Foundation for Excellence in Education CEO Patricia Levesque has been busy writing letters to the editor as a method of responding to In the Public Interest’s report which focused on her foundation’s emails with state officials. Just two days after a shrill response to a college professor’s letter, Levesque was back at it, calling last Sunday’s Tampa Bay Tribune report from William March “innuendo in search of non-existent impropriety.” After the predictable defense of the foundations work with cherry-picked data, Levesque wrote this:
We are quite open about our efforts to promote reform in states. Read our website. In all the emails the Tribune refers to, there is not one example of a foundation donor receiving special treatment in any state. We don’t lobby for any group or corporation. We simply promote reforms that have been proven to produce results. Our contributors come and go, but our agenda doesn’t change.
If having corporate sponsors for annual gatherings is a crime, then every organization in America is guilty, including the teachers’ unions. And as for our annual summit last year, why didn’t the Tribune send a reporter and see for itself what goes on? You would have found a bunch of wonks sitting in a hotel for two days discussing education policy.
Adults vested in the status quo of public education are threatened when we put students first. That is why the Florida Education Association, whose mission is protecting union jobs, yearns for the good old days when there was no accountability for all those kids falling through the cracks. That is why pro-union groups such as In the Public Interest oppose us. Yet you quoted the organization’s director without disclosing his strident opposition to education reform.
Education is far too important for such misleading and incomplete reporting.
What’s “misleading and incomplete” is Levesque lawyerly defense. She’s smart enough to know not to directly advocate for one of their corporate sponsors. They don’t have to. Their sponsors understand that the legislative priorities that Bush and Levesque advance are what truly benefit them. The foundation’s policy advocacy for charter schools, online learning and standardized testing regimes creates and maintains markets for their products.
Levesque is furthermore being disingenuous in her suggestion to take a look at their website. If they were as open as she says, they wouldn’t have taken down their list of corporate sponsors not long after Scathing Purple Musings called attention to them in 2011. The link no longer exists.
It’s clear that the primary PR response thus far to the emails by Jeb Bush’s foundation has been to attack the messenger. By ignoring the content and intention of the emails with spin, Levesque’s is confirming there’s a there, there.