Prickly Bush Foundation CEO Responds to Mississippi Parent Advocate


Nancy Loome, the executive director of The Parents’ Campaign, sure got underneath Patricia Levesque’s skin. The CEO of Bush’s foundation wrote this in response to Loome’s December 31 editorial in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:

As executive director of The Parents’ Campaign, Nancy Loome has a responsibility to provide accurate information to the public.

She failed to do that in her editorial, “Public education for sale? Big money pushing charter school legislation.”

Loome’s statements about Florida and the Foundation for Excellence in Education were misleading at best and require a response.

Loome correctly notes that Florida has made strong academic gains by investing in education reform.

But then she writes: “Yet, Florida’s most vocal ‘education reform’ advocates, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, attribute Florida’s success to school choice.”

Given that I’m the Foundation’s CEO, that baffles me.

At no time has the Foundation promoted choice as a cure-all for public education. In fact, we clearly say that there is no single silver bullet policy to improve education in our country. We support a comprehensive reform agenda, which is outlined on our web site and which our chairman, former Gov. Jeb Bush, discussed in an August speech in Jackson.

School Choice is part of that comprehensive agenda. So is a strong focus on early literacy, rigorous academic standards and coursework, strong accountability measures, an expansion of digital technology in the classroom and policies that attract the best and brightest into the teaching profession.

Loome seems to think we are involved in some nefarious plot to promote a corporate takeover of public education in Mississippi. She notes that members of the Foundation have made multiple trips to Mississippi.

Loome must hold significant sway in Mississippi, otherwise Levesque would have remained silent. The point-of-view one which she realizes exists throughout Florida, but has never felt the need to respond. Why now?

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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12 Responses to Prickly Bush Foundation CEO Responds to Mississippi Parent Advocate

  1. At every turn, “choice” has been peddled as the key to education reform by this movement. It is the takeaway message from Superman, Won’t Back Down, etc. For Levesque to backpedal on that is simply disingenuous. I have always given Bush et al their props for standards-based education reform, though it is not a panacea either.

  2. What she fails to mention (understandably, as it IS part of their nefarious plot for a corporate takeover of public education in EVERY state) is that the other “reforms” they support are all aimed at making public schools FAIL so that they have an excuse to privatize. For example, the “strong accountability measures” (which include grading schools and the obscene new teacher evaluation system) are meant to convince the public that public schools are failing. The dead giveaway for that is that they want “triggers” where if a certain percentage of schools achieve a certain grade based on their criteria, a trigger will push the bar higher so that fewer of them get credit for it. That is like telling a class of kids on a 10-point scale that, because 75% of them got above 90% on their last test, you are now (retroactively) changing the grading scale so that you have to have a 94% to get an A, so that only 40% of the kids will have an A and that other 35% will drop down to a B…why? Because it is IMPOSSIBLE that such a large percentage of students actually know the material well enough to achieve that A! (Seriously…that is the same logic.)

    As far as wanting to attract the “best and brightest” into the classroom, this is disingenuous to the core, as the elusive promise of fantastic pay raises based on test scores is belied by several factors to anyone of even moderate intelligence: 1.) The state put no money toward the infamous performance pay scheme, so there can be no actual performance pay raises; 2.) All studies show that teachers in more affluent schools do better on the value-added model than those in poorer schools, PLUS almost all credible studies show that VAM is random and arbitrary and that the same teacher can go from “effective” to “ineffective” from one year to the next or from grade level to grade level; and 3.) When the Bush Foundation says that class size does not matter, it means they propose that a teacher produce the same results with an overcrowded class of 50 as with a group of 15 to 20…and anyone in his/her right mind knows that is impossible, given the number of minutes in a given class period, AND most especially that it is impossible if one wants to keep one’s sanity enough to keep going till the next year. The Bush Foundation also wants to make training and credentials (e.g., Masters degrees and specialist degrees and certifications) irrelevant to hiring, promotion and pay.

    The truth is, the Bush Foundation wants to create a revolving door of young teachers who will come in with plenty of gumption and enthusiasm, work hard (and not have a lot of success to show for it, due to lack of training and experience), burn out from the impossibility of producing the kind of test-success it would require to stay in the profession and/or get a raise, and leave within 2-5 years. Why would they want that, you ask? Why, so that public schools would keep failing and looking bad (let’s privatize them!) and simultaneously so that we wouldn’t have to pay them better salaries, benefits or pensions…all savings that could be funneled to private schools, charter schools and the testing industry.

    Nothing nefarious about that, huh, Patricia…!

  3. Kate Wallace says:

    Is there any reason why you chose to cut off half of Mrs. Levesque’s post, where she proceeds to dismantle Nancy Loome’s claims?

    “Loome seems to think we are involved in some nefarious plot to promote a corporate takeover of public education in Mississippi. She notes that members of the Foundation have made multiple trips to Mississippi.

    At least the second part of that is true.

    Two of our policy experts, Mary Laura Bragg and Christy Hovanetz, have testified in Mississippi at sessions attended by Loome. So she knows they discussed literacy and accountability reforms, not school choice.

    Loome also cherry picks data to make her case. She notes there are a higher percent of failing charter schools in Florida than traditional public schools. While this is a true statement, it does not reflect the full picture of charter school performance in Florida.

    Charter schools in Florida serve a greater proportion of at-risk students (i.e., low-income, minority or students with disabilities). As a result, they start out with F grades, but most quickly improve. They have to, because Florida law says charters can be closed if they receive two consecutive F grades – a policy that is not applied to traditional public schools.

    She also fails to point out the steady improvement in charters and that most are considered high-performing schools. Between the 2002-03 and 2010-11 school years, the percent of charters receiving an A or B grade has grown from 53 to 73 percent, and the percent of failures has dropped from 16 to 6 percent.

    The Florida Tax Credit scholarship program for low-income children is hugely popular with parents. Outside research experts report that the competition has improved public schools and that poor-performing students who transfer from those schools
    “perform as well or better” in the scholarship schools.

    This year, the tax-credit program will save Florida about $58 million, because by law the average scholarship amount is equal to or less than the per-pupil cost of traditional public schools.

    We don’t support one option over the other. We simply support a lot of good options.

    We don’t care if an excellent school is run by a for-profit company, a non-profit company or a traditional school district. In Florida, two-thirds of charter schools are run by non-profit providers.

    Choice is a success in Florida. And yes, we believe that Mississippi and other states would be better off by providing its parents and students with more choices as part of bigger reform agenda.

    Loome notes that we take funding from for-profit providers. In fact, more than 90 percent of the Foundation’s budget comes from family foundations or philanthropic organizations dedicated to improving students’ educational success.

    We advocate for policies that benefit students, not the interests of one particular non-profit or private entity.

    And I can promise you that these policies will very much benefit the children of Mississippi.

    Patricia Levesque is the CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Formerly, she served as an education policy director in the Florida House of Representatives and office of then-governor Jeb Bush.”

    • Bob Sikes says:

      Kate: Thanks for taking time to comment. I assume you are the same Kate Wallace who is the Foundation’s state advocacy director. Within blogging genre, it’s acceptable to post relevant parts of content, as long as a link to the entire exists within the post. I followed that practice in my post. It’s noteworthy that Mrs. Levesque did the same thing in her response to Loome that appears in your EdFly blog.

  4. Ms Wallace,
    Could you be a Republican strategist and member of the Republican Governors Association? What is your educational background? Do you share the lack of a single course in education, a trait shared by both Levesque and Jeb? Do you take your ill child to the car wash attendant? Why should Floridians listen to folks without credibility? Actually, they don’t! Does FFEIE have less than 900 FB fans? How about FFFF failing to have even 400 FB fans? What about minority do you fail to understand? Why should a vast minority rule, or should I ask why ALEC rules? Are you ashamed of FFEIE’s Ladner, the NEPC’s lifetime achievement award winner for shoddy work?
    Hasn’t he been associated with attending ALEC? Does he have a single degree in education? Didn’t he help with the ALEC report card, a piece of bologna now attached to Rhee. Why do you think folks are so stupid they cannot see your true agenda? Look at opposition groups and you will see far more see through the bologna of Jebucation than support it. Look at Indiana and Idaho!
    Don’t forget Indiana!!!
    Please explain your love of high stakes testing and allow me to read your invaliadations of the correlation between SES and static achievement measures.
    What do you have to say about the parent trigger defeat? Where were the reported parents who wanted it? I counted 330,000 nos in the PTA and an additional 150,000 real parents who were quick to say NO! Why should your minority rule when it is vastly outnumbered? Where is the parent empowerment in ignoring parents? Where is your acknowledgement that two lawsuits are pending,
    one which asks if Florida has made education a prority while another challenges legislation? What do you have to say about the amazing Writing proficiency roller coaster where a phone call replaced the A+ Plan. ( I like to refer to the A+ Plan as A Mistake Plus more.) What makes you believe that only lousy tecahers work in schools with high numbers of children of poverty? Are oncologists far worse doctors than opthamologists? How do you support a child going to school for 12 years without a future in hand based on test scores? Why support insanity?

  5. Jupiter Mom says:

    A few comments –
    1. Isn’t the FL law that charters must be run by non-profits? So, how is a full 1/3 as reported by the above commentor, Kate Wallace, “for profit”?
    2. The argument about charters under or over performing traditional public schools is only 1 cause for concern with the growing charter drive. The biggest problem with charters? They take money away from regular public schools. When you increase the number of schools operated by the state, it’s more expensive. There are no two ways around that. And we may elect to spend more money- but we have not appropriated more money for this. It’s true charters are more at risk for shutting down in case of poor FCAT scores. And that is not something we should be happy about. It makes a charter school even more of a place where they must teach to the test to survive.
    3. I wish they would support improving our traditional public schools with some more money. We have 600 kids to a school counselor. Maybe if we had more mental health support, better academic support and more “choices” for tech training programs kids would graduate.

  6. Read about PR degreed , no education degreed Kate Wallace and her background with Cheney and WalMart. She is State Advocacy Director for FFEIE. Will her background with WalMart come in handy as she tries to sell our kids the cheapest education of dubious quality and provide the professionals in education the same treatment with which WalMart has been associated on TV? http://excelined.org/team/kate-wallace/>

  7. Sandra says:

    “Charter schools in Florida serve a greater proportion of at-risk students (i.e., low-income, minority or students with disabilities).”
    A greater proportion of at-risk than what? Than traditional schools? There has been sufficient reporting of just the opposite being true. In Miami, a parent of an autistic student found ZERO charters that would take him. The article was published in several Florida newspapers. This is not an anomoly. Charters with small numbers of so-called “at-risk students” are not included in the test score reporting. It is not required. How do they fare? No one knows.

  8. Look who else is a State advocacy director for FFEIE..Matt Minnick. Isn’t he the one who tried to speak at a hearing without revealing his background?

  9. Pingback: Prickly Bush Foundation CEO Responds to Mississippi Parent Advocate | FPEP Blog

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