Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Jeb Bush, education, and private profits ... By gimleteye

The Miami Herald recently reported on Jeb Bush's advocacy for charter schools. The occasion was a speech to the Arkansas legislature. The Herald ought to have alerted readers, lest it think Bush is a selfless champion for good schools, that there are deep financial arrangements underpinning the movement for which he advocates.

Here is the Herald, on Jan 30th 2013, "One of Bush's legacies during his eight years as Florida governor, which ended in January 2007, was his overhaul of the state's education system. Bush has been a vocal supporter of vouchers, which allow students to attend private school using public funds, and charter schools," the Herald notes in the context of a speech recently given to the Arkansas legislature in support of the same kinds of initiatives bush supported in Florida.


To readers of the Herald report, the former governor sounds like a crusader: an image he has carefully polished despite a record of favoring insiders who benefited from outsourcing in Florida. Insiders like Al Cardenas who figured prominently in Bush campaigns and secured work for the water district in south Florida once that major state institution voted to outsource certain legal operations.

In Arkansas, Jeb! orated, "Our children can't wait for plodding, incremental change... We need disruptive change. We need to invest in new ideas, new approaches in education."

But charter schools have a very mixed record except for the one class with proven results: investors in charter schools.

But only a day after the Herald report, the Washington Post links the real economic issue of Bush's times, "E-mails link Bush foundation, corporations and education officials."


The Herald quotes Bush in Arkansas, "Fifty-six years after the Little Rock Nine, our most disadvantaged kids are the ones least likely to receive a quality education when they're the ones who need it the most," Bush said at the rally, part of a daylong event held by A Plus Arkansas. "That is why access to a quality education is being called the civil rights issue of our time. It is also the economic issue of our time."

Bush, no surprise, leads a foundation with extraordinarily close ties to corporations and one of the chief entities deployed by the radical right to advance its agendas, ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council
According to the Post, "The Web site of the Foundation for Excellence in Education used to list some of their donors but no longer does and is not required to list all of its donors to the public under tax rules for 5013C organizations. However, it is known that the foundation has received support from for-profit companies K12 and Pearson and Amplify, as well as the nonprofit College Board.

"There are strong connections between FEE and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy:

Aptly named FEE, Bush’s group is backed by many of the same for-profit school corporations that have funded ALEC and vote as equals with its legislators on templates to change laws governing America’s public schools. FEE is also bankrolled by many of the same hard-right foundations bent on privatizing public schools that have funded ALEC. And, they have pushed many of the same changes to the law, which benefit their corporate benefactors and satisfy the free market fundamentalism of the billionaires whose tax-deductible charities underwrite the agenda of these two groups.
FEE and ALEC also have had some of the same “experts” as members or staff, part of the revolving door between right-wing groups. They have also collaborated on the annualALEC education “report card” that grades states’ allegiance to their policy agenda higher than actual student performance. That distorted report card also rewards states that push ALEC’s beloved union-busting measures while giving low grades to states with students who actually perform best on standardized knowledge tests."

The Miami Herald notes that Arkansas Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe opposes the creation of an independent commission to consider charter applications. Arkansas has 18 open enrollment charter schools and 14 district conversion charter schools, which are public schools that have been converted to charters.

The members of the state Board of Education are appointed by the governor. Beebe said he believed the board has been open to charter schools and said that a 2011 state law that creates a sliding cap on the schools has given the state more flexibility.

"I don't think we need more government. I don't think we need to set up another layer of bureaucracy when I think the state board is doing a good job," Beebe said Tuesday.

But the facts of performance of charter schools are debatable. The huge amount of political capital expended on expanding charter schools follows the trail of real, tangible capital with billions of dollars in profit luring investors across the political spectrum. "A 2009 study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University identified Arkansas as one of five states where reading and math gains were higher in charter schools than would have occurred in traditional schools. However, the study found that nationwide, students in charter schools were not performing as well as those in traditional schools.

Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush, has been mentioned frequently as a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016, but he deflected any talk about his political future about Tuesday's rally with thecHerald.

"When asked whether he was thinking about running in 2016, he replied: "I'm thinking about trying to help places that are interested in reforming education."

It an interesting frame for the Herald story: a Democrat poking Republicans with their own arguments against government bureaucracy. A better tack would be to call out Republicans like Bush for using privatization to enrich political and industry insiders tied to the lobbying machine. Florida is exhibit A, and that is truly Jeb Bush's legacy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They have mostly private schools in Haiti too, you know. Private roads, private schools, big separation in the classes, no middle class.