Putting Education Reform To The Test

Who’s Been Giving To Jeb Bush’s Education Group?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told business leaders gathered in Michigan that education can pull kids out of poverty.

National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA)/flickr

The education foundation started by former Gov. Jeb Bush has released a list of donors.

This week, the education advocacy group started by former Gov. Jeb Bush released a detailed list of donors for the first time. The Foundation for Excellence in Education posted the list on its website.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education conducts research and advocates for states to adopt education policies, including expanding school choice, measuring student, teacher and school progress and adopting the Common Core math and language arts standards. The group has raised $46 million since 2007.

The donor list does not reveal exact amounts, but lists each gift within a range — such as from $10,000 to $25,000. Gifts of more than $1 million did not have an upper range. More than 180 donors have given to the group.

Foundations were the biggest givers, with the Walton Family Foundation donating between $3.5 million and more than $6 million. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave between $3 million and more than $5 million over five years.

Education companies were also frequent donors. That includes: testing and publishing companies like Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Scholastic; technology companies such as K12 and News Corporation — which owns Amplify; and charter school management companies like Academica and Charter Schools USA.

The donor list follows Bush releasing three decades worth of tax records, part of revealing the details of his personal and business life as he seeks the Republican nomination for president. While the Foundation for Excellence in Education released its donor list, a related Florida-based group, the Foundation for Florida’s Future, has not released its donors so far.

Check out our database of Foundation for Excellence in Education donors below. Click on any of the columns to sort:

Algebra Isn’t Enough: Make Precalculus A Bright Futures Requirement

Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle.

Florida State University

Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle.

While Florida’s Bright Futures scholarships no longer pay the entire tuition bill at the state’s public universities as they once did, they are still a valuable source of financial support for thousands of students.

Recent increases in the minimum scores on SAT and ACT college entrance exams required for Bright Futures eligibility have sparked some discussion and an investigation – now closed – by the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

But aside from the test score requirements, the only high school courses required for Bright Futures eligibility are those required for high school graduation.  In math, that means that only Algebra 1 and Geometry are presently required to earn a Bright Futures scholarship.

The conventional wisdom among education policy-makers and scholars has been that Algebra 2 is the high school math course that makes a student “college-ready,” and by that standard the math course requirement for Bright Futures falls short.

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Financial, Education Firms Big Donors To Jeb Bush’s Foundation

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has disclosed donors to the education-focused non-profit for the first time. It’s part of Bush coming clean with tax returns and other records as part of his presidential campaign.

After leaving the Florida governor’s office in 2007, Bush formed the Foundation for Excellence in Education, with a mission “to build an American education system that equips every child to achieve their God-given potential.” With Bush serving as president, the group attracted $46 million from donors through 2014.

That donor list shows the circular connections as Bush moved from governor to education advocate to corporate board member. Supporters in each of those stages of his career contributed to his educational foundation — which, in turn, sometimes supported causes benefiting its donors. They include Rupert Murdoch’s media giant News Corp., GOP mega-donor Paul Singer’s foundation, energy companies such as Exxon Mobil, even the Florida Lottery.

The voluntary release of the donor names comes less than 24 hours after Bush took the unprecedented step of releasing 33 years of personal tax returns.

Read more at: bigstory.ap.org

U.S. Supreme Court Will Again Review College Race-Based Admission Policies

Colleges around the country are preparing for the possibility of changing their race-based admissions policies. The United States Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider a challenge to affirmative action at the University of Texas at Austin that could mandate such changes.

Eight states now ban race-based affirmative action, and their top public universities have different approaches to ensure racial and economic diversity.

Some give preference to working-class students, those from troubled high schools and those whose parents did not attend college. Others have increased financial aid.

The flagship public universities in Texas and Florida — and other states, to a lesser extent — began offering admission based primarily on how high students ranked within their own high schools, rather than statewide, which often meant that poor and minority students competed with others from similar backgrounds.

Read more at: www.nytimes.com

Tampa Bay Program Helps Fifth Graders Make Sense of Their Financial Futures

Enterprise Avenue contains the banking, shopping and dining destinations for students visiting Enterprise Village.

M.S. Butler / StateImpact Florida

Enterprise Avenue contains the banking, shopping and dining destinations for students visiting Enterprise Village.

The first time some students learn about finances is during a high school economics class. Others learn by trial and error, but one program in the Tampa Bay area already has a  history of helping  students get an early start on making sense of their finances.

Here in central Pinellas County, just like any community in America, it’s early morning and everyone is beginning to show up for work.

Buses are unloading and students are heading  to  businesses like Verizon, Duke Energy and CVS Pharmacy which are getting ready to open.

But here on Enterprise Avenue all of these businesses are being run by fifth graders.

The students line up and shuffle their way impatiently into a building where the inside looks like a cross between a small town Main Street and a shopping mall. There’s a city hall decorated with patriotic bunting at one end and the local newspaper office at the other.

This is all part of Enterprise Village, a self-contained small town. It’s where elementary students get first-hand experience as business owners, employees and consumers.

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After Veto, State May Not Be Able To Spend $60 Million On School Technology

Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of $3 million to study school technology may prevent the state from spending $60 million set aside in the budget for technology.

A $3 million veto by Gov. Rick Scott might become a $63 million budget cut that affects one of the governor’s celebrated priorities – improved technology for Florida’s schools. “We’re in a little bit of a pickle here,” said state Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, R-Trinity. “I have requested a definite clarification.”

Read more at: www.tampabay.com

The Growing Call to Rename Schools Bearing the Names of Confederate Leaders

One study says there are at least 188 public and charter schools named for Confederate leaders. Florida has already recently grappled with controversy over the name of one public high school. Now there is a growing chorus of those who wish to rename them nationwide.

In 2013, the school board in Florida’s Duval County voted to rechristen a Jacksonville high school named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and the first “grand wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan.

The school board’s push for a new name was spurred by a parent’s Change.org petition. The majority African-American school had carried Forrest’s name since 1959, at the height of the integration of public schools in the South.

Read more at: www.washingtonpost.com

New Disclosure Rules Approved for Operators of Florida’s Charter Schools

Seeking to prevent head off poor performing schools expanding from one district to another, the State Board of Education took measures to require applicants of new charter schools to disclose past problems on new application forms.

Nearly 300 charter schools in Florida have closed their doors because of financial, management or academic problems since they first were permitted in the 1990s. At the same time, the number of charters has grown. The Florida Department of Education listed 646 of them at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. Six of those are no longer active.

Read more at: www.tampabay.com

Gov. Scott Breaks Budget Veto Record

Gov. Rick Scott issued a record amount of budget vetoes Tuesday, including many education projects.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Gov. Rick Scott issued a record amount of budget vetoes Tuesday, including many education projects.

Gov. Rick Scott’s budget veto list broke records Tuesday, and education projects weren’t spared despite Scott’s emphasis on K-12 funding this year.

In total, Scott vetoed $461.4 million from the now $78.7 billion spending plan. Scott signed the plan in private Tuesday and the budget takes effect July 1.

Among the largest items Scott trimmed was $15 million for the University of Central Florida to build a campus in downtown Orlando. Many of the education cuts were for new campus buildings or renovations: $8 million to renovate Norman Hall at the University of Florida; $5 million to buy land for Florida International University; $3 million to treat mold at FIU; $3 million for a new southern campus for Hillsborough Community College.

Scott also eliminated money for programs K-12 school districts rely on, such as $1.5 million for Teach for America. Teach for America plucks recent college grads from campus and runs them through a boot camp training program. Critics say TFA provides inadequate training, but Miami-Dade and other large Florida districts rely on TFA to bolster their teacher roster.

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Scholarships Are Increasingly Shifting From Needs- To Merit-Based Students

Several states have been shifting money they provide for scholarships for financially needy students to more merit based scholarships that tend to benefit students from well-off families. This often leaves low-income students with fewer options to fund their educations. In Florida almost half of low-income students were denied funds last year.

Twelve states plus Washington D.C. now spend more on merit-based aid than need-based aid, and many others have increased funding for scholarships based on academic achievement instead of need. Some states have cut financial aid for everybody, leaving hundreds of thousands of eligible low-income students without help simply because the states’ money ran out.

Read more at: hechingerreport.org

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