Archives for category: Bush, Jeb asks whether Jeb Bush will be politically wounded by his punitive, privatizing education reform.

It is not just Common Core, which is under fire by many Republican governors and education activists and is slipping in the polls. It is also Bush’s love of high-stakes testing, his simplistic and punitive A-F school-grading system, and his coziness with profit-seeking corporations.

If Jeb Bush should run for President, this article bears re-reading.

Bush spoke at a rightwing policy conference in Michigan, where he “trashed” public schools.

“MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Jeb Bush praised charter schools and slammed traditional public schools and teachers unions in a speech here Wednesday, saying that public education “dumbs down standards to make adults look better,” a phrase often used by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“We must expand [school] choice,” said Bush, delivering a keynote speech at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference in northern Michigan. “Our governance model includes over 13,000 government-run monopolies run by unions.”

“Since he left office, the former Florida governor has become an evangelist for a certain strand of education reform; through his $19 million Foundation for Excellence in Education, he advocates for online education, grading schools based on test scores and forcing students to repeat grades if they don’t pass standardized exams.”

Bush is also an ardent fan of vouchers.

In his speech, he praised Michigan’s charter sector. Not everyone agrees with his enthusiasm. The Detroit Free Press ran a series of articles in July 2014 concluding that the state of Michigan spends $1 billion every year on charters with no accountability.

Here are the newspaper’s findings:

“What the Free Press found:

A yearlong Free Press investigation of Michigan’s charter schools found wasteful spending, conflicts of interest, poor performing schools and a failure to close the worst of the worst. Among the findings:

Charter schools spend $1billion per year in state taxpayer money, often with little transparency.

Some charter schools are innovative and have excellent academic outcomes — but those that don’t are allowed to stay open year after year.

A majority of the worst-ranked charter schools in Michigan have been open 10 years or more.

Charter schools as a whole fare no better than traditional schools in educating students in poverty.

Michigan has substantially more for-profit companies running schools than any other state.

Some charter school board members were forced out after demanding financial details from management companies.

State law does not prevent insider dealing and self-enrichment by those who operate schools.”

This article appears on, a conservative media outlet. Written by Dr. Susan Berry, a regular contributor to the website, it is critical of Jeb Bush’s support for the Common Core and details his relationships with other groups and funders.


With polls showing Republican support for Common Core plummeting, common sense would dictate that Bush call it a day with the nationalized standards, as has been done by other Republicans, such as Maine Gov. Paul LePage and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who plans to run for governor of Louisiana next year.
However, as a review of Bush’s history with the education initiative demonstrates, his interest in pushing onto the entire nation the reforms he introduced while governor of Florida – and his methods for doing so – have led his critics to claim he is more about big government crony capitalism than concern for children’s education.
Bush is the founder of several organizations that all play into a reported strategy that involves not only motivating “the people” at large for changes in education, but also using state education officials to administratively make some of those changes happen without the scrutiny or approval of the public.
As the founder and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), a national group which states its ambitious mission is “to build an American education system that equips every child to achieve his or her God-given potential,” Bush tapped for CEO Patricia Levesque, his former deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation while he was governor.
Chiefs for Change is an affiliate of FEE and describes itself as a “bipartisan coalition of current and former state education chiefs who believe that American public education can be dramatically improved.” Current members of Chiefs for Change include Mark Murphy of Delaware, Tom Luna of Idaho, John White of Louisiana, Hanna Skandera of New Mexico, Janet Barresi of Oklahoma – who was defeated in the state’s primary election this year, Deborah Gist of Rhode Island, and Kevin Huffman of Tennessee, former education commissioner and ex-husband of controversial Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee…..


As it happens, some of the Chiefs for Change are also members of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of the two federally funded interstate consortia that are developing tests aligned with the Common Core standards.
“Cronyism and corruption come in all political stripes and colors,” wrote [Michelle] Malkin at Townhall. “As a conservative parent of public charter school-educated children, I am especially appalled by these pocket-lining GOP elites who are giving grassroots education reformers a bad name and cashing in on their betrayal of limited-government principles…..”


Additionally, Bush has joined with former president of the pro-Common Core Fordham Institute Chester Finn and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Conservatives for Higher Standards, a group that promotes the Common Core standards but whose supporters still call themselves “conservatives.” Among the organization’s supporters are Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), soon-to-be head of the Senate committee that oversees education; former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R); former U.S. Secretary of Education Bill Bennett; Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R); Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R); former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R); and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R).
The Fordham Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Bush’s national organization have all been awarded grants by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary private backer of the Common Core standards.
In 2013, Bush’s FEE itself received $3,500,000 from the Gates Foundation. Two million dollars of that was awarded to FEE “to support Common Core implementation,” and $1.5 million was “for general operating support….”


In addition to the Gates Foundation, FEE’s donor list includes names not unfamiliar to critics of the Common Core standards: the GE Foundation, the Helmsley Charitable Trust, News Corp, the Walton Family Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation, the Schwab Foundation, Microsoft, Exxon Mobil, Paul Singer Foundation, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Intel, K12, Pearson, Scholastic, and Target.
Book publishers such as Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, K12, and Scholastic are all poised to reap billions off the sale of Common Core-aligned textbooks and instructional materials that school districts are forced to purchase if they want their students to succeed on the Common Core-aligned assessments. Similarly, technology companies will benefit from the online assessments and student data collection.







Politico reports that Jeb Bush won’t back down on Common Core, choice–vouchers, charters, online charters–and the rest of corporate reform that offers huge opportunities for entrepreneurs. It was his conference, and he offered a line-up of star speakers, including Condoleeza Rice, a newly minted education expert who promotes charters and vouchers, and Amanda Ripley.

Rice apparently doesn’t know that vouchers have produced no academic gains in Milwaukee, Cleveland, or D.C.

“- Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio concluded the conference on Thursday night with a wide-ranging discussion about education reform. Rice said the public school system is in and of itself unequal, and defenders of the “status quo are on the defensive.” Critics of school choice like to say that it’s taking money away from public schools, she said. “Well, what can they do? They can get better,” she said to applause. Wealthier families are already sending their children to private school and disadvantaged families are trapped in failing schools, she said. “We need to give parents that wouldn’t otherwise have the means to send their children to a school system that works for them,” Rice said.

- The national summit continues today with a lineup of guests including OECD Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher, New Mexico state education chief Hanna Skandera, Louisiana Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard and author Amanda Ripley. The agenda: Watch live:”

Will Bush’s full-throated support of Common Core hurt him in Republican primaries? Will choice mean anything if every school has the same standards and the same tests?, in its useful summary of happening events, posts the following two items:


FSU REVOLTS AGAINST THRASHER: Florida State University students are calling for a national day of action as the university’s Board of Governors is set to finalize the appointment of state Sen. John Thrasher as FSU’s next president. Students have railed against Thrasher for months, questioning how a politician with no higher education experience can run the school. They’ve also questioned [ ] Thrasher’s ties to the billionaire libertarian Koch brothers, who have previously given him campaign cash. Today, students are rallying against the “corporatization of education” by taking to social media with hashtags like #UnKoch and #FSUisNotforSale. They’re asking supporters to change their profile pictures on Facebook in solidarity. And they want to see pictures of students holding signs that read “We support FSU students in their fight against corruption” posted online. The students are also denouncing what they call the corrupt influence of Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. Twenty schools are supporting the effort, the protesters tell Morning Education, in addition to five organizations including the American Federation of Teachers. More information:


HOW EDUCATION IS PLAYING IN THE PINE TREE STATE: The Maine gubernatorial race is a competitive three-way battle between incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Democratic candidate Rep. Mike Michaud and Independent Eliot Cutler. Michaud wants to give students enrolled in public colleges a free sophomore year as a way to reduce dropouts. He also wants to ditch A-F grades for schools, which he has called “demeaning,” and he has said he worries about the financial impact that charter schools have on traditional public schools [ ]. LePage, however, is a big fan of charter schools and has led a major expansion effort in the state. In 2011, he signed legislation [] that made Maine the 41st state to allow the creation of publicly funded charter schools. That legislation allows a state commission to approve up to 10 charter schools over 10 years, but LePage wants to expand beyond that limit. LePage has also been a strong support of virtual charter schools, which Michaud opposes. Cutler has said [ ] he supports capping the number of charter schools, including virtual charters, at 10.



FLORIDA: State Senator John Thrasher has no qualifications to be president of Florida State University. As the item says, he has close ties to the powerful Koch brothers. The Koch brothers have generously funded programs in higher education to spread their message of free-market libertarianism. Apparently one of the brothers bought control of the Economics Department at Florida State University, so why not the Presidency? A staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times wrote in 2011:



A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university.

A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University’s economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting “political economy and free enterprise.”

Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they’ve funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom.

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations.


It is good news that the students at FSU are standing up for their university and for academic integrity. Will the Koch brothers care? Probably not. Will the Board of Governors? We will see.


MAINE: Governor LePage is a Tea Party radical who wants to tear down public education in the state by opening charter schools to splinter communities and even a virtual charter school, which will extract cash from local school districts and transfer it to shareholders in a for-profit corporation. Two years ago, the Portland (Maine) Press Herald published a blockbuster story about the profit motive behind the governor’s push for a virtual charter school. The writer, Colin Woodard, won a prize for investigative journalism for reporting on the links between Maine education officials and Jeb Bush’s “Foundation for Educational Excellence,” while following the money trail behind Maine’s sudden interest in having a virtual charter. LePage won last time when he received a plurality of votes, as two candidates split the majority. Maine does not have a run-off. Once again, he is facing two good candidates, and neither will drop out. If I lived in Maine (one of my best friends does), I would vote for Congressman Mike Michaud, who is well-qualified and likelier to defeat LePage. He was president of the Maine Senate before his election to Congress.

The New York Times reports that Jeb Bush has the consent of his family to run for President.

With the war in Iraq now seen as a poorly planned disaster, with No Child Left Behind considered a toxic brand, with Florida’s education “miracle” turned into a free-for-all for entrepreneurs, what will his program be? More charters, more vouchers, more virtual for-profit schools? More wars to prove our might in distant lands? More benefits for the 1%?

The GOP field is slim pickings. Jeb may be the one.

Chris in Florida, who teaches young children, writes:

“My district has become program driven. We have a program to teach reading but there are now 3 reading blocks in our day since we are a D school. The state mandates a program for Tier II intervention and another program for extra reading instruction. There is no correlation between the fragmented programs. We have a program for math and another for math intervention. We have a science program but no social studies program and both are given a meager 20 minutes a day. Several programs are online only and kids hate them and say they are boring and too hard.

“We are no longer allowed to teach with good books or to have classrooms humming with excitement over a praying mantis or a bag of apples. That is not in the programs. We are threatened with discipline if we are caught doing things the old way during random walk throughs using the nefarious Danielson rubric.

“I sneak what I can as far as read alouds and living things in when I can but our discipline problems are skyrocketing and the kids are bored and overwhelmed much of the day with recess no longer allowed either.

“This is the result of Jeb Bush, NCLB, RTTT, CCSS, and all the reformist mess.”

This prize-winning story by investigative reporter Colin Woodard follows the money trail in Maine, as Governor Paul LePage seeks to make a name for himself in the world of digital learning. It was originally published two years ago, but remains relevant. Woodard dug through more than 1,000 documents that he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and his story won the George Polk award.

Conservatives are backing away from Common Core in response to angry parents who see it as a federal takeover of their local schools. Several states have dropped the Common Core assessments or the Common Core standards.

But one conservative is not backing down: Jeb Bush. He has become the flag-bearer for the Common Core. He and Arne Duncan are the most ardent proponents for the embattled national standards.

The Wall Street Journal reports that his gamble is risky in Republican primaries but would be a plus in general elections.

Critics note that the Gates Foundation, which paid to develop the standards, is one of Jeb Bush’s biggest donors, but foundation spokesmen scoff at the suggestion:

“No one doubted that Mr. Bush governed Florida from 1999 to 2007 as a conservative. He cut individual and corporate taxes, signed the “Stand Your Ground” law pushed by gun owners and ended affirmative action in university admissions and state contracting. On education, he spearheaded a law that assigned schools letter grades based on their test scores and required third-graders who couldn’t read to be held back. He also pushed for taxpayer-funded vouchers to let students in failing schools attend private schools, a program that courts struck down.

“As the GOP has shifted to the right, it is tea-party activists who are now among Mr. Bush’s most ardent opponents. In addition to unhappiness with the federal role in education, conservative activists see a corporate connection to the initiative.

“Since 2010, Mr. Bush’s foundation has received $5 million from the Gates Foundation, and it gets donations from companies in the education industry, including Pearson U.K.:Common Core. (News Corp publishes The Wall Street Journal.)

“All Common Core roads lead to K Street,” wrote commentator and activist Michelle Malkin, one of Mr. Bush’s biggest antagonists, referring to the Washington turf of many lobbyists.

“A spokeswoman for the foundation, Jaryn Emhof, rejected criticism over corporate funding. “We have a firewall,” she said. “They don’t get any say over our reform agenda.”

Governor Rick Scott signed legislation to expand the state’s voucher program, despite the opposition of the state’s PTA associations, the NAACP, the teachers’ unions, and the League of United Latin American Citizens. Critics said the vouchers would drain resources from public schools. The voucher expansion was a high priority for former Governor Jeb Bush, who is a power in the state.

Rita Solnet, president of the Florida chapter of Parents Across America, said:

“Voucher schools will not be held to Florida’s Common Core curriculum nor will they have to deliver its associated, highly trumpeted, high stakes tests that 2.6 M other FL students endure. No merit pay, no need to pursue credentialed teachers, no accountability for $3 billion of public tax dollars.

“Had the Governor not signed SB 850 today, the voucher program would have still grown to nearly $1 billion anyways with the escalators built in.

“Something is very wrong when the agency services 59K students in primarily religious schools and they admittedly provided false numbers for an alleged wait list. Something is very wrong when their non profit president is on video admitting to giving away a million dollars each year to legislators who favor voucher programs.

“Siphoning $3 billion away from 2.6 M students is shameful.”


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