The Wall Street Journal has an informative article about the $2.2 million that Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence paid to a top Republican political consultant to publicize the “success” of the Florida model of education reform: school grades, charters, and high-stakes testing, and also revealed who underwrites Bush’s FEE.
The foundation’s Learn More, Go Further campaign in 2013 and 2014 included a website and other online media, television and radio ads, and live events in Florida to promote the state’s educational system.
“Today, more parents and teachers know that Florida is a top-10 state for improvement in education, thanks to the reforms implemented and hard work by teachers and students over the last 15 years,” said Jaryn Emhof, a foundation spokeswoman.
Under Mr. Bush’s A-plus plan, schools receive annual grades based on their test scores in an effort to hold educators responsible for student achievement. The Learn More, Go Further ads touted rising graduation rates, increased numbers of students taking advanced courses, and rising achievement among Hispanic and African-American students. Mr. Bush was not mentioned in the ads.
Another spot trumpeted Florida’s higher academic standards, which are modeled after the Common Core standards adopted by most states. Because the Obama administration awarded financial incentives to states that adopted Common Core, some conservatives view the standards as government overreach, making Mr. Bush’s support a potential liability in his expected 2016 campaign…
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has served as chairwoman of the foundation since January, when Mr. Bush resigned to focus on exploring a potential campaign. Top donors to the foundation include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, GE Foundation, and News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal.
The foundation reported $11.4 million in revenue for 2013, up from $10 million the previous year. Expenses rose to $10.4 million from $5.9 million the previous year because of increases in staff, outside contracts and educational research and grants provided to states. The foundation has expanded from working with three states in 2008 to 43 states in 2013 on issues including digital learning, school grades, literacy, teacher training and charter schools.
You can be sure nothing was said in the public relations campaign about the fact that Alabama–with none of Jeb’s reforms–has a higher graduation rate than Florida. Nor will voters hear about Florida’s class size reduction act, imposed by referendum. Or Bush’s third grade retention policy, which holds back low-scoring third graders and boosts fourth-grade reading scores.