Note: Correspondence files below following summary.
Foundation for Educational Excellence is acting as a conduit for ALEC model legislation and policies that benefit corporate funders.
“We can definitely help develop an executive order” – Deirdre Finn, Florida Lobbyist and FEE Deputy Director.
- “Resolution Adopting the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning” is a model bill introduced by Arizona Senator Rich Crandall at the 2011 ALEC Annual Conference. The elements originated with the Digital Learning Council, which is cochaired by Jeb Bush, staffed by FEE CEO Patricia Levesque, and funded by K12, Inc, the Pearson Foundation, McGraw-Hill and others. Finn sent Education Commissioner Bowen a copy of Florida’s version of this legislative resolution on digital learning, as well as a draft executive order for Maine directing the ME Department of Education to develop a strategic plan for using digital learning. Commissioner Bowen forwarded these documents to Governor LePage, who released the FEE’s executive order verbatim on February 1, 2012.
Bowen is outsourcing the Maine Department of Education’s policy development, strategic planning, and legislative drafting responsibilities to the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
- Bowen wrote in a February 20, 2012 email to Finn and FEE chief development officer Fonda Anderson.
- “Let us help,” Levesque wrote in an October 19, 2011, email to Bowen. The FEE has also offered Commissioner Bowen the services of the Hume Foundation, the NCTQ, Meridian Strategies, and the Goldwater Institute.
- The FEE has also offered the services of Matt Ladner, former VP of Research for the Goldwater Institute and the Senior Advisor of Policy and Research for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, in drafting school choice legislation. He also writes ALEC’s annual report card on education policy. Ladner is the recipient of the first and only lifetime “Bunkum award” from the National Education Policy Center for his “compellingly lousy educational research” and his “shameless hawking of what he and the Governor call the ‘Florida Formula’ for educational success.”
Much of Governor LePage’s “Putting Students First” education agenda closely mirrors model ALEC legislation in wording, structure and philosophy. For example:
- LD 1854 “An Act to Expand Educational Opportunities for Maine Students” shares the same message and structure with the ALEC model bill “The Open Enrollment Act.”
- LD 1858 “An Act to Ensure Effective Teaching and School Leadership” shares the same intent, structure and methods with two ALEC model bills, the “Great Teachers and Leaders Act” and the “Alternative Certification Act.” LD 1858 initially contained the same definition of a “probationary teacher” as found in an ALEC bill entitled the “Great Teachers and Leaders Act.” The two paragraphs were exact copies. The language was later removed from the MEDE website and is conspicuously absent from the final legislation.
- LD 1488 “An Act to Create Innovative Public School Zones and Innovative Public School Districts” was an exact copy of the ALEC model bill “The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act;” with the Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Educational Services added later as a committee amendment.
Commissioner Bowen is sidestepping the constitutional regulation of unfunded mandates and implementing its educational agenda through an ALEC-inspired legislative vehicle beholden to right wing and corporate interests. With the Governor refusing to increase revenue, the FEDES will be dependent on the largesse of education companies and their foundations.
- “[The Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Educational Services] will be the main way that we push for innovation in school in this next session,” Bowen wrote in a November 16, 2011, email to FEE’s Nadia Hagberg. Funding is the key obstacle to LePage and Bowen’s attempts to pass sweeping education legislation.
- Maine’s constitution does not allow the State to require local units of government (which includes school districts) to expand or modify activities unless the State pays for 90 percent of the additional cost with new State funds or the State legislature overrides the requirement with a 2/3 vote.
- The Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Educational Services is the vehicle they intend to use to bypass the unfunded mandate provisions in Maine law and avoid having to either raise additional tax revenue or garner the necessary legislative support to require a local reallocation of existing funds.
- The FEDES falls completely under the authority of the Maine Department of Education, and will be filled with private donations from conservative interest groups and think tanks as well as state funds.