UPDATE: Step Up for Students Jon East sent links to the article Doug Tuthill was referencing. You may access them in his comments or where I have imbedded them within this post.
Step Up for Students president Doug Doug Tuthill had an opinion piece published in three Alabama newspapers intended to defend the organization and it’s CEO from criticism. Writes Tuthill:
Our nonprofit, called Step Up For Students, has raised dollars privately to help keep its doors open for 12 years. So I laughed when I read that at least one newsletter columnist and some public educators in Alabama think our nonprofit has enriched John Kirtley, the Tampa businessman who has personally funded much of our efforts. The columnist was particularly blunt: “This man Kirtley down in Florida has made $6.3 million last year managing that fund.” The scholarship, he wrote, “has resulted in a very lucrative business for him.” How absurd
But who is Tuthill talking about? Neither he, nor any of the newspapers provide a link. A fGoogle search provides no such “columnist” or link to any newsletter. (UPDATE: Jon East from Step Up for Students has sent along this: Here. Whatever criticism which Tuthill characterizes as “bearing false witness” certainly wasn’t read by many folks. So why the column in the first place?
Scathing Purple Musings blogged on an investigative piece in the Palm Beach Post in January of 2013 which reported Step Up for Students received $6.9 million in management fees the previous year. The figure was reported in a story which focused on Kirtley’s signficant campaign contributions. There shouldn’t be any question that Step Up for Students is operating properly within laws which govern non-profits.
But Tuthill’s piece doesn’t delve into his boss’ political activities – which are significant. Through his American Federation for Children via his Florida Federation for Children, Kirtley channeled nearly $1.5 million into the 2012 campaign to support voucher and charter school legislation. He has already donated $50,000 into Rick Scott’s PAC.
Tuthill’s impassioned defense doesn’t change the reality that Kirtley is wealthy political hard-baller whose efforts benefit the education for profit industry. How he may or not be financially benefitting is unknown. With the criticism that came their way un-sourced, Tuthill has essentially created a straw man. And by playing an aggrieved party, Tuthill has opened the door for speculation into his motives.