Nobody should be surprised that Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE)continues it’s attempt to change the subject after a recent report focused on it’s email contacts with numerous personnel from seven different state’s departments of education. And, oh yes. The report came from a union entity . Writes FEE’s Mike Thomas:
Recently a group called In the Public Interest made numerous allegations against the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd). These were based on e-mail exchanges that the group distorted and misinterpreted to advance its political agenda.
In the Public Interest is run by Donald Cohen, the former Political Director of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO. His priority is protecting union teaching jobs, and therefore protecting the status quo in public education. He has written that reform is a “right wing attack’’ on teacher unions, even though the movement has become bi-partisan and includes, among its leaders, President Barack Obama.
Thomas refers to Obama later in his piece in an attempt to claim the bi-partisan mantle, but he fails to mention that the entire Democrat caucus in the Florida legislature has been opposing Bush on education policy. So what about those “e-mail exchanges that the group distorted and misinterpreted to advance its political agenda?” One line:
We will be happy to address any specific questions about the Foundation e-mails because we always have been very open about what we do.
The rest of Thomas piece amounts to self-righteous chest thumping. Six paragraphs in all after focusing attention on who released the report. But not one word about FEE’s corporate sponsors or transparent philanthropic backers. But lets take up Thomas his offer to ask specific questions about the emails.
(1) On October 5, 2011, FEE CEO Patricia Levesque sent an email to six top state education administrators (FEE’s Chiefs for Change) and members of their staff encouraging their support for Bush’s hand-picked candidates in Louisiana school board races. Is it a violation of campaign finance laws in Florida – or in any of the states the email was sent – to solicit political support for elected officials in other states on state emails? Is it routine for FEE to directly get involved in political races? If so, please explain how this is proper under FEE’s charter.
(2) Levesque sent an email to FEE’s Chiefs for Change to introduce and promote SenHub prior to a period that Jeb Bush emerged as an investor. FEE’s first public statement on the matter was “the notion that Gov. Jeb Bush, who has spent the past 20 years as a passionate advocate for education reform, is profiting from this involvement is beyond ridiculous. He has devoted thousands of hours to this cause without compensation.” When did Bush make his investment in SendHub? When did Levesque become aware of Bush’s investment? Does Levesque or any other employee of FEE routinely promote it’s corporate sponsors to state officials? If so, please explain how this is appropriate within FEE’s charter.
(3) In a September 2011 email to then Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, Levesque requested two Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) employees to attend FEE’s San Francisco conference. Reimbursement would be made to the FLDOE through a transaction called a scholarship. The emails also reveal that Louisiana’s education boss was similarly reimbursed for FEE sponsored events in Orlando and Washington, DC. Is it routine for FEE to reimburse state’s employees in this manner? How often has FEE done this? Does this come from an FEE account or from another source?
(4) Levesque advised Robinson in a December 2011 email “I think we need to add a sec(tion) onto this bill to give you/the department authority to set a state‐approved list of charter operators or private providers so districts can’t pick poor performers to implement turnaround. Also, you/State Board should have more authority to enforce a strict timeline for turnaround models.” As this effort to draft legislation would benefit one of your corporate sponsors, Charter Schools USA, what institutional standard does this make FEE. Are you a lobbying firm? A trade association?
The FEE must be concerned. This is their second attempt to deflect attention away from the content of the emails and focus on who made the report. In today’s post, FEE essentially shot the messenger, brushed aside the emails with one sentence and restated it’s mission statement as if it represents a lofty “the ends, justifies our means.”