D.C. advocacy group accuses Jeb Bush's education foundation of undue influence
In case you weren't already aware of this, In the Public Interest -- an offshoot of the labor advocacy group Partnership for Working Families -- issued a press release Wednesday stating that Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education has influenced laws and policies in several states, often in a way that might benefit some of the companies that underwrite its existence.
The emails, obtained through public records requests, reveal that the organization, sometimes working through its Chiefs For Change affiliate, wrote and edited laws, regulations and executive orders, often in ways that improved profit opportunities for the organization's financial backers.
"Testing companies and for-profit online schools see education as big business," said In the Public Interest Chair Donald Cohen. "For-profit companies are hiding behind FEE and other business lobby organizations they fund to write laws and promote policies that enrich the companies."
Bush, the foundation and its executive director, Patricia Levesque, have not hidden their agenda or their ties as they have advocated for several school accountability measures around the country. Those have included ideas such as third grade retention for poor readers, state-issued school grades, charter schools, virtual education and testing-generated data. Levesque and Eric Smith, former Florida commissioner who now is staff for the foundation's Chiefs for Change offshoot, have been quoted in articles nationally, and frequently advise the Florida Legislature and Board of Education.
Groups that oppose the ideas have frequently criticized the "reform" movement as a thinly veiled attempt to privatize public education for the benefit of companies such as Charter Schools USA and Pearson. With this release, In the Public Interest includes e-mails it says drives home the point. It suggests that the foundation should be counted in the same breath as ALEC, a group of conservative state lawmakers and businesspeople that aims to fashion public policies along the lines of federalism and limited government.