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Posted at 5:15 PM ET, 12/ 1/2010

Sponsors tell story of Jeb Bush ed convention

By Valerie Strauss

If you have any doubt about the direction of where school reform is headed in this country, look at the sponsors of former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s two-day education conference in Washington, D.C.

The conference, which ended today, was the work of the Foundation for Education Excellence, Bush’s vehicle for staying at the forefront of school reform efforts not only in Florida but across the country (he says he’s not running for president in 2012 but a lot of people don’t quite believe him).

Big topics for discussion were charter schools, choice, innovation and technology. Bush drew to the convention state education secretaries, school superintendents and others, mostly people on board with today’s brand of education reform.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave the keynote speech today; the Republican Bush led a standing ovation for the Democratic Duncan, showing that school reform is, indeed, a bipartisan effort, if not a monolithic one.

Bush and Duncan agreed on a number of issues in a question-and-answer period after Duncan’s keynote address -- high standards, accountability -- but there were points where the two had differences, including federal support for private school vouchers.

Both called for the next Congress to quickly reauthorize No Child Left Behind, but Duncan urged changes to the law, noting that it was too inflexible and had led to the narrowing of curriculum in public schools as well as to lower academic standards as states struggled to meet unreasonable targets set by the law.

“This may be the one issue folks can work together on,” Duncan said, as he urged state education chiefs and others in the audience to lobby Congress to move ahead on NCLB.

What tells the story of the convention best is the list of convention sponsors:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Broad Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation
Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation
IQity
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
McGraw Hill Education
WIN
Apex Learning
Cisco
Learnin3.com
Susan and Bill Oberndorf
The Foundation for Educational Choice
SMART
Apex Learning
Barton Malow Design/Construction Services
Charter Schools USA

Big money, big business. That’s school reform today.


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By Valerie Strauss  | December 1, 2010; 5:15 PM ET
Categories:  School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  arne duncan, educational reform, jeb bush, school reform  
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Comments

Last year you supported the teachers of Florida in their fight against SB6. Governor Charlie Crist was thrown out of the Republican Party because of his veto for us.

www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/jeb-bush-urges-education-leaders-to-follow-floridas-lead/1137422

Sen. Thrasher said he is going to "run over" the teachers to get what they want. Pray for us.

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | December 1, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

No Kaplan??

Federal dollars for education seems to becoming the new teat for businesses.

Posted by: edlharris | December 1, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Well, who would you like to see as sponsors?

AFT
NEA
Workers of the World Unite
AFL-CIO
Teamsters
Flight Attendants Union
Boilermakers Union
Walmart
Finnish Embassy
Washington Teachers Union
La Raza
Bulgarian Navy
Cuba Libre
Detroit Public School District
Bain Capital/Geo. Romney
DCPS
The Church of Your Choice
Teachers Rights International
The Big School of Education
Big League Baseball
Marvin Maddoff

Posted by: axolotl | December 1, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Actually teacher groups would be appropriate sponsors in that teachers are the ones that ultimately implement any reforms. It is only appropriate that they have a voice. Oh wait--we want those with no experience in education to be making school policy. Silly me! I guess I'll go apply for a job as a hospital administrator. After all, I have no experience in that area so I should do well!

Kidding aside--I think some child advocacy groups would be appropriate sponsors--particularly those groups who deal specifically which children who live in poverty since those are the kids who get to be the guinea pigs for all these failed reforms. They deserve a voice. No one listens to those of us who teach them--even though we actually do have their best interests at heart.

Posted by: musiclady | December 1, 2010 9:13 PM | Report abuse

musiclady,
don't waste your time with axolotl, nee Sarah.
She entertains a perverse desire to ask teachers if they take responsibility for teaching, to ask police officers if they take responsibility to arrest criminal suspects, to ask firefighters if they take responsibility to put out fires, and to ask Catholic priests if they will keep their hands off children, esp. boys.

Sarah would want to see the Discovery Institute sponsor a forum on Darwin.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | December 1, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

axolotl,

Education reform shouldn't have sponsors at all.
This is not a NASCAR team we're talking about.
It's no less than public education policy being bought-and-paid-for. Are you familiar with the many "benefits" of unrestrained capitalism? You know, like union busting to increase profit margins and harmful production methods for producers and harmful products for consumers. Corporations are great. I think the movie Idiocracy got it right: in the future people will get their degrees from WalMart.

Posted by: stevendphoto | December 1, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Strauss, this article is about as insightful as a peanut - like so many of your writings. You advise your readers to "look at the sponsors of former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s two-day education conference in Washington, D.C." to understand the direction of school reform. The list reveals nothing about school reform. You conclude that, "Big money, big business. That’s school reform today." You should have accepted the Post's retirement offer.

Posted by: jdhollinger | December 1, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

@ jdhollinger:

You said, "Strauss, this article is about as insightful as a peanut ..."

I have eaten Peanuts, enjoyed many Peanuts,
and yes ... I have even bought a jar of Peanuts to bed a few times ...

So ... I have known Peanuts ...

but I have never considered Peanuts worthy of insightful conversation, just enjoyable company.

To loosely borrow Senator Lloyd Bentsen's response to Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice-Presidential Debate, "You are no Peanut."

Let's get to the nut of this ... I understand that you don't think highly of a Peanut's insight, but your comment is below that of even the most lowly Peanut ...

and in my humble opinion, a very maligned member of the Legume family. Worthy of a capital letter P, for Peanut.

Posted by: AGAAIA | December 2, 2010 1:25 AM | Report abuse

Duncan recognizes that NCLB "was too inflexible and had led to the narrowing of curriculum in public schools as well as to lower academic standards," but his solutions look to be the kind that will continue to narrow the curriculum and deaden the atmosphere in the classroom. That list of sponsors is actually very telling to those like Valerie who have been following the "reform" movement for a while. Some of those sponsors have been spinning the statistics since the publication of "A Nation At Risk." Others make their money by selling the tests used in high stakes testing and textbooks that are geared to those tests, which are the very method by which we are narrowing and homogenizing what American children learn. Many are associated with the Business Round Table whose position papers talk about "educating the 21st century work force" by using business models in schools, including performance pay based on test scores. After watching the last period of time in the business world, I am less interested than ever in having a business model imposed on schools! When teachers come to Washington this July with SOS Million Teacher March will those sponsors help them bring their experience and understanding before a national audience?

Posted by: amylvalens | December 2, 2010 1:37 AM | Report abuse

great retort AGAAIA.
I wonder why jdhollinger inflicts pain on him/herself by reading Ms. Strauss.
But then, Andy Rotherham, a professional education reform consultant of Eduwonk.com, reads Strauss despite the pain it causes him.

Posted by: edlharris | December 2, 2010 6:31 AM | Report abuse

stevendphoto --

Do we detect a bias that suggests public enterprises are managed better than private ones? Btw, if you are a union member and the union has a trust fund, or you have a retirement plan, it is almost cerain that, you, too, invest in American business and industry and have a stake in its success. Some of these companies or their suppliers may even employ you. They may even pay taxes to fund the government you love. You might even eat at, or drop your dry cleaning off at, small business that operate with the capitalistic goal of profit.

Capitalism is hardly perfect and creates major challenges. It employs most Americans and produces most of the things they use. And American business just may hold some ideas and solutions for public schools, where the governments, nonprofit orgs, and unions have failed miserably.

And remember, only 7 percent of Americans are union members. Unions are hardly needed in taxpayer funded agencies like the schools. Civil service regulations are adequate protection, which is far more than 9 out of 10 Americans receive at their own jobs.

If teachers unions were constructive, we might feel differently, but they are, alas, self interested and play a zero-sum game with the mission of educating The Children.

In the District, many teachers say they are not responsible for delivering education services in the classroom. Why should we employ teachers who think like that, compared with our good teachers who will take responsibility?

Posted by: axolotl | December 2, 2010 6:33 AM | Report abuse

Phil -- you keep bringing up your religion experience. Please get the help you deserve. I am sure all on this blogue support you in your quest in this regard.

Posted by: axolotl | December 2, 2010 6:37 AM | Report abuse

amylvalens is right!

I’m reminded of the Bush family values at this link: http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/3462

The Bush brothers and their cronies have been reaping profits at the expense of public education across America for over fifteen years. Now Jeb’s peddling for-profit virtual K-12 schools for his own benefit and for the benefit of his entrepreneur buddies. Duncan and Gates are railing against class size and highly educated teachers. It’s all part of a plan to set-up virtual K-12 charter classrooms without class size limits monitored by virtual low-skilled adults hired on the cheap to increase profits for the entrepreneurs, hedge fund managers, stock holders, charter operators, and other insiders.

Posted by: nfsbrrpkk | December 2, 2010 7:06 AM | Report abuse

I just arrived back in Tampa from the conference last night and am still trying to process all the speeches and panels. I didn't realize I could have saved time by simply reading the list of sponsors in the agenda book. If you decide to hold other education conferences to the same standard, I can save you from attending next year's NEA Annual Meeting and Expo. The NEA's web site says it will be sponsored in part by "many of America's most distinguished Fortune 500 companies."

Posted by: JonEast | December 2, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Jeb Bush and Arne Duncan are two sides of the same coin. Education in this country is in the toilet because it has become "big business," a strictly capitalist venture having little if nothing to do with education and everything to do with politics, bootlicking, bribery, and greed--those very same "qualities" that govern healthcare and just about every other corporate venture in this country. As FL Gov, the Jebster did away with the Bd of Regents and turned FL higher ed into a golden handshake retirement home for politicians who perform the most political favors for the college/university of their choosing, rewarding them with overpaid administrative positions, paying salaries to these fools ranging from the hundreds of thousands to millions each year. These greedy powermongers care nothing for anyone or anything but themselves and their own selfish interests. Meanwhile, instead of cutting these ridiculous overpaid, politically-motivated unearned salaries, they cut necessary social services and Medicaid instead. And what does the Federal gov do about it? Absolutely nothing! Why? Because Dems & Repubs (and now the ill-informed tea partiers) practice the same corrupt politics and self-serving policies that destroyed education and healthcare in this country to begin with, using lies and rhetoric to justify their actions and manipulate Americans into believing what they're doing is a "good thing," caring nothing for the fact that educational systems in other countries are far superior or what the rest of the global community thinks of the manner in which America mismanages education and healthcare in this country, worshiping "business interests" and "corporate personhood" instead of the rights and needs of individuals, the principles and foundation on which this country was built.

Posted by: ctuck622 | December 2, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

"Big money, Big business ,that's school reform today." Heaven help us. Jeb likes all of the test "cause his brother runs thecompany thast prints the test.The sec.of education under George Bush who was all for no child left behind and charter schools and testing has now come out against it saying it looked good on paper but is not working and is detrimentel to our childrens learning capabilities. Read what she has to say in her book "The death and rise of american public education." Also I wouldn't pattern after Fl.they are one of the worst states for public education funding thanks to our Fl. Legislators.

Posted by: sannblankenship | December 2, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

"Big money, Big business ,that's school reform today." Heaven help us. Jeb likes all of the test "cause his brother runs thecompany thast prints the test.The sec.of education under George Bush who was all for no child left behind and charter schools and testing has now come out against it saying it looked good on paper but is not working and is detrimentel to our childrens learning capabilities. Read what she has to say in her book "The death and rise of american public education." Also I wouldn't pattern after Fl.they are one of the worst states for public education funding thanks to our Fl. Legislators.

Posted by: sannblankenship | December 2, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

"I just arrived back in Tampa from the conference last night and am still trying to process all the speeches and panels. I didn't realize I could have saved time by simply reading the list of sponsors in the agenda book. If you decide to hold other education conferences to the same standard, I can save you from attending next year's NEA Annual Meeting and Expo. The NEA's web site says it will be sponsored in part by "many of America's most distinguished Fortune 500 companies."

Posted by: JonEast"

JonEast is too cute by a mile.
For someone who positions himself as an advocate for education reform, to be still processing the panels and speeches shows he hasn't read what the panels and speakers presented.
They didn't add anything to what has been written over the past few years.
Maybe JonEast ought to read more.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | December 2, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Ultimately the people will decide the legitimacy of the education reform movement. Judging by the mid-term election, they’re not in favor of it in California, D.C., and Rhode Island.

Posted by: PhilLombardo | December 3, 2010 12:31 AM | Report abuse

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