By Deb Herbage – Member of the Opt Out Florida Network
If you do not or did not know that Jeb Bush was the biggest supporter, backer and pusher of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) since its inception starting in 2009 and implemented in our schools in 2014 – you must be living under a rock. After all, it cost the ex-Governor of Florida the Presidency. Jeb thought he had it all locked up when he threw his hat in the ring for the presidency until the millions of irate parents, teachers, unions, students and school officials stepped in and spoke out about their anger of our schools being transformed into test prep factories due to CCSS. That in itself is proof that power in numbers can be an excellent thing and a force to be reckoned with.
What’s NOT a good thing is the devastation and havoc Jeb’s foundations (Foundation for Excellence in Education) FEE and his Foundation for Florida’s Future (FFF) are now wreaking on other states. It’s bad enough our state – Florida – has had to endure his destructive “policies” which became “laws” for over a decade now. Policies like the school grading where they actually grade schools with letters just like the report cards that come home with your kids every quarter. Grading schools A-F with (of course) F being the worst. This “school grading” not only affects the schools and the funding – it also affects the property values of the homes we live in. After all, who in their right mind would buy a house in an “F” rated school zone? The schools that are rated “A”s get extra “reward” money from the FDOE to divvy up among the school which can sometimes cause big problems since a lot of teachers think the money should go to something special for the kids because after all – it was THEIR test grades that got them that “A” rating and some think the teachers, staff, administrators and janitors deserve the extra money since they all work at the school that got the “A” grade/rating. The A-F plan pits schools and teachers against each other and has been put in place by Jeb Bush and his Foundation for Excellence in Education headed up by his right hand person – Patricia Levesque for years now. What happens to the “F” schools? They are taken over by the state or converted to charter schools. With the implementation of CCSS – there are a LOT of schools that have now dropped in “grades” and ratings due to the more “rigorous” curriculum. Because the grade of the school threatens the livelihoods of our uncontracted and untenured teachers – is it any wonder that our schools have been turned into test prep factories? The joy of learning is completely gone. Kindergarteners and even Pre-K now have to endure “testing” and you parents out there better hope your Kindergartener knows how to read and can count to 100 or they will be labeled big fat “FAILURES” before they even START school. Last I read – Jeb’s school grading has been passed in 13 states. Is your state one of them?
If that is not maddening enough, we also have the 3rd grade mandatory retention law. Also brought to us by Jeb and his foundation. This extremely idiotic law states that if a 3rd grader does not pass the state test (the FSA – Florida Standards Assessment – our version of the Common Core) or one of the 7 alternative assessments/tests then they are to be retained. End of story. RETENTION. 180 days of school meant nothing. Straight A’s all year meant nothing. Straight A report cards meant nothing. They have to pass a test to move on to 4th grade. THAT did not sit well with many families last year especially when their extremely proficient, straight A, honor roll students were retained because they simply opted out of the FSA which is EVERY parent’s right to do and prerogative if they so choose. These approximately 12 brave families filed a lawsuit that is now going to the Supreme Court. If you can find it in your heart to help fund this extremely important lawsuit – please go here to donate – every little bit helps: gofundme.com/stopgr3retention. This lawsuit could set a precedent across the country where other states have adopted Jebs harmful mandatory 3rd grade retention law. WHEN did our kids become test scores instead of individual thinkers with dreams and aspirations of their own? At the rate we are going – your child will be pushed into a vocation or god knows what else because of the labeling and sorting now going on in our schools with the testing. This has got to stop!
Let’s move on to VAM. Another scam of the purest kind. VAM also known as “Value-Added Model”. VAM is the formula used to “rate” our teachers. VAM or “growth” model is best utilized in an agricultural or farming industry or application especially because it pertains to “estimated growth” of crops and NOT meant to be used in an educational setting. Our children are not crops! It’s an insult to our teachers! It’s such a convoluted formula – NO teacher in the state of Florida can figure it out and NO administrator in the state of Florida can explain it them. Our teachers are subjected to this “VAM score” every year where they are rated either ‘effective’, ‘highly effective’ or ‘needs improvement’. This “formula” also mandates if they have a job the following year or not. Since the state of Florida did away with tenure and our teachers are on a year to year contract – they have no job security whatsoever. Our teachers are working 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet. Do you think our teachers can get a mortgage or a car loan if they do not even know if they will be employed the following year? VAM was written by the same company that wrote the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) – the American Institutes for Research (aka AIR). AIR has raked in over $12 MILLION for VAM since its inception and passing in Florida with the help of Jeb and his “accountability” scam and $322 MILLION for the state test. Here is the VAM formula our teachers are rated by and remember – we paid over $12M for this? Do you realize what that $12M could have done for our teachers and kids? VAM has been rolled out in other states as well.
Charter schools are another Jeb-loving, Foundation for Excellence in Education-loving right of passage. Jeb and his buddy – Jonathan Hage – teamed up in 1992 to bring us Charter Schools USA. Charter Schools USA is now in over 40 states. Jeb even opened his own charter school in south Florida years ago that has since closed. Once they realized how easy it was to transfer the public dollars meant for our public schools to their charter schools – well, the rest is history. Charter schools were supposed to be opened in school districts not to compete with our public schools but to offer classes and curriculum the public school didn’t offer. THAT is not the case anymore. Charter schools are popping up all over the state. All over the country. Here in Florida – charter schools have NO transparency and NO oversight. A charter school (and this is well documented) can open its doors – bring in the students – close months later while the charter operators make millions and then have to scramble to place the students back into their local public schools and the charter schools have no penalties or fines. If you want to make some quick money, millions in fact, come on down to Florida and open a charter school. Speaking of charter schools – back to the A-F school grading “law”. Some charter schools are exempt from the A-F school grading like our public schools. In fact, some charter school kids don’t even have to take the state test our public school kids have to take AND pass. If a public school is found to be “failing” by receiving a “D” or an “F” grade for 2 or 3 consecutive years in a row – they are forced into a “turnaround” program by the FDOE and USDOE which involves turning the public schools over to for profit charter schools. Those very same charter schools that have zero transparency to the public, are FOR-PROFITS that pay their administrators six figure salaries and have absolutely zero oversight and/or transparency. Our newly minted Secretary of Education at the USDOE – Betsy DeVos is a HUGE proponent and supporter of charter schools in her own home state of Michigan (where there are many FAILING charter schools) had the 100% backing of Jeb Bush, FEE and Patricia Levesque of course.
Senator Tom Lee of Florida stated in a recent senate meeting that “nothing goes through this legislation without the blessing of Jeb Bush and his foundation.” Senator Lee is a very smart man and that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Senator Lee told Jeb and his foundation to stay out of his office!! He was tired of the “snake oil”. THANK YOU Senator Lee! We need more Senators to think for themselves and do the right thing by our kids. Just to show you how true that statement really is – thanks to the help of “In the Public Interest” we uncovered thousands of emails from Patricia Levesque and the Foundation for Excellence in Education coercing other states to implement the harmful and destructive education policies mandated by Jeb and his foundations. In the Florida senate just the other day – 16 amendments were heard in 17 minutes!! Why? Sadly because they have no idea about the language contained in the amendments that were written by the FEE and/or FFF and could not even answer questions about them if any were to be asked. If that is not telling who is running education in this state than I don’t know what is. Here is an email from Patricia Levesque to the state “chiefs” (head of DOE, state superintendents in your state). Remember “excelined” is Jeb Bush’s foundation the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE):
Here is an email from Patricia Levesque from FEE from 2012 to the FDOE in regards to the “school grades” and how FEE supports the proposed school grade calculations:
Here is an email from Patricia Levesque from FEE dating back to 2011 in regards to “digital learning pilots” and accepting “outside” money for the pilots. Gerard Robinson at that time was the Commissioner of Education for Florida. Also the “Chiefs for Change” are all the heads of the DOE across the country. Jeb Bush was the CEO for the Chiefs for Change at one point:
Here is an email from Paula Noor of FEE (aka “afloridapromise.org) dating back to 2011. Look at all the heads of state DOE’s this email went out to in regards to a “Chiefs for Change” conference call. Very telling!
Here is yet another email from Levesque regarding Gates funding for teacher development (Remember the Hillsborough County Gates funded implosion?). Notice the note to send to “chiefs”. The chiefs are the head of the DOE’s in various states. This email is dated 2011 – Part 1:
Part 2 – Laying out ‘what to do’ for the state “chiefs”:
And here is another email from Levesque suggesting a letter from Governor Bush “applauding” the school grades release in NM dated 2012 also imploring NM to “stay strong” on the policy and “school grade initiatives”:
Here is another email from Levesque to Gerard Robinson from 2011 discussing VAM. Robinson was the Commissioner of Education for the state of Florida prior to Pam Stewart taking the helm. Look at the list of names in the email below……you should recognize a lot of these names – especially Hanna Skandera who went on to become the Commissioner of Education in the state of New Mexico with great controversy – see this article – titled “Jeb Fest 2013” (aptly named) http://haveyouheardblog.com/reality-bites/#more-3471:
These are just some examples of thousands of emails we have obtained from “In the Best Interest of the Public” (excellent website and grateful to them) showing and proving Jeb Bush, Patricia Levesque and the FEE have been directing, writing and guiding the crafting of and implementation of education policy in this country for quite a while now. FEE has been writing education reform since 1999. Are they worth buying into? WHY are they still reforming education??? WHY are they constantly rewriting and changing laws and policies? Because it benefits the many, many corporations, ed-tech companies, think tanks, universities, investment firms, hedge funds, politicians and companies that are and have invested in these reforms. These reforms certainly do NOT HELP OUR CHILDREN! These policies are harmful and life-altering for our kids.
Who is really running your school districts? And more importantly WHY are the state superintendents, “chiefs”, chomping at the bit for the FEE to release education reform that they quickly adopt? WHY are the states so dependent on Jeb Bush and his foundations for the education reform in their own states? It reminds me of holding a steak in my hand surrounded by a pack of drooling, hungry dogs. That is what comes to my mind when the FEE releases ANYTHING related to education. It’s way past time to put a stop to this. Senator Lee is absolutely correct – it’s time to stop listening to the “snake oil” salesman Jeb and his foundations have become.
Educated, registered voters need to start paying attention to WHERE these reforms are coming from and more importantly WHY. These harmful education policies and laws are being or have been implemented in other states. It’s way past time to put a stop to Jeb Bush, Patricia Levesque and the FEE and FFF running the education show in the state of Florida and the rest of the country. Still in doubt? Check out the Excellence in Education website at http://www.excelined.org – especially the “State of Reform” and “Reformer Toolbox” which gives advice on how each state can write their legislation and get it passed and implemented in their respective state. Jeb Bush along with his right hand person – Patricia Levesque and the FEE and FFF are absolutely directing, guiding and implementing the education reform across the U.S. Florida is ground zero for his harmful reforms.
Do you want your kids to have a great experience in school taught by teachers who care about your child and who had a calling to become a teacher to do what they do best? TEACH our kids and interact with them every day on a human level or do you want a drone that comes home from school spewing meaningless facts with a flat effect because they sat in front of a computer screen ALL day frustrated because the work they are expected to do is not developmentally appropriate nor is it pedagogically sound for their little brains.
Time to wake up and drain the cesspool swamp that education has become. Time to pay attention to the bills going through your senate and who or WHAT is supporting and backing them. It’s time to kick Jeb Bush, the FEE, the FFF and Patricia Levesque to the curb. It’s time to take back our schools and stop the harm being invoked.
Our kids’ education and futures are at stake and our kids need us now more than ever.