Curious Spin From Jeb Bush Camp on Scott’s Signature of Voucher Expansion

Writing in the Foundation for Excellence in Education web site, CEO Patricia Levesque completely ignored the expansion of Florida’s school voucher program and only focused on the portion of the bill which had bipartisan support. Anyone can be for school learning accounts for special needs kids:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a school choice policy ensuring that students with unique abilities benefit from educational choices beyond those already offered through the McKay Scholarship Program. The signing of Florida Senate Bill 850 establishes Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSAs), modeled after Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. Advocated by the Foundation for Excellence in Education (@ExcelinEd), the program allows parents of students with certain disabilities to create a customized education plan by choosing the school, services and therapies that best fit the needs of their child.

“Every child has unique learning needs, and we should strive to customize education opportunities that meet those needs,” said Governor Jeb Bush, chairman of ExcelinEd. “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature, Florida is giving families the ability to achieve more successful outcomes for their children. Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSAs)are just one more example of what can be accomplished when leaders embrace bold policy and challenge the status quo to give more students the chance to succeed in school and life, regardless of the challenges they face.”

Is Bush running for office or something?

Levesque’s decision to only focus on PLSAs, drips of political posturing. Why not make a blanket endorsement of school choice options in general? Especially with there a move in Washington by republican lawmakers to create a federal school voucher program.

Few are as close to Bush as is Levesque. Perhaps there is some education policy fatigue going on in the Bush camp as they’ve been taking a beating on Bush’s support for Common Core.

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Rick Scott Signs Voucher Expansion Bill; Will FEA Make a Legal Challenge?

Both Leslie Postal in the Orlando Sentinel and AP reporter Gary Fineout are saying that Rick Scott has just signed SB 85O which will expand Florida’s school voucher program. Fineout writes that Scott’s signature would “trigger a legal challenge from the Florida FEA. Scathing Purple Musings predicted last week that Scott would sign the bill on a Friday to minimize response from Charlie Crist.  Crist’s Democratic Party opponent Nan Rich will be sure to blast Scott’s decision.

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Perhaps It is Republican Cuts to Bright Futures Scholarships Which Provides the Best Argument Against Florida Voucher Expansion

While PolitiFact dispatched Nan Rich’s claim that Florida’s new expansion of school vouchers takes $3 billion a way from public education (Scathing Purple Musings takes this position, too) they didn’t argue with her number. They disagreed with Rich’s accounting and that her assertion that the figure was part of state revenues was a fair one.

Perhaps PolitiFact might be persuaded to consider that voucher expansion has taken funding away from Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship Program. South Dade Newsleader’s Larry Diehl  interviewed Sen. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) who explained the cuts and their ramifications:

“What happened to Bright Futures?” asked State Senator Dwight Bullard.

The Senator sought attention to the legislative cuts approved in this year’s state education budget. The Scholarship program was funded for $266.2 million in the budget, down from the $309.4 million approved for 2013-2014.

Created with Lottery funding in 1997, the merit-based scholarship program is designed to have bright Florida high school seniors earn a subsidy to stay in Florida for college. Eligibility is based on grades, community service and ACT or SAT test scores. The program grew from awards to about 42,000 students costing $70 million to today’s totals.

About 154,160 students participated last year with average awards of $2,007 each, according to the Florida Department of Education. The program expects 127,573 students to qualify this year.

“The students most impacted by these cuts are African-Americans and Latinos,” Bullard said. “We say enough is enough.”

Republican rhetoric to support expansion of vouchers is based upon what it does for African-American and Latino families. Their decision to cut Bright Futures discredits their supposed concerns. Looks like its republicans this time who are choosing winners and losers.



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#StopJebNow Hashtag Being Used By Conservative Activists to Defeat Common Core

Writes Fred Lucas in Glenn Beck’s conservative site TheBlaze:

In a critical battleground region that one activist labeled “the most important county of the most important state” for presidential politics, conservatives have a succinct message: #StopJebNow.

The hashtag was used this weekend to spread the word about a rally to be held by grass roots activists outside a Republican National Committee fundraising event in Cincinnati where former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – one of the leading GOP advocates for the Common Core K-12 math and English standards—will be the keynote speaker Monday afternoon.

“The Republican candidate in 2016 needs to be on the right side of Common Core,” Heidi Huber, founder of Ohioans Against Common Core, told TheBlaze. “It’s fed ed and needs to be repealed.”

The RNC last year adopted a resolution opposing Common Core as imposing a national education program. The Hamilton County, Ohio, Republican committee also adopted the same resolution.

Hat tip to Huffington Post education reporter Joy Resmovitz.

#StopJebNow is sure to be co-opted by his republican opponents in primaries and may gain in notoriety as has other anti-Common Core hashtags as #stopcommoncore. Such organized opposition to Common Core which labeled as a  Jeb Bush initiative will be a drag on his candidacy. Coupled with his stance on immigration reform, Common Core may be a bridge too far for conservative voters who vote in primaries.

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Bobby Jindal Vetoes Common Core Bill; Meanwhile Rick Scott Deceitfully Claims “Common Core Is Out”

From New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Julia O’Donoghue:

Gov. Bobby Jindal on Friday vetoed a bill that many had seen as an endorsement of the Common Core academic standards. The governor has recently said he wants to scrap the educational benchmarks and its associated testing in Louisiana, though Common Core advocates doubt he has the authority to do so, now that the Legislature has declined to help.

“The bill sacrifices the important education reforms supported by this Legislature in 2010 and 2012 in order to implement a set of national standards and tests that take away local control and standardize our education system,” Jindal wrote in his explanation of vetoing House Bill 953.

Common Core lays out what students are supposed to learn each year in mathematics and English. Louisiana and most other states adopted the standards a few years ago, but a few states are backing off amid a recent conservative backlash.

The legislation was seen as a compromise on Common Core and an effort make sure Louisiana kept the educational benchmarks overall. Its sponsor, Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, is a Common Core supporter.

Unlike Florida governor Rick Scott, it’s clear that Jindal isn’t trying to pull the wool over the eyes of people in his state with a “tweak” of Common Core. Scott recently double-downed on his ruse by saying “Common Core is out.” Jeff Solochek explains in the Tampa Bay Times:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, in an interview with the conservative Report Card blog, pronounced the controversial Common Core State Standards dead in the Sunshine State.

He has in the past been reluctant to take a stance on the standards, which he at one point supported.

“I like to be positive and say what I am for, not what I am against,” he told Report Card. “The Chamber of Commerce came out for Common Core, so rather than specifically renounce it, I preferred to say that The Florida State Standard is now 100% a Florida educational standard, but the fact is, Common Core is out.”

While Scott has said that Florida’s standards are its own, Common Core foes often have called him out on this one. They have accurately noted that the Florida Standards are actually theCommon Core with the addition of 98 items, mostly related to cursive handwriting and calculus instruction. Supporters of the Common Core did not protest the revisions, saying they were minor and noting the State Board of Education removed nothing.

Scott offered a different version of events to Report Card. He said, “The Florida Standard is derived from the Next Generation Sunshine State Standard, which was derived from earlier versions of the Sunshine State Standards. These standards pre-dated Common Core and a truly Florida’s own standards.”

Except for this: The Florida Board of Education adopted the Common Core in 2010, replacing the Next Generation standards in English/language arts and math. When it rebranded everything as Florida Standards, it included the revised Common Core and the state standards in other subject areas.

Looks like we can expect a “Pants on Fire” for Scott from PolitiFact. As for Jindal, Scathing Purple Musing yields to Louisiana blogger Mercedes Schneider:

Governor Bobby Jindal is apparently trying to muster up the courage to remove Louisiana from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and associated Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessments that he signed Louisiana on for in the first place.

Of course, Jindal has changed his position due to his national political ambitions.

Jindal is under pressure from Louisiana businesses to Keep the Core.

He is also at odds with Louisiana State Board of Education (BESE) President Chas Roemer and Jindal’s own appointee for state superintendent, John White.

Common Core has brought out the very worst in politicians. Whether or not Jindal’s epiphany is based on his presidential aspirations, like all republican governors who drank Jeb Bush’s Common Core Kool-Aid, he’s earned the cynicism. As for Scott, this bit of  deceit is especially galling. You just can’t utter such easily fact-checked falsities on education policy and not suffer consequences.


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Start the Clock: Controversial Voucher Bill Arrives On Rick Scott’s Desk

Reports Leslie Postal in the Orlando Sentinel:

The Florida Legislature has sent Gov. Rick Scott the controversial bill that expands the state’s largest school voucher program. Scott has 15 days to decide what to do with the bill (SB 850). A number of education advocacy groups, including the Florida PTA, hope he vetoes it, though that seems unlikely given its support among leaders in his Republican Party.

The bill would expand the Tax-Credit Scholarship Program, which provides private-school tuition vouchers to students in low-income families. Supporters say the program provides an important choice for parents whose kids may be struggling in public school but cannot afford other options on their own.

But opponents dislike that many of the participating private schools are religious, arguing the state should not be supporting religious education.

Postal is correct in that Scott’s veto is unlikely. So why all the intrigue? Why was in announced during a Friday afternoon news dump? And what took so long?


Scott and his handlers know that support for SB 850 isn’t a wide-spread as republican legislators would have Floridians believe. A Sunshine State News poll taken this part spring revealed that an overwhelming amount of Floridians – 55 to 45 – opposed vouchers. Those numbers would expand if Floridians knew that republicans want their voucher schools to take different high-stakes tests than do public schools.

Charlie Crist still leads Scott is recent polling data. While Crist is on record as supporting vouchers, Scott knows whether he signs the bill or not, Crist will seek to make political hay. Scathing Purple Musings predicted this scenario would unfold late last month:

Scott’s handlers know that SB 850 isn’t the winner with Floridians it is in the republican cloak room in Tallahassee. His political handlers may have even preferred that he not see it on his desk this year. It’s curious that they haven’t attempted to get Crist’s position  on the record. Nonetheless, look for Scott’s decision on SB 85o to happen on a Friday when Team Crist won’t be able to deploy a rapid response. But make no mistake, Crist, who has proved to be the ultimate political opportunist, is relishing the chance to take the contrarian view on vouchers.

So the clock is running, and it is perfectly aligned to allow Scott to make his decision two weeks from now – on another Friday.



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On Florida’s School Grade Pause and It’s Politicized Board of Education

The editors of the Tampa Bay Times preface their support for a pause in applying school grades in Florida by reminded readers that the existing scheme is already discredited. And while it’s extremely unlikely that any member of the highly politicized Florida Board of Education would pay attention, the editors make the case that they might want to pay attention to Bill Gates on the matter.

Bill Gates knows a thing or two about product development. So when the Microsoft billionaire’s foundation recommends that states wait at least two years before assigning high-stakes consequences to new Common Core State Standards testing schemes, Tallahassee should listen. Maintaining Florida’s already discredited school grading scheme simply for continuity’s sake makes no sense. A change as big and as important as Common Core requires more time for transition without the stress that potentially flawed assessments will lead to unjust consequences…..What the Gates foundation is advocating, frankly, is similar to the methodical approach it has underwritten in Hillsborough County as part of a major grant. The open letter from the Gates foundation’s education policy director, Vicki Phillips, noted, “Even the best new ideas aren’t self-fulfilling; they have to be put into practice wisely.”….What the Gates foundation is saying is that tying big consequences too soon to failing to meet the standards, before any assessments have been fully vetted, makes no sense, particularly for a change as significant as Common Core. Tallahassee should listen

The Board meets in five days on June 17th in Jacksonville to decide on final language. There are five relatively new members who have served for less than a year. With all picked by Rick Scott after likely being vetted by chairman Gary Chartrand, don’t expect any independent thinking. After the occasional tough question for Commissioner Pam Stewart, look for a group rubber stamp.

Chartrand has become the second most important power player in Florida education policy-making. Only former governor Jeb Bush wields more influence. His appointment runs out on the last day of this year.  In the event current governor Rick Scott is dispatched by likely Democrat nominee Charlie Crist in November, the inauguration won’t take place until January 6, 2015.  Scott could still reappoint his ally Chartrand before leaving office.

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Rick Scott’s “Education Investment” a “Paper Tiger”

The editors of the Lakeland Ledger focus on Polk County Schools  woes they will experience under the education budget which Governor Rick Scott signed yesterday.

Florida legislators have been patting themselves on the back for increasing school funding in their annual session, which ended May 2.

Even so, funding for public schools in Florida — particularly in Polk County — is not nearly enough. Public schools, although governed by county school districts, are funded by the state primarily.

As Polk school officials spoke with lawmakers during the 60-day legislative session, they were told to expect a budget increase of about $23 million. Instead, the budget passed by the Legislature May 2 and signed by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday increased education funding in the county by about $16 million — and by $529.4 million statewide.

New state spending mandates, said Polk Superintendent of Schools Kathryn LeRoy, will chew up nearly all of the county’s funding increase, reported The Ledger’s Bill Rufty in an article May 27.

Looks like Florida republicans want to get by with unfunded mandates again. Meanwhile they give their Chamber of Commerce corporate cronies a tax break to fund voucher expansion.

Incrementalism becomes clear in state education budgeting when one examines this year’s increase, hailed by Scott as an “education investment” and as a record for Florida.

This year’s $18.9 billion in public school spending exceeds the previous greatest amount of $18.75 billion passed in 2007. The amount passed last year was $18.325 billion.

In two ways, the $18.9 billion education amount, signed into law by Scott on Monday, is a record on paper only.

First, because Florida had about 67,000 fewer students in 2007, statewide funding per student was $7,126 in 2007 vs. $6,937 this year. The amount allotted this year for Polk is $6,768.

Second, because of inflation, the 2007 state public school fund is worth $21.44 billion in 2014 dollars vs. the $18.9 billion approved this year. The 2007 state funding per student is worth $8,148 in 2014 dollars.

It is these numbers which the Ledger referred to as a “paper tiger,” and provides real numbers to back state Democrats attack on Scott’s budget. From Sunshine State News reporter Kevin Derby:

“For three years, Floridians have witnessed the devastating effects Rick Scott has had on public education. Now, in addition to running for re-election, Rick Scott is trying to run from his record of slashing education funding while lining the pockets of special interests and top campaign contributors,” said (Chairwoman of the Florida Democrats) Allison Tant on Monday. “But no amount of poll-tested talking points can change the fact that per-pupil spending still remains below 2007 levels, and that Bright Futures serves far fewer students than it did seven years ago.

“This week, Rick Scott is expected to sign a budget filled with hundreds of millions in pork-barrel spending,” Tant added. “He will have to answer to Florida’s teachers, students, and parents for every dollar he fails to veto as our schools continue to struggle. Floridians will be watching carefully as Rick Scott decides what’s most important: pet projects for special interests or giving our children the best education possible.”

Having numbers available which any 4th grade kid can understand – even in a convoluted Common Core lesson – is a political consultant’s dream. Will it still matter to voters in November?

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Common Core Ties Draw Jeb Bush Critics

Jeb Bush’s support for Common Core Standards has drawn the interest of one of the state’ top political reporters. Writes the Tampa Bay Times Alex Leary:

 Jeb Bush is one of the country’s most visible advocates of Common Core, forcefully defending the K-12 standards even as it puts him at odds with a conservative base he would need to mount a viable campaign for president.

But his problem is deeper than policy.

Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education has collected millions of dollars from pro-Common Core organizations — from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the for-profit education giant Pearson — giving critics something to sink into and drawing attention to the venture that has allowed the former Republican governor to expand his profile beyond Florida.

The ties fuel detractors who assert the standards are being pushed by big business interests, such as the company whose CEO sits on the Bush foundation board.

Read the rest here:


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Michigan Charter School Board President Resigns Over Common Core

Brian Polet, board president of Eagle Crest Charter Academy in Holland, Michigan has resigned. Scathing Purple Musings has received permission to print his letter of resignation in its entirety:

Dear Eagle Crest Charter Academy, National Heritage Academies, and Central Michigan University,

Effective June 30, 2014, I officially resign as board president and from the board of directors of the Eagle Crest Charter Academy. Having been a part of the ECCA board since 1998, I have enjoyed watching it grow from a fledgling 100+ student body to a well-respected institution of learning, not only in the West Michigan area, but in the state as a whole. Throughout those years, the challenge this board has been to ask the question, “Is it good for our children?” We have now reached a “no” to the answer of that question: Common Core State Standards and its Orwellian sibling, Smarter Balance Assessments. Over the past few months it has come to light that this Academy has suffered the chaos over the past two years of what is commonly called Common Core. Equally apparent is the vim and vigor that CMU and NHA have supported implementation of CC despite a lack of national testing, trials and experience.

This copy-written, corporate-driven education model has been developed by non-teachers and edu-crats from Washington to Lansing to the detriment of students, parents, taxpayers and local school boards. Without control of curriculum and a limited control of budgets, CC has effectively removed local control from parents and put it the hands of ESPs, the Dept. of Ed and state boards.

As a logical conclusion to this hokum, ECCA has fallen victim to this Soviet-style education. The chaos that has ensued is not the consequence of bad management by NHA, but a result of a flawed educational system.

More disturbing to me is the inability to guarantee the data privacy of our students. Neither NHA or the State Board will be able to protect a child’s data from corporate vultures, marketers, and political interest groups from being used in a malevolent way. Equally troubling is the ability for educational personal to manipulate tests and assessments to move any student into certain fields or vocations and to modify behavior without consent or knowledge of the parent.

Sadly, as a volunteer I have no “skins” in this game. This puts the board and its individual members at a decided disadvantage against the combined efforts of CMU and NHA. With this in mind, I want no part of a lousy educational model and I refuse to sign my name to a product that confuses, disorients, diminishes and fails to protect our students.

In conclusion, my conversations with CMU and NHA has made it quite clear that this is the model they want. They can have it. With CC, we no longer have the Socratic model of education, but a new Bill Gates vocational schooling for worker bees and drones. Plainly, I have not left education, education has left me and more importantly, our students.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve these many years.


Brian Polet

Eagle Crest Charter Academy Board President

Eagle Crest is part of National Heritage Academies, a  nine-state conglomerate of charter schools. Central Michigan University is Eagle Crest’s charter authorizer/sponsor.

Polet’s use of “Soviet-style education” will be sure to roll the eyes of more leftward leaning opponents of the “Gates vocational schooling” he references. His description of Smarter Balanced Assessments as “Orwellian” will not.  One man’s Marx is another man’s Orwell. Both are about centralized control of free will and thinking.

Most in the choice-charter school -Common Core cabal aren’t fortunate enough like Polet  to “not  have skins in the game as volunteers.” They’ve become entrenched and are devoted the this three-headed monster becoming the model which becomes the graven image which controls the multi-billions of dollars the nation devotes to education.


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