Maine was among the states which In the Public Interests obtained emails in an FOIA request regarding contacts between Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) staff and numerous state employees. Only 13 emails were acquired, but one cloud included an exchange which revealed to what length FEE staff and state employees were involved in influencing elections in other states.
In 2011, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wanted John White to be his state’s education commissioner, but knew he needed a state board which would look favorably on his universal voucher scheme. So did former Florida governor Jeb Bush. On October 5, 2011, FEE CEO Patricia Levesque sent the following message to numerous state education agency personnel across the country on FEE’s Chiefs for Change mailing list.
An article on Louisiana state board of education races – that will impact selection of next chief in Louisiana. Gov. Jindal wants John White as next state chief. Governor Bush is lending his support/endorsement to the candidates Gov. Jindal is supporting for the State Board of Ed.
At the time of the email, there were seven acting state education heads who had agreed to be one of Bush’s Chiefs for Change. White was added to the list after he was elected. While this is clearly political activity and the individual Chiefs are free to choose whom they associated and identify with, a number of aides to each Chief – state employees all – also received the email.
Why would state education heads need to know about political activity in another state and involve state employees under their supervision? Could it have been an attempt to get those chiefs to use their contacts to make donations on behalf of favored Louisiana candidates? Let’s take a look at that.
Levesque was responding to an email she’d gotten 30 minutes before from FEE Senior Policy Fellow Christy Hovanetz which included a Louisiana newspaper story which emphasized that each board candidate could spend up to $250,000 on their candidacy.
Races for BESE seats heat up
Candidates may spend $250,000
Advocate capitol news bureau
Twenty candidates are running for Louisiana’s top school board in the Oct. 22 primary election that will help decide the direction ofpublic schools for the next four years.
The prize is an unpaid seat on the state Board ofElementary and Secondary Education, or BESE.
Paid or not, this year’s seven races have drawn unusual attention, and candidates plan to spend up to $250,000 to win one.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has endorsed five of the candidates as part of a bid to put his imprint on public schools. The panel sets policies for an estimated 668,000 public school students statewide.
BESE will also pick a new state superintendent of education in January, one of the key figures in state government.
Bush hasn’t hesitated to publicly support candidates who support his views, but is it proper for his corporate funded foundations to contact state employees to push political candidates? Can FEE be directly involved in political activities in this manner. Why would Levesque presume that FEE’s Chiefs for Change and their staffs need or even want to know about the political wishes of Jindal and Bush?