Pearson Spends “Hundreds of Thousands” to Influence Florida Politicians

From WFTV and the work of investigative reporter George Spencer:

Despite scoring problems and student failures, the state is paying Pearson $249 million for five years of tests and grading. WFTV also found that Pearson spend hundreds of thousands to influence those same leaders.

“Public education is open for business. Whoever the best bidder is, you can come in and administer our test for us,” said parent Rebecca Newman. “It’s ridiculous!”

WFTV studied public records and discovered that since 2007, two years before getting its current contract, the International Pearson Incorporated has spent at least $580,000, and possibly as much as $800,000 on lobbyists in Florida’s capital.

But Pearson’s quarterly spending often put it in the highest tier of lobbyist spending by firms in any sector.

Lobbyists are paid to advocate their clients’ interests in the halls of power, meeting face-to-face with lawmakers. They’re known to be persistent, sometimes returning time and again to make their case.

Pearson’s money went to Uhlfelder and Associates.

According to the group’s website, it was named “one of the top lobbying firms in Florida by Influence magazine.”

The group claims to have “extraordinary knowledge of the people, the policies and the processes of Florida government to “get the results our clients demand.”

“Should the state cut its ties with this company?” Spencer asked.

“I absolutely think that we should cut out ties,” said Representative Geraldine Thompson.

Thompson, a longtime educator, was already troubled by Pearson’s late grading debacle in 2010, an avalanche of writing test failures this year and concerns about test questions with more than one right answer.

WFTV learned that other education firms also use lobbyists.

Uhlfelder said he was chosen as lobbyist for his educational expertise and that his lobbying work had no impact on Pearson’s FCAT contract. Pearson said its reputation for educational excellence allows them to use lobbyists only to inform and advise elected officials.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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3 Responses to Pearson Spends “Hundreds of Thousands” to Influence Florida Politicians

  1. R.A. Sanders says:

    My personal experience as part of the MDCPS Social Studies Textbook adoption committee saw this whole thing play out. There were six textbooks approved by the state for us to review for adoption- this year for Social Sciences. Our committee vetted these 6 books and went through an extremely tedious review process. In the end, we selected the Pearson book- not for favoritism as I am very concerned over the growing Pearson influence. Their US History textbook was just the very best and exciting to see all of the various online sources available to teachers and students.
    It was a unanimous decision by very experienced educators in this subject matter. I was excited about our new textbook as we will begin EOC testing next year. We were recently informed that our choice was not the choice the district will be purchasing…back door deals and free stuff thrown in – so the super made his decision on who offered the best price – not the quality of the resource. Our super never taught US History but made a financial decision. I teach US History and his decision now impacts the potential of my scores on the EOC exams….When will anybody ever listen the expertise of professional educators ??????

  2. ahuntingtonteacher says:

    I’m going to repost this on Parents, Kids, and Testing. I should say, “try to repost”. Ask them why they need to lobby if their tests are so good anyway.

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