Politico.com, 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 [http://bit.ly/1rmitpk ] 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: http://on.fb.me/ZEGKvA
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 [http://bit.ly/1tQYBvu ]. LePage, however, is a big fan of charter schools and has led a major expansion effort in the state. In 2011, he signed legislation [http://bit.ly/1qlEpNp] 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 [http://bit.ly/1lSoXpB ] 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.