Romano: Time for No Pol Left Behind reforms

Published July 15, 2015

The folks involved with Jeb Bush's education foundations love grades.

They love assigning and interpreting them. They love to praise and punish based on them. They love to preach that grades are intertwined with accountability and standards.

All of which raises an interesting point today:

Bush's foundations seem to have an achievement gap problem. You see, the Foundation for Florida's Future, a think tank created by Bush in 1995, recently released its 2015 grades for state legislators.

And, I must say, the results are alarming.

While there were many successes among Republicans in both the House and the Senate, it appears these reformers are not doing a very good job tutoring Democrats in Tallahassee.

Senate Republicans had a spectacular 3.96 grade-point average, while their Democrat colleagues were at a pedestrian 2.35. The gap in the House was even more stark. The GPA for House Republicans was 3.89, but was just a 0.48 for House Democrats.

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

This can't be written off as a few delinquent Democrats. Or slow-learning liberals. This is a systemic problem. This screams for No Pol Left Behind reforms.

And I blame the Bush-inspired foundations for allowing it to get this far.

It is their mission to improve education in Florida through lobbying efforts, and they have clearly failed with a substantial portion of the legislative population.

Ah, but you say, how can I blame the foundations for the shortcomings of Democrats?


The same way the foundations blame educators for the shortcomings of students.

It has never mattered to reformers in the Sunshine State that the education gap tracks very closely to socioeconomic levels in our neighborhoods.

If poor and minority students are struggling to keep up in classrooms, reformers seem to think it means all our worst teachers have coincidentally been assigned to those same classrooms. So that means principals should be reassigned, teachers should be denied pay raises and schools should be stripped of additional funding.

Using that logic, groups like Bush's Foundation for Excellence needs to be held responsible for all those Democrats who apparently can't pass a standardized bill. Like it or not, these crusaders are the ones in charge of informing and grading lawmakers.

So what's the solution?

Vouchers seem to be popular these days. Perhaps the political donations that flow to the Foundation for Excellence could instead be diverted to think tanks in Massachusetts. Or California. After all, they say choice is important. So, they claim, is competition.

Why should Florida lawmakers be at the mercy of one dominant ideology? Aren't we raising standards? Aren't we competing with the nation?

Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York all have a higher percentage of students taking the SAT than Florida, and all four states have higher average scores. Shouldn't lawmakers be looking at educational policies in those states?

Gee, do you think I might be making correlations that do not exist? That maybe legislative grades don't reflect the work being done to improve schools.

Sort of how standardized test scores don't always reflect the work being done to educate our children, huh?