There is little debate over the influence Bush and the foundation have had in driving the agenda.
“They have huge sway in the Legislature, in part because of Jeb Bush and in part because they are almost the only game in town,” said former state Sen. Dan Gelber a Miami Beach Democrat.
Foundation spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof said it is no secret that Bush stays involved in public policy. The foundation releases a legislative agenda annually — and follows it through the state Legislature and Board of Education.
Bush declined requests to be interviewed for this report.
Since its creation in 1994, the foundation has amassed money and influence, developing close ties to conservative think tanks, including the James Madison Institute, the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. At the end of 2010, the organization had nearly $1 million in assets, the most recent records show.
Opponents of the Bush-directed republican legislative agenda are thankful that the media is finally reporting on Bush’s hyper-influence. But McGrory also reports on the amount of money his foundation “amasses.” The foundation’s web site says they are a “non-for-profit, charitable organization.” Maybe so, but Bush has essentially served as an un-registered lobbyist whose efforts have served his donors.
Testing giant Pearson reported a 31 percent increase in profits during the first half of 2011. Florida’s students are now required to take an online course to graduate thanks to a Bush initiative. Pearson, K12 Inc. and other big Bush donors certainly appreciate it. Charter Schools USA, whose CEO Jonathan Hage is a long time Bush associate has $5 million in cash reserves. For Florida’s children, plenty of tests.
On its reform agenda page Bush’s foundation offers, “how education funding is spent is as important as how much funding is provided.” Nowhere on Bush’s page is “education funding” referred to as taxpayer dollars. McGrory wrote that Bush turned down a number of requests to be interviewed for the piece. He never does. A reporter like McGrory might ask question about taxpayer dollars he doesn’t want to answer.