manage can't be measured."
    It's possible to evaluate the quality of teaching, but it's not possible to reach consensus on a valid and reliable way to pin down the meaning of success, particularly when dollars hang in the balance. What's more, evaluation may eclipse other goals. After merit-pay plans take effect, administrators often visit classrooms more to judge teachers than to offer them feedback for the purpose of improvement.
    All these concerns apply even when technicians struggle to find good criteria for allocating merit pay. But the problems are multiplied when the criteria are dubious, such as raising student test scores. These tests, as I and others have argued elsewhere, tend to measure what matters least. They reflect children's backgrounds more than the quality of a given teacher or school. Moreover, merit pay based on those scores is not only unfair but damaging, if it accelerates the exodus of teachers from troubled schools where they're most needed.
    Schoolwide merit pay, again, is no less destructive than the individual version. High stakes induce cheating, gaming, teaching to the test, and other ways of snagging the bonus (or dodging the penalty) without actually improving student learning. In fact, some teachers who might resist these temptations, preferring to do what's best for kids rather than for their own wallets, feel compelled to do more test prep when their colleagues' paychecks are affected by the school's overall scores.
    It may be vanity or, again, myopia that persuades technicians, even after the umpteenth failure, that merit pay need only be returned to the shop for another tuneup. Perhaps some of the issues mentioned here can be addressed, but most are inherent in the very idea of paying educators on the basis of how close they've come to someone's definition of successful performance. It's time we acknowledged not only that such programs don't work, but that they can't work.
    Furthermore, efforts to solve one problem often trigger new ones. Late-model merit-pay plans often include such lengthy lists of criteria and complex statistical controls that no one except their designers understand how the damn things work.
    So how should we reward teachers? We shouldn't. They're not pets. Rather, teachers should be paid well, freed from misguided mandates, treated with respect, and provided with the support they need to help their students become increasingly proficient and enthusiastic learners.

    Copyright © 2003 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author's name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form. Please write to the address indicated on the Contact Us page.

  8. So where's that definition of "quality teacher," Alliance?

    How will you measure "when teachers [finally! it's about time!] accept responsibility for student achievement"?

    How will you measure student acheivement?

    How will you tie that achievement to teacher's actions, let alone teacher's "accepting of responsibility?

    How will you measure the Board and the Superintendent, and also Gates and Broad Foundations, in their ability to accept responsibility for student acheivement?

    How will you measure parents, guardians, community, elders, employers.....for THEIR acceptance of responsibility for student acheivement?

    Got that all worked out yet? Or are you just following the Broad/Duncan/Gates playbook, and haven't a clue about any of this?

    Hey, when you're done serving koolaide, put the tray down, shut down your redundant new "Our Schools Coalition," and join the rest of us who are working IN the community, who come from the community, who aren't beholden to your masters for anything. Some very interesting conversations flow when they're not predicated on such made-up issues such as "teacher quality."

  9. How about the Alliance does some work to help fund efforts to improve Board quality and writes a check to support the legal costs of the ongoing appeals of Board decisions?

    The Board is doing a terrible job and the only redress has been the Courts. If the Alliance is here to fund efforts to improve the District they should help fund this one.

  10. I second Charlie's request for efforts to imporve the Board. Most of the people with whom I've had discussions about ed policy in this city agree that at the very, very, very least the Board have access to ample research expertise.
    Two interns - on versed in operational policy (structural and legal), the other in curricular policy (a deep knowledge of "best practice" as obtainable through dilgent qualititative and quantitative analysis of the historical, present, and possible futures of educational technique and pedagogy.)
    How 'bout it, Alliance? Can you spring for two excellent interns? Chosen, perhaps, by some TRUE coalition of citizenry based on the intern's neutrality and pure focus on REAL data.) Surely uou've got a hundred thousand or so that could well spent on such neutral and helpful researchers for the Board? I will donate some money to such an initiative if you'll get the ball rolling.
    Anyone match me?

  11. Here's the first problem with the Alliance's obsession with "teacher quality": it doesn't much matter. So long as the teacher is competent, incremental differences in teacher effectiveness beyond competence has a very small impact on students' academic achievement. There are other factors, nearly all of them at home, which play a MUCH greater role in determining student achievement. Think of the diversity of student achievement in a classroom - none of those differences are attributable to the teacher, are they? It is silly and wasteful to invest so much time, effort, and resources in an area that cannot offer much of a pay-off.

    Here's the second problem with the Alliance's obsession with "teacher quality": it's done in a very disrespectful way. For all of the talk about respecting teachers as professionals, there is very little ACTION that respects teachers as professionals and allows them the discretion that professionals are supposed to have to do the work as they see fit. There is also very little support provided to them to do the work. This burden to be responsible for results comes just as tools are being taken from them.

    Here's the third problem with the Alliance's obsession with "teacher quality": the focus on teachers takes the focus off the students. If we want all students working at grade level - and we do - then we should be working to identify the students who are not working at grade level and then we should get them the early and effective interventions that they need to rise to grade level. That's where we should be investing our precious resources - in the students, not the teachers.

    When the Alliance wants to stop messing around with these corporately sponsored, highly political efforts to make incremental changes and starts doing the real work of supporting under-performing students, then you will see public support on your blogs, in your meetings, and in your donations.

  12. I second what Mr. Mas said: Teachers NEED support to target and assist students in the classroom, supports they are losing daily due to the budget crisis, yet the district is spending millions of dollars (and thousands of hours, admin AND teacher) on this performance management thing (of which your amorphous "teacher quality" is a part.
    Please advocate for supporting students and teachers by advocating for identifying student needs, rather than assessing this negligible "teacher quality." Schools are losing counselors, librarian FTE, Admin FTE, Teachers....and this is even BEFORE the RIF! Yet the district, and by extention its "critical partner" who is advocating some illusive search for TQ, are advocating spending scarce dollars on this esoteric stuff instead of in the classroom where it's needed.
    Please advocate for teachers by advocating for putting dollars into the classrooms, libraries, and counselor's office instead of into the pockets of NWEA.

  13. And....lest we forget, NWEA is the contractor who has sold the District the MAP tests, which will be used to somehow ascertain "teacher quality" (see the comments above by Mr Mas on the silliness of this).
    Lest we also forget, our Superintendent is on the Board of NWEA. In the immortal words of the Chuch Lady, how conVEEEENient!

  14. So you managed to hornswoggle Linda Shaw. She gave you quite a bit of space in today's paper. Twisted ol' Blethen's arm, eh? THAT must have been hard...
    "Community" my foot. You are funded by Gates/Broad, you do their bidding, the "survey" and the "poll" were obviously driven by their agenda...and you call yourselfs supporters of the community? You call yourselves supporters of teachers and students?
    You're shills.
    How can you sleep at night.

  15. This coalition is broadly representative of parents, students, local employers, and the community at large...

    I searched on "Our Schools Coalition" on this blog and don't see any earlier reference to it (though this post is called an 'Update" on the Coalition.) Can you please post a list of the members of the Coalition?

  16. Here's the list of Alliance "Our Schools Coalition" members, Maureen (just kidding, it's members of their Board):
    G3 & Associates, Inc.
    Ernst & Young LLP
    Ben Bridge Jeweler, Inc.
    Puget Sound Community Affairs Director
    Microsoft Corporation
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer
    Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce
    Community Volunteer
    Garvey Schubert Barer, Corp
    Community Volunteer
    President - Seattle School Board
    Roosevelt High School Foundation
    Deloitte Corp
    Harris Private Bank
    Superintendent - Seattle Public Schools
    First Choice Health
    Foster Pepper PLLC
    Callison, LLC
    Washington Real Estate Holdings
    Group Health Cooperative
    Chase Morgan
    Bridge Partners LLC
    Metzler North America
    Kennedy Associates Real Estate Counsel, LP
    The Boeing Company

  17. Here's another way of looking at the Alliance Board (and until the post a list of who the "Our Schools Coalition" members are, we can assume also that this Board is the "coalition":

    Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Cooperative, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Chamber of Commerce, Superintendent of Public Schools, School Board President, High School Foundation, Community Volunteer, Community Volunteer

  18. That's right: Twenty corporations, a couple of which have given millions to the "Strategic Plan" (read: "Performance Management"; "Teacher Quality") make up the bulk of the Alliance's Board. After them, and the Chamber of Commere, we see the Supt, the Board President, a HS Foundation (?) and TWO "community volunteers."

    No educators. No university reprentatives. No represntation of the various neighborhoods and communities (geographic, wealth/poverty, ethnicity...)

    No coalition.

    Yet these twenty corporations are directing millions (including public tax dollars from the lawsuit, that the District piad as settlement and gave to the Alliance) towards pointing at teachers and other educators as the sole problem. Not administration, not meddling corporations with corporate agendas, not poverty, not the reduction of staff, materials, and respect foisted on educators every year (have you seen your school's budget this year? How many staff members is it losing?)

    If Seattle wants its public schools to be run by corporate American, she need only follow the money to the Broad Foundation, to the Gates Foundation, to Arne Duncan of the Ariel Investment Corporation and now the head of our national education department...

    If this is the path the citizenry choose, so be it. But I doubt they are choosing it consciously. It takes shenanigans like biased surveys and puch-polls to convince the public that "data" is being gathered, though readers of this blog will note that none is ever forthcoming.

    Alliance: Post the survey questions, unless you are ashamed of them. Post the telephone poll. Too embarressed? Post the trnascripts of these supposed "community gatherings" - you cite ideas, but how are we to know who said them? Or if anyone said them? They obviously follow your Gates and Broad mandates. No one even heard of the term "teacher quality" until it fell out of their, and then your mouth.

    Post your information, post your data that suggests "teacher quality" is some sort of real thing, and someting to be worried about (instead of worrying about, oh, poverty? Drug use? Bad tests? Lack of funding for schools?
    Corporate malfeance? Corporate influence on public endeavors? Corporate influence on "Coalitions" of corporate lackeys?

  19. Maureen, Charlie and SC,
    My thoughts exactly. This is a textbook example of astoturf. There is nothing grassroots about this coalition the Alliance has money clipped together.

    Actually, I'm offended by the name. "Our" schools? Hmmm. I think not.

    Who has worked in a classroom for 5+ years? Who has served as building admin or support staff for 5+ years? Who tutors on site? Saturday work parties? Bake sales? Teacher appreciation lunches? Field trip chaperons? Art prep and support? Class pet care taker? PTSA secretary? Library volunteer? Snack coordinator for testing days? School garden planner? Anyone initiated a the dirtrict's composting program? Book order coordinator? Procured any prom dress/tuxes for students w/o means? Connected with family support workers re: food bank needs? Sew any costumes for the school play? Recess monitor volunteer? Bought coffee for new parent night? Planned games for the year end picnic?

    This is what "OUR" schools need. These are the efforts that build strong schools, support students and foster "quality" teaching and learning opportunities. The Alliance should put up or shut up.

  20. I understand. The Alliance thinks that the millions that the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation contribute to see their pet projects and experiments in the public schools constitutes BUYING the schools. After spending these millions they believe they own the schools and therefore refer to them as "Our" schools.

    News flash: the schools belong to the community - not to the political philanthropies. The contributions of the Alliance's masters is puny compared to the contribution of the community. Not only do we - through our taxes and our PTA contributions - put in more money than the big money foundations, we put in our time, our effort, and our children. We don't just have skin in the game, we have blood in it.

    If the Alliance were an authentic grassroots fundraising organization it might be able to talk about "Our Schools". As it is, the name for this group is only arrogant and presumptuous.