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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida lawmakers, think tankers get recognition for their work in education

Whether the recognition for their work is high praise, or a slap in the face, is in the eye of the beholder.

Coming out of Colorado, the National Education Policy Center gave a special "Bunkum" award this year to Matthew Ladner, a longtime admirer of Jeb Bush's education initiatives who recently became a senior adviser to the former governor's Foundation for Excellence in Education. The NEPC, which aims to put some perspective into published education research papers, gave its very first inidividual honor (if you can call it that) to Ladner for his "shameless hawking of what he and the Governor call the “Florida Formula” for educational success."

"As our reviews have explained, they’d be less deceptive if they were selling prime Florida swampland. One cannot, however, deny Dr. Ladner’s salesmanship: gullible lawmakers throughout the nation have been pulling out their wallets and buying into his evidence-less pitch for flunking of low-scoring third graders and other policies likely to harm many more students than they help. ... Our judges were particularly impressed recently, when Ladner attributed Florida’s “hitting the wall” drop in NAEP scores to a collapse in the housing bubble and other “impossible to say” factors. Bunkums have been awarded for far less impressive an accomplishment than this sort of “heads I win, tails you lose” use of evidence."

At the same time, Bush's other advocacy group, the Foundation for Florida's Future, released its honor roll of lawmakers who advanced the Florida formula during the 2012 legislative session. The one Tampa area lawmaker among them was Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Pasco County, who pushed through legislation expanding the state's corporate tax credit scholarship voucher program.

Others on the bipartisan list include Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, the executive director of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents who sponsored the bill to implement Florida's NCLB waiver; Sen. Lizbeth Benacqisto, R-Wellington, who spearheaded the failed effort to adopt a Parent Trigger bill; Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, who pressed for increased funding to the state's school recognition program; and Rep. John Patrick Julien, D-North Miami Beach, who backed several efforts to grow school choice in Florida.

The Foundation graded all lawmakers, so not surprisingly it handed out some F's. Also not surprisingly, the recipients of those failing marks were all Democrats.

On the Senate side, they were Gwen Margolis, Eleanor Sobel, Nan Rich, Arthenia Joyner, and Audrey Gibson. In the House, all but three of the Democrats got F's. Of those, Dwight Bullard, Daphne Campbell, Charles Chestnut IV, Janet Cruz, Mia Jones, Rick Kriseman, Mark Pafford, Steve Perman, Scott Randolph, Elaine Schwartz, Perry Thurston and Barbara Watson stood out for not supporting a single one of the group's initiatives.

[Last modified: Thursday, June 7, 2012 10:28am]


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