Tuesday, December 11, 2018

FL: DeSantis Tabs Team To Crush Public Ed

It is always difficult to say just which state is the most hostile and inhospitable to public education, but no matter how you slice it, Florida is always working hard to stay at the top of the big, smelly heap. And the administration of Gov-elect Ron DeSantis is committed to finding ways to make Florida worse.

The new public school cafeteria
There's Jennifer Sullivan, the 27-year-old homeschooled college drop out (and we're talking Liberty University here) who will be head of the House education committee. There's the longtime grifter and profiteer who, now term-limited out of the legislature, is looking for a new job and has been lined up for education chief (here's another take on just how bad Corcoran is). Both of those have been widely noted.

But for a further sign of how badly DeSantis wants to cut up public education and sell off the parts, just look at his education transition team. This will take a bit, but you need to see the full picture.

Dr. Elizabeth M. Bejar, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Florida International University.

Dr. Desmond Blackburn; CEO, New Teacher Center. NTC is a reformy teacher-fixing mill, heavily sponsored by all the usual suspects (Gates, Walton, Hewlett, Chan-Zuckerberg, et al). Blackburn last May ended his three years as Brevard County superintendent to take this job.

Emily Bouck; Policy & Advocacy Director, Higher Learning Advocates This group formed just last year to lobby for outcome-based approaches in higher ed. Initial board included Margarett Spellings, George Miller, and John Engler. All advocates of privatizing pub lic ed.

The Honorable Bob Cortes; Former Representative, Florida House of Representatives. Cortes, among other things, was a strong advocate for the Schools of Hope, a law that allows charters to prey on struggling public schools.

Brenda Dickinson; President, Home Education Foundation. The group that lobbies for home schoolers in the state capital.

The Honorable Erika Donalds; Former Board Member, Collier County School Board. Well, here's a winner. Donalds is a partner in a New York investment group. She founded Parents' Rights of Choice for Kids (Parents ROCK). Then she got herself elected to a school board, and founded the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, a group with only six founding members and which seems devoted to austerity and school choice.  Also on the FLCRC board is Patricia Levesque, a well-known name in the reformster world. Donalds was behind the whole Amendment 8 sneak attack on public schools.

Aubrey Edge; President & CEO, First Coast Energy

T. Willard Fair; President & CEO, Urban League of Greater Miami. Fair has led the Urban League in pushing for charters in Miami. The charter-loving Center for Education Reform recognizes him as an ally.

Dr. Angela Garcia Falconetti; President, Polk State College. Polk State operates three charter schools.

Dr. Alvin S. Felzenberg; Presidential Historian & Lecturer, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. He worked in the Bush II Department of Defense and was  Assistant Secretary of State in NJ under Governor Thomas Kean.

Bruce Ferguson; President & CEO, CareerSource Northeast Florida. Job placement and training.

Keith Flaugh; Managing Director, Florida Citizens Alliance. Right wing "liberty and learning" group. They actually have two representatives in this group.

The Honorable Don Gaetz; Former President, Florida Senate. Lover of charters, hater of teachers.

Robert Haag; President & CEO, Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools

Jonathan Hage; CEO, Charter Schools USA

Greg Haile; President, Broward College

Bill Heavener; Chairman, University of Florida Board of Trustees. Heavener also owns a for-profit college and was a deep-pocketed supporter of Rick Scott.

Warren Hudson; President, Lake Highland Preparatory School. LHPS is a huge private school in Orlando, founded as a segregation academy.

Russell Hughes; Superintendent, Walton County School District

Dr. Allan I. Jacob; Chairman & Chief Medical Officer, Physicians Dialysis

Mimi Jankovits; Executive Director, Teach Florida. The group lobbied hard for tax credit scholarships (another version of vouchers).

John Kirtley; Founder and Chairman, Step Up for Students. Certain types off vouchers require a sort of middle man; here they are.

Eugene Lamb; Board of Trustees, Tallahassee Community College

Craig Mather; Founder & CEO, Bags, Inc.

Dr. Kim McDougal; Former Chief of Staff, Governor Rick Scott and Education Policy Expert. Yeah, she worked with Job Bush, too. Expert, sure.

Dr. Edward Meadows; President, Pensacola State College

Connie Militio; Chief Government Relations Officer (that means "lobbyist"), Hillsborough County Public Schools. Interesting choice; you may remember this as the district that crashed and burned letting Bill Gates experiment on them.

Keli Mondello; Co-Founder & Board Chairman, LiFT Academy. Private school specializing in neurodiversity.

Steve Moore; President, The Vestcor Companies, Inc. Real estate and housing projects.

Dr. Ed Moore; President, Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida

The Honorable Lubby Navarro; School Board Member, Miami-Dade County. Navarro backed a move to keep Miami-Date from joining the lawsuit over Schools of Hope.

Lynn Norman-Teck; Executive Director, Florida Charter School Alliance

Dr. Madeline Pumariega; Former Chancellor, Florida College System. Earned her spurs working with Take Stock in Children.

Randle Richardson; CEO, Accelerated Learning Solutions, a school management company.

Lyn Stanfield; Strategic Relations Manager, Apple. Apple recent demonstrated again that they're willing to work with anyone if it means they can move some product.

Rev. Rick Stevens; Managing Director, Florida Citizens Alliance. The second rep from the right wing group.

The Honorable John Thrasher; President, Florida State University

Andy Tuck; Vice Chairman, Florida State Board of Education. Tuck is a citrus grower who has, at times, seemed a bit out of his depth.

Fernando Zulueta; President, Academica Corporation. One of the largest charter operators in the state.

So there you have it-- a collection of folks from the charter biz, the voucher biz, and the biz biz, with barely a whiff of representation of actual; pub lic education folks. Not that there's been any real doubt, but here's some further proof that DeSantis will continue Florida's tradition of open hostility toward public education. Merry Christmas to Florida's privatizers and profiteers. Floridians who care about public education must continue to be vigilant and vocal.


  1. I understand your dismay at the majority of the members of the transition team, but want to note that there are several people with integrity and a true commitment to public education on this committee: Elizabeth Bejar, Greg Haile, John Thrasher, Ed Meadows to name a few. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water yet.

  2. The name "T. Willard Fair" jumped out at me, as I've been collecting quotes / links where corporate ed. reformers keep denouncing the use of the word "privatization."

    Here are three examples:

    I keep seeing the same party line come up over and over again...

    "privatization" of schools---or some word with the root "private"---is just some fictional "hobgoblin", or "buzzword" that "we need to get away from.".

    QUOTE #1:

    Mohammed Choudhury , the Policy Manager of teachers for New Unionism (a corporate-funded group...funding from the anti-union Bellweather Foundation... funded by Gates, Broad, Walton, etc.) wrote the following in L.A. School report:

    "Furthermore, (UTLA President Warren Fletcher's --- parenthetical mine)PEAC colleagues will cry loudly that their initiative matters (in their small world ... Choudhury's parenthetical, not mine) because of the 'hobgoblins' they like to hammer over their members such as 'privatization' and 'over-testing' supposedly haunting our schools."

    Here it is in context:


    QUOTE #2:

    A pro-Parent Trigger Op-Ed from T. Willard Fair, of Foundation for Florida’s Future and member of Florida's State Board of Education, appointed by former governor Jeb Bush, a proponent of school privatization.

    (NOTE: the Op-Ed appears on the website of Parent Revolution; along with T. Willard Fair's "The Foundation for Florida's Future." Parent Revolution is also funded by Gates, Broad, Walton, etc.)

    "Those vested in the current system attack choice. They throw out buzz words such as 'privatizing education' or 'corporate reformers' or 'destroying public education.'"

    Here's the T. Willard Fair quote in context:


    Quote #3:

    Next, you have 2013 School Board candidate Antonio Sanchez in a conversation with former School Board candidate, Robert Skeels. (Sanchez is getting funding and support from the Coalition for Schools, funded by... once again... Gates, Broad, Walton, etc.)


    "I asked (Sanchez) my stock question that I ask all political candidates, 'What is your stance on school privatization?" I was taken aback by his response, especially given we were in an union hall.

    "(Sanchez) said., 'I don't like that word (privatization), we
    need to get away from using that word.' "

    Like the two folks above, Sanchez has been coached into spewing forth this stock response when asked his opinion on "privatization."

    Here is the Sanchez quote in context:


    It's a little uncanny that you keep getting the same party line almost verbatim from such disparate sources---disparate, but with the common denominator of their all being funded by Gates, Broad, Walton, etc.

    Since the public doesn't want schools privatized, and the word "privatization" (and other derivatives of "private") has such a negative connotation with the public, the new strategy seems to be to devalue the word's currency.

    Watch out for more of the same in the future.