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Bill Gates Doles Out $10M for Green Dot Rainier Leadership Academy

August 19, 2018

Billionaire school reform experimentalist Bill Gates has decided to spring almost $10M for a Green Dot charter high school facility in Seattle, Washington:

Washington Charter School Development, Inc

Date: July 2018
Purpose: to fund the construction of Green Dot’s south Seattle high school–Rainier Valley Leadership Academy
Amount: $9,800,000
Term: 30
Topic: K-12, K-12 Education
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Seattle, Washington
Grantee Website: 

The Gates Foundation is paying the cash to Pacific Charter School Development Fund (PCDF), a nonprofit spinoff of NewSchools Venture Fund (NSVF); PCDF was founded in 2004 with NSVF “seed money” and “joined by The Broad Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as providers of project equity.”

The Gates grant references the PCDF email address as the “grantee website”; however, the grantee name is Washington Charter School Development, Inc. (WCSD), a PCDF spinoff created in 2014.

NSVF spins PCDF; PCDF spins WCSD. When it comes to ed reform nonprofits, proliferation is the name of the game.

Charter Schools Are Not Common Schools.

The timing of the creation of WCSD is interesting, as it happened the year prior to the 2015 Washington Supreme Court ruling that Washington charter schools did not fit the constitutional definition of “common school,” a decision that nixed the diverting of public school funding to charter schools.

However, the situation is not settled, as the May 17, 2018, Washington State Wire reports:

On Thursday morning [May 17, 2018], the State Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of charter schools in Washington State. The arguments and questions from the justices focused primarily on school funding, supervisory authority, local accountability, and the ability for charter school teachers to collectively bargain.

Back in 2012, voters approved an initiative to authorize public charter schools in Washington. But, the law was struck down in 2015 after the Supreme Court ruled that these schools did not fit the definition of “common schools” and therefore could not receive money from the general fund. The legislature responded by tweaking the law so that funding for the charter schools could come through the “Opportunity to Pathways Account,” an account funded by the state lottery. Following the legislature’s changes, the King County Superior Court ruled that charter schools were constitutional. …

A decision on this case is not expected to be reached for months.

For the time being, Washington State charter schools cannot be funded using money set aside for “common schools”; to do so is currently deemed unconstitutional.

The Green Dot Squat

Even though Bill Gates’ stepping up with facility funding for Green Dot-operated Rainier Valley Leadership Academy does not divert common-school money for the operation of charter schools, there is a shady side to the zoning of Green Dot charter schools in Seattle, as the March 18, 2018, Seattle Education explains:

The Green Dot charter chain tried to sneak through a project to open a high school in Seattle’s south end as they had done with a middle school last year. …

The Green Dot middle school received a variance for the Southeast Seattle location last year but that was done under the radar and illegally with the assistance of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

As former Seattle School Board Director and co-founder of this blog Sue Peters states about the charter high school which is applicable to the junior high charter school as well:

Green Dot is violating the law. They are asking for a waiver from zoning law called a departure. But they have no legal right to make that request. Only the Seattle School District can legally do so, according to city law — specifically Seattle Municipal Code 23.79.002. Yet someone in the City worked with Green Dot behind the scenes and granted them one waiver already….

City law (SMC 23.79) also states that the advisory committee that makes these zoning determinations must include a representative from the Seattle School District. That did not happen. So it was convened unlawfully by the Department of Neighborhoods.

Charter schools are also required to comply with local and state and federal law (See RCW 28A.710.040).

So Green Dot is committing violation after violation. …

When the flag was raised about the Green Dot charter franchise requesting a variance for a high school in Southeast Seattle, the Seattle School Board unanimously passed a resolution that charter schools should not be afforded a variance because they are not considered public schools. …

Along with the school board’s resolution, there have also been protests at the construction site where the Green Dot junior high and high school are now to be co-located. Apparently Green Dot charter schools has decided to co-locate the high school with the junior high school rather than try again for a variance at the Othello location.

Sure enough, the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WSCSA) advertises both the Green Dot middle and high school as sharing a Rainier Avenue (Seattle) address:

Green Dot Rainier Valley Leadership Academy

Basic RGBSE Seattle

Grades served: 6-7 and 9 in 2018-2019, expanding to 6-12

Focus: College-going culture, personalized learning, family partnership programs


Address: 6020 Rainier Avenue S, Seattle, WA 98118


Gates has stepped up to fund one big Green Dot Rainier Valley Leadership Academy at the site that Green Dot illegally procured for its middle school.

bill gates

Bill Gates

Green Dot, What?

For those lacking familiarity with Green Dot charter schools, I suggest reading Diane Ravitch’s June 05, 2013, post, “The Inside Story of a Green Dot Charter School,” written by former Green Dot teacher, Brett Wyatt. Below is an excerpt:

This is a story of a charter school in the Green Dot Public School system which, after four years of operation, is coming to an inglorious end. It is not an end to the system, or even to school itself, but an end in name and in so many exhausted careers used by Green Dot to experiment with failed policies in Watts, California.

The original Locke High School, like so many schools centered in poverty and neglect, had many systemic problems. Green Dot, a charter school system headed by Marco Petruzzi, requested to administer the school in 2008. The school was divided into 4 cluster schools, those being Animo Locke I, Animo Locke II, Locke ACE Academy (Architecture, Construction, Engineering), Animo Locke Tech, Animo Locke III and Animo Watts . According to founding teacher Ryan Ballard, “Our first school year was 2009-10. We were a CTE, career-technical education school with a philosophy of preparing kids for college along with providing for them the notion that they will have a marketable skill/trade that, if college was not their choice, they could make a good living working in a field that would be needed well into the future. In 2011, Locke Ace was closed and re-organized into Locke II.” No reason was given for the closure. As a new hire to Locke II, I was told that the merger was part of the long-term plan to make all Green Dot schools college preparatory. …

In 2011 I was struck by a student so had that I left to be treated in an emergency room. The student received a one day suspension and was to return to my class. I filed a police report and the student was arrested and later released. As the only teacher of my subject at the school. I had to get a restraining order to keep the student from being re-assigned back to my classroom. That same year two teachers were struck from behind with bottles. Other teachers have been spat on, had coins thrown into their faces, and verbally threatened. There was an inconsistency of disciplinary actions by site administration such that students expressing violence or extreme acts of obscenity toward teachers received detentions or minimum suspensions while students who were tardy or out of uniform also received suspensions or one or multiple days. …

Even more than the violence, it is the constant assailing of the administration upon teachers for being less than adequate, in need of improvement, or being placed on development plans, a system whereby a low performing teacher scrutinized each week until proven capable or terminated., which has caused so many of the teachers to leave the school. There is little to no encouragement, nothing done to help a teacher’s self-esteem, only the constant chorus of “you can improve.” Sadly, so may new teachers leave the profession because they believe this system is the norm in public education.

Another resource on Green Dot connections is chapter 20 in my book, A Chronicle of Echoes, in which I discuss Green Dot history as it relates to Parent Revolution and its founder, Ben Austin, who takes credit for transforming Los Angeles’ Locke High School– the original school referenced in Wyatt’s narrative above. (A quick read of excerpts from that chapter cn be found in this post.)

Finally, here are some resources regarding Green Dot founder, Steve Barr’s, exploitation of the New Orleans community and his using John McDonogh High School students and teachers on Oprah’s series, Blackboard Wars. Barr was supposed to renovate McDonogh High via his Future Is Now schools; instead, he let McDonogh High sit for two years then bailed on the project.

But never mind the past. The Future Is Now. I mean, Green Dot, Green Dot. Gates-funded Green Dot has to succeed because Gates is paying for it, oh, yeah, right… [trails off] [Fin.]



Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Thank you for the knowledge. I am a public school teacher in WA, and I have to get my information from you in order to keep up with this #@$%. The WA voters voted against charter school initiatives several times before the big money campaign squeezed out more than 50% by tenths of a percentage point to pass the initiative then found to be unconstitutional, or not.

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