Editorial: Test-peddlers may be influencing state education reform
BY World's Editorials Writers
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
2/13/13 at 7:38 AM
A Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group reports that a foundation headed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is heavily influencing, and in some cases writing, education reform laws and regulations in Oklahoma and five other states. The report by the group In the Public Interest is based on records obtained through freedom-information requests.
Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education is supported in large part by big, private companies that sell standardized testing and instructional and teacher evaluation programs or that operate for-profit online schools.
Oklahoma pays millions of dollars a year to some of these companies, a tab that has increased as the Legislature has approved and the state Department of Education under Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi has implemented one education "reform" after another in recent years, many of which required more standardized testing.
Sunday's Tulsa World carried an eye-opening front-page story by staff writers Andrea Eger and Kim Archer that details the cozy relationship among Barresi, the foundation and its corporate sugar daddies. Documentation on which it was based can be found at tulsaworld.com/okedpolicy
One example: Barresi's foundation-paid visit to the Carpe Diem charter school in Arizona in May 2011 was followed months later by the hiring of the company's CEO and managing partner as new head of the Oklahoma CareerTech system. Barresi heads the CareerTech board.
This marks the first time that the system, acknowledged as one of the nation's best, has been headed by anyone other than an experienced Oklahoma educator.
Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education champions, among other things, charter schools, vouchers and online "virtual" schools, all of which are vehicles to steer taxpayer money away from local public schools.
Sunday's Tulsa World story should be required reading for any Oklahoman who is concerned about the eroding state financial support for local schools. And all Oklahomans ought to be aware of the possible motivations behind the endless school "reforms" that roll out from the Legislature.
Original Print Headline: School reform