Is Jeb Bush's Education Group Helping Write Laws That Benefit Its Corporate Funders?

Categories: Broward News
Jeb.jpg
After he left the governor's office in 2008, Jeb Bush set up an education nonprofit group, and last week, The Nation charged that Bush "could be using his education reform crusade for personal gain."

The dust-up began when the union-affiliated research group In the Public Interest (IPI) used the Freedom of Information Act to request emails sent to education officials in Florida and other states. Then the group published copies of emails between leaders of Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and Florida Department of Education staffers, including Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, who resigned abruptly last July.  

The implication was that Bush's foundation was helping to write laws that could in turn benefit the companies funding the foundation. 

FEE was set up by Bush when he left office in 2008, and it remains the mainstay of his signature issue, education reform. As Jeb sees it, kids will learn more and better if unions are crushed and schools are run for private profit. FEE relies on funding from private corporate interests to lobby government for public policy measures that... benefit private corporate interests.

Assessing the published emails, the Washington Post pointed out: 

• "FEE staff sought legislation that would count the state test, known as FCAT, as more than 50% of the state's school accountability measure... Pearson, the company that holds the $250 million FCAT contract, sponsors FEE through its foundation." 

• A FEE staffer advised that a legislative bill should give "authority to set a state‐approved list of charter operators or private providers." At least one FEE donor, the for-profit Florida-based Charter Schools USA, could benefit from being placed on such a state-approved list.

• Another FEE staffer stated that a goal was to pass a "parent trigger" law. Such a law  (which failed to pass during Florida's last legislative session) is a mechanism that lets parents override administrators and convert neighborhood schools to charter schools. As the Post noted, Charter Schools USA could also benefit from such a law. 

The most explosive charge to emerge has been that Jeb has a personal investment in one of the companies FEE pushed on state officials. As described by The Nation:

In one e-mail from last year, Bush's top aide at his foundation, Patricia Levesque, communicated with school officials to urge them to use a company called SendHub, a start-up that uses cloud computing and text messages. Bush, according to TechCrunch, has a modest "five-figure" investment in SendHub. Garrett Johnson, the founder of SendHub, previously worked for Bush and still serves on the board of Foundation for Florida's Future, another Bush-run education nonprofit.


In response to a Tampa Bay Times report on the dispute, Jeb's group argued that: 

The majority of Excel in Ed's operational expenses, including salaries, are funded by private foundations, non-profits and philanthropies which do not sell to the K-12 market. We do accept sponsorships from corporations to help fund our annual Excellence in Action National Summit on Education Reform, in the same manner that unions and other organizations accept the same kind of sponsorships from companies.

The notion that Gov. Jeb Bush, who has spent the past 20 years as a passionate advocate for education reform, is profiting from this involvement is beyond ridiculous. He has devoted thousands of hours to this cause without compensation.

USF education prof Sherman Dorn, wrote

If the charter for the foundation is consistent with indirectly advancing the interests of one or more industries, and none of the specific activities violate federal law involving non-profits, then the worst one can say is that the foundation is operating on the marginal side of ethics (and possibly not that, depending on the range of non-profit activities).

Dorn described the affair as "casual back-scratching of people in the same circle." 

Mighty charmed circle, we'd add. Them what has, gets -- and then they take tax exemptions on donations to groups that work to see that they keep on getting.

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact fire.ant@browardpalmbeach.com.

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30 comments
frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

and for that matter..........look how JEBs daughter turned out

lindsey lohan would be embarrassed by her behavior

but then again what POLITICIAN isn't better at TALKING than DOING

or taking CREDIT for things they had nothing to do with and deflecting BLAME for things they screwed-up

Simonglynn
Simonglynn

So "Jeb Bush ... has spent the past 20 years as a passionate advocate for education reform" has he...so now I understand why so many students were unable to get a passing grade last year even on the on the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) itself already a dumbed down version of the national test so that Florida can hide its abysmal record of usually placing arround 48th among the states in the average SAT scores of its graduating high school seniors in a Country which places 19th amongst the industrialized Nations! Who says we aren’t creative? I guess we just cannot "misunderestimate" the Bush boys and their acolytes in the Republican controlled Florida administration enough.

winsomelosesome
winsomelosesome topcommenter

Yea, this is terrible because there are so many other great proposals out there to improve education in the US and Florida.  Let's demogog the one who's in the arena trying to improve the sorry state of education in Florida............That's the ticket.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

bush should teach his spouse how to pay taxes due on personally imported haute coiture dresses so she won't be embarrassed into lying and then being fined and taxed $25,ooo anyway

it seems tax EVASION attempts are serious lapses in judgement and willful dodging of american laws (forget about bying non-american products)

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

exactly.......it is funny when LIONS of CONGRESS who lorded over things for ages then come in and claim to be able to FIX everything

same here, as you indicated JEB has been leading education reform in FLORIDA for TWENTY years

then comes the 2012 election and we can't even COUNT votes

now wouldn't some of these people be the same ones JEB "educated"

riverrat69
riverrat69 topcommenter

@winsomelosesome No one should be using taxpayer money to fund education for profit. If you want to send your kids to a private or religious school, you pay for it. If not, home school them like you were. They'll be just as ignorant.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

.....................but then again TAX EVASION has been found in these bushes on many occasion

even the senior bushy tried to fleece the government out of taxes due as vice-president taking an exclusion on the sale of a personal residence in texas when moving to maine

see as VP your personal residence is in WASH DC so he couldn't claim texas while he was VP and therefore the exclusion was denied

but as a REAL BUSH league guy he thought who he was and tried the case all the way to the supreme court where of course he lost

so JEB has the same arrogance in thinking he is a godsend to education and the only one around who can claim the credit = meanwhile texas and florida BOTH are low on the national scale of education, lagging behind in every area measured

we can't even COUNT VOTEs like every other state

winsomelosesome
winsomelosesome topcommenter

Oh riverrat69.........Haters gonna hate. 

Two of my kids went to public schools, two went to private.  I know the difference.  I've seen the difference.  I value the difference.

Not worth it with you.......winsome out

winsomelosesome
winsomelosesome topcommenter

OMG.  Nice article.

More funding (of course), eliminate competition by getting rid of Charter Schools and vouchers.  What's next, Parochial schools?

No thanks.  I prefer competition, not union based cronysm for promotions and tenure.  Not a system where Admin. takes all the $ and gives the teachers crumbs. 

winsomelosesome
winsomelosesome topcommenter

On Rand: I took your silence, and your faith in private-profit "solutions" for assent. My bad. NO PROBLEM

On the Caller: Busting the NJ senator advances discussion of public policy questions how? IT DOESN'T. JUST "GROUNDED IN REALITY"


On "peace out": You asked me some questions; I answered them. THANK YOU

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@winsomelosesome On Rand: I took your silence, and your faith in private-profit "solutions" for assent. My bad. 

On the Caller: Busting the NJ senator advances discussion of public policy questions how?

On "peace out": You asked me some questions; I answered them.

winsomelosesome
winsomelosesome topcommenter

And who in the hell said I was an Aynn Rand fan?...........Oh yea, that was you! 

Good job, assign someone to me who I never said a word about, then attack it.

Winsome out

winsomelosesome
winsomelosesome topcommenter

Not sure what your meaning of "Peace out" is but I usually take it to say, "Let's move on."  I guess it means "I get the last word."  :)

PS Caller  = Menendez

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@winsomelosesomeI am, in fact, a Keynes fan. He ain't the end-all and be-all, but he does have a significant advantage over Rand, in that he did fact-based analysis whereas she produced fantasy for adolescents.
 

Don't bother with the Caller or Red State, unless they happen to post something grounded in reality, which the posts I referred you to did.



winsomelosesome
winsomelosesome topcommenter

Big John Maynard Keynes far are you?

How many left leaning web sites are you going to send me to?  I guess I should start sending stuff from The Daily Caller or Red State.

Like you said.......Peace out.  See you on the next topic on which we disagree.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@winsomelosesome That's funny. Most of the nations of Western Europe have much greater govt involvement in health care, even truly socialized medicine, and they are not "planned economies." I think it's your ideology that's showing. Big Ayn Rand fan, are you?

But we're getting way off topic here. 

Peace out.

winsomelosesome
winsomelosesome topcommenter

The AHCA (I have to laugh at the A) is not pragmatic. It is pure ideology.  Forcing everyone to buy insurance is only pragmatic if it fits your ideological model for a planned economy.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@winsomelosesome @fire.ant Ideology results in blindness, and perverse "answers."

The Affordable Health Care Act is mere pragmatism, not ideology; it's the opposition to AHCA that's ideological.

winsomelosesome
winsomelosesome topcommenter

Talking about MY KIDS.  You are a low life prick

winsomelosesome
winsomelosesome topcommenter

I DID! and one of the graduates is now a teacher in the Broward County public school system  That's why I'm interested. The article you referred me to had no new answers.  At least Bush's group is looking to find some.  I'll look at anything new.....for the good it can provide........not for something to bash because it doesn't conform with the staid situation that now exists.

BTW when choosing private schools I am paying for BOTH systems.  Just sayin'

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@winsomelosesome No one is suggesting public education cannot be improved. Privatization is not the answer.

winsomelosesome
winsomelosesome topcommenter

This can go on forever.  Until you show me that the "usual" methods, meaning what we have done in the past, inproves the state of education you're in the losing end.  Competition always makes the end product beter, even in the public school system. 

You use the term "skimming" like the parents have no choice in the matter of where they want to send their children.  Given the choice they send them to the better schools.  If some of them are Charter so be it.  "They take money from public schools."  By, what? Offering a better alternative? 

I think your idea of cooperation is totally within the broken framework we now have....Again...no thanks.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@winsomelosesome 

Unions?

-Schools in non-union states fare poorly on federal tests; heavily unionized states—Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey—are at the top. 

-It's not unions who make $ go disproportionately to admin.

-As for tenure, teachers have none in FL:

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2012-01-25/teacher-tenure-rights-firings/52772354/1

-As for promotions, admin decides those, not unions.

"Competition/Charters"? Good for the winners. Bad for everyone else:

Charter schools weaken regular public schools:

They take money away from neighborhood public schools and from the district budget. 

Many of the “high-performing” charter schools succeed by skimming off the best students, even in poor districts. 

Many charter schools succeed by excluding or limiting the number of students they accept who have disabilities or who are English language learners. They are also free to push out low-scoring students and send them back to the local public school. 

Some things are best done through cooperation instead of competition. Public education is one.


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