Recently, the Foundation for Educational Excellence (FEE), created by Jeb Bush, has come under fire for mixing its programming with the financial interests of its backers while serving as a vehicle for Bush’s 2016 presidential ambitions.
The Tampa Tribune ran a scathing article that pointed out problematic practices:
“Lobbyists are not allowed to finance perks like trips for state officials, but those at the Foundation for Excellence in Education get around that ban by being registered to another foundation run by Jeb Bush.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush’s nonprofit, education reform foundation is taking heat for using donations from for-profit companies to lobby for state education laws that could benefit those companies.
Among the activities of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education that have come in for criticism: It pays for state officials and legislators to go to conferences where they meet with the company’s donors, including officials of corporations who stand to gain from the policymakers’ decisions.”
The article points out that:
“Normally, it’s illegal for lobbyists or lobbying organizations to provide benefits such as free trips to Florida legislators or top executive branch officials. But the Foundation for Excellence in Education escapes that prohibition because lobbyists on its staff are registered to another, closely related Bush foundation – even though the two share key staff members and even their Tallahassee address.”
Among the corporate sponsors of the FEE, the article says:
- Pearson, a $9 billion-a-year media conglomerate which has a $250 million, four-year contract to administer the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test. In the last few years, the company has been fined $14 million by the state for delayed test score results and criticized for its grading of writing tests.
- Amplify, the education division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which sells classroom and curriculum software.
- Charter Schools USA, a Fort Lauderdale-based for-profit company that manages charter schools under contract.
- IQity, which sells online learning materials.
The foundation sponsors conferences where the top stars of the corporate reform movement appear to praise the virtues of vouchers, charters, and online learning. For example, last years’ summit in Washington, D.C.”
“….included “strategy sessions” on such topics as “Reaching more students with vouchers and tax-credit scholarships” and banquets with speeches by Bush, Condoleeza Rice and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
“The 2011 conference at the historic Palace Hotel in San Francisco – one of the city’s most luxurious, with rooms starting at $350 per night –featured a speech by Murdoch.
It also included a fundraiser hosted by Bush for Tony Bennett, then running for re-election as Indiana education superintendent and a champion of the kind of conservative education reform advocated by the foundation – more charter schools, tax-paid tuition vouchers, more emphasis on testing, mandatory on-line courses and “virtual schools.”
Please read the article. It raises so many important questions about the push for privatization, the blend of philanthropy and profit-making, and one other important question: Why was Arne Duncan addressing a summit of rightwing cheerleaders for privatization and profit?