Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Facing blowback, Maine gives Jeb Bush's education foundation the cold shoulder

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I report on how the administration of Paul LePage dissolved once-close ties with Jeb Bush's education foundation, which had apparently become a political liability.

Back in 2012, I wrote this investigation of the ties between Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, for-profit digital education providers and the Maine Department of Education, which outsourced much of the drafting of Maine's inaugural digital charter school rules and policies. (The two-part investigation won a George Polk Award that year.) We followed up with additional details here and here and here showing the Foundation's central role in the creation of the "grading schools" initiative, the governor's "education summit" and other education reform efforts.

But after Commissioner Steven Bowen left office in the late summer of 2013, emails and other correspondence show, the relationship quick cooled, and future commissioners didn't even join the Foundation's Chiefs for Change group, which Bowen had been an active participant in. Here's an excerpt:

Foundation officials reached out again...offering to “touch base on how we can best support your efforts after grades are made public.” [the department] again turned them down, and rejected the foundation’s subsequent offer to issue a news release in support of the new grades.

“In sharp contrast to last year, we’ve been able to maintain very positive coverage around the rollout of this year’s grades because we haven’t connected it to any larger national reform work,” [the department spokesperson] explained in a May 14 response. “Honestly, I do not think a statement from the foundation would be helpful to us or our messaging here in Maine at this time, however, we really respect the work the foundation is doing and the importance of school grades becoming more widely used across the county (sic).”

After May 2014, correspondence between the foundation and the department quickly dwindled to the receipt of mass mailings and short, infrequent exchanges of policy accomplishments and news releases.

Enjoy the story.

No comments:

Post a Comment