The Battle Over the Reauthorization of NCLB and 2016 Presidential Politics. | Ed In The Apple:
An employee of Jeb Bush’s education foundation was unequivocal when New Mexico’s top schools official needed someone to pay her travel costs to Washington to testify before Congress: The foundation would give her “whatever she needs.”
When Maine’s education commissioner, Stephen Bowen, lamented that he could not persuade the state legislature to expand online learning in schools, a foundation employee assured him that Bush “will probably want to engage Governor [Paul] LePage directly to express our support for efforts to advance a bold agenda.”
The exchanges, revealed in e-mails from 2011 and 2012, illustrate the leading role Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education has played in many states since its creation in 2008, following the Republican’s two terms as governor of Florida.
The foundation has forged an unusual role mixing politics and policy — drafting legislation and paying travel expenses for state officials, lobbying lawmakers, and connecting public officials with industry executives seeking government contracts.
It also has sustained, and even expanded, Bush’s influence in the years since he left office and would no doubt be a focal point of his likely presidential campaign — one in which he would portray himself as a candidate with intellectual heft and a record of reform on an issue that affects millions of Americans.
But the foundation, from which Bush resigned as chairman last week as part of his preparations for a possible White House bid, has been criticized as a backdoor vehicle for major corporations to urge state officials to adopt policies that would enrich the companies.
The foundation has, for instance, pushed states to embrace digital learning in public schools, a costly transition that often requires new software and hardware. Many of those digital products are made by donors to Bush’s foundation, including Microsoft, Intel, News Corp., Pearson PLC and K12 Inc..
The foundation has helped its corporate donors gain access to state education officials through a committee called Chiefs for Change, composed of as many as 10 officials from mostly Republican-led states who convene at the foundation’s annual meeting. The meetings include private two-hour gatherings with the officials and company executives.
Patricia Levesque, the Bush foundation’s chief executive, said the group does not endorse donors’ products or get involved in sales, saying that “we promote policies” but are “neutral on the providers.” She said the foundation raises money from corporate donors like any other nonprofit organization.
“There are businesses who sponsor our event just like they sponsor any other event, whether it’s board gatherings or teachers-union gatherings,” she said. “We have a definite viewpoint on policy, and our sponsors tend to share it.”
Education and 2016
The foundation is likely to become a major point of contention in a Republican primary if Bush runs. The former governor will almost certainly single out the organization as evidence of his dedication to improving public schools, particularly those in poor and minority communities, by fighting what he calls “government-run, unionized, politicized monopolies” that “trap good teachers, administrators and struggling students in a system that nobody can escape.”
But many conservatives have become skeptical of national efforts to Jeb Bush education foundation played leading role in mixing politics, policy - The Washington Post: