StateImpact’s John O’Connor got a quote from a spokeswomen who provides statements for both of Jeb Bush’s foundations for his story about the formation of parent inspired Alliance for Public Schools. Jaryn Emhof is listed as National Director of Communications for Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and as the Director of Communications for the Foundation for Florida’s Future (FFF) I wonder if O’Connor got to select which title he used for Emhof or if it was the other way around.
At any rate, Emhof’s got that education reformer lingo down. Rule number one for edreform flacks is to always play the union card. Emhof never disappoints:
Foundation for Florida’s Future spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof said they’re willing to listen to the Alliance’s for Public Schools point of view, but suspect the group will become a mouthpiece for the state’s largest teacher’s union.
“We welcome people to the discussion about what is the best policy for Florida,” Emhof said. “What are they going to advocate? Are they going to advocate solely for public school funding?
“I’d be disappointed if they became an echo chamber for the Florida Education Association.”
Such rhetoric is predictable from Emhof as she’s also felt the need to attack teacher unions here, here, here, and here. Her tactic to play the union card when responding to the formation of a parent’s group reveals that Bush’s foundation can no longer make their case on the merits of their efforts and are reduced to spinning nonsense about their opponents.
And how long can Emhof and her boss continue to deny the obvious? While parent groups like the Alliance for Public Schools will frequently be on the same side as pubic school teachers, they take no money from unions. In contrast, Emhof’s salary is paid by corporations who benefit from her rhetoric and the public policy the two foundations she speaks for advance. Consider this Center for Public Integrity report that was released last month:
Bush launched the Foundation for Excellence in Education in 2007. That year, it raised about $244,000, according to an annual report it filed with the Internal Revenue Service. By 2009, its revenue grew to $2.8 million. And in 2011, the most recent year for which records are available, it hauled in nearly $8.5 million.
The Foundation for Excellence in Education’s mission is to “ignite a movement of reform to transform American education.” It touts itself as a “hands-on, how-to organization that provides model legislation, rule-making expertise, implementation strategies and public outreach,” according to its website. It has also hosted conferences for legislators and state officials.
Records indicate that its donors include an array of conservative-leaning foundations and supporters of charter schools.
According to the Foundation Center, the following organizations supported Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education in 2011:
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, $1 million
- The Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, $500,000
- The Robertson Foundation, $500,000
- The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, $290,000
- The Carnegie Corporation of New York, $150,000, specifically for a “multi-year initiative to transform education using technology” *
- The Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, $50,000
- The William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, $25,000
- The Hertog Foundation, $25,000
- The Cobb Family Foundation, $15,000
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a major supporter of charter schools. During Washington state’s 2012 ballot measure fight to expand public charter schools, Bill and Melinda Gates personally gave $3.15 million to the committee pushing for the proposal, records show.
In a Scathing Purple Musings post last month it was pointed out that the foundation’s numbers and claims don’t add up. Bush’s top policy wonk, Patricia Levesque claimed in January that 90 percent of FEE cash comes from philanthropic organizations, yet the above tally of $2.55 million comes out to less that 30 percent of the $8.5 million it took in.
Emhof and Levesque don’t bounce back and forth between buildings and change costumes when they switch roles between foundations. They share the same PO Box in Tallahassee. See here and here. After a two-year absence, FEE is listing it’s donors again on it’s website – philanthropies all to support Levesque’s talking points. It’s adding staff, too. Another former Florida Department of Education employee in Juan Copa recently joined FEE as it’s state policy director.
Few are fooled anymore by the establishment of philanthropic arms by billionaires, hedge funders and corporations to leverage their desire to cash in on the quickly expanding education market. It’s no longer secret that Jeb Bush’s foundations support that agenda. Emhof’s dishonest spin against real parents is well-funded.