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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

State Rep. Bullard wants inquiry into FCAT contractor Pearson



A Florida lawmaker called for an inquiry into FCAT contractor Pearson today, prompted by recent newspaper reports that a foundation tied to the testing company paid for overseas conference trips for high-ranking education officials.

One of the reports, in the Sept. 18 New York Times, implied that former Florida education commissioner Eric J. Smith attended a Finland conference on the Pearson Foundation's dime. A second New York Times report, on Oct. 9, didn't mention Smith by name but said about 20 education commissioners from around the country have attended the conferences.

“It is my hope that legislative leadership is as concerned as I am about the potential misuse of state dollars,” said Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, said in a written statement.  “I hope leadership takes this opportunity to take a serious look at how Pearson has been using state dollars.”

A Florida Department of Education spokesman told The Gradebook in 2009 that the Council of Chief State School Officers paid for the Finland trip. According to the Times, the foundation gives an annual grant to the council, "which then plans the agenda for the trips and invites the commissioners."

The Pearson Foundation offered this response here.

Bullard, the ranking member on the House Education Committee, has in past years filed legislation to minimize use of the FCAT. The state is paying Pearson $254 million over four years to administer the FCAT. Smith ordered Pearson to pay about $15 million in fines last year after a fiasco over late FCAT results.

-- Ron Matus, Times staff writer


[Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 8:16pm]


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