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Jeb Bush Creations: Newly-packaged “Chiefs for Change” and Relatively-unknown “Excellence in Education National”

March 11, 2015

In March 2013, I wrote a post detailing Jeb Bush’s special cadre of state education superintendents, Chiefs for Change. The purpose of this group is to promote Bush-approved education policies in states nationwide, including the A-F grading of schools, vouchers, charters, virtual schools, and alternative teacher certification.

Since its inception, Chiefs for Change has been umbilically connected to Bush’s nonprofit, Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE).

On March 10, 2015, I wrote about Louisiana Superintendent John White’s assuming the lead for what is a noticeably-shrinking Chiefs for Change. Also on March 10, 2015, Washington Post reporter Lyndsey Layton wrote that Chiefs for Change would be breaking away from FEE:

Chiefs for Change, an advocacy group created by former Florida governor Jeb Bush to promote many of his K-12 education policies around the country, is breaking away from its origins and expanding to try to attract big city school leaders.

Chiefs for Change announced Tuesday that it was splitting from the Foundation for Excellence in Education, created by Bush in 2008. The advocacy group said it will no longer receive financial support from the foundation.

Quite the gravy train separation for the few remaining Chiefs.

Chiefs for Change first appears on FEE’s 2010 990 as part of an FEE initiative called “Excellence in Action.” The 2010 990 identifies Chiefs for Change as part of FEE’s Excellence in Action expense of $1.7 million. Included is the following description with the expenditure:

Excellence in Action provides staffing support for Chiefs for Change, a coalition of reform-minded chief state school officers who are leaders in the reform movement.

FEE’s 2011 990 specifies the Chiefs for Change staffing expense as $155,648. By By 2012, FEE paid $594,086 for Chiefs staffing.

In 2012, FEE also paid its first grant to a department of education for one of those “chiefs”: $12,000 to the Louisiana Department of Education for “Common Core communications.”

The FEE money flowed much more freely to Chiefs in 2013: over $2.5 million for “program support”; $139,288 to “Chief Emeritus,” executive director Eric Smith for “Chiefs for Change consulting,” and several “public information grants” paid directly to departments of education:

Florida, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island: $200,000 each; Louisiana, $188,000; Tennessee, $194,695; New Mexico, $52,199; New Jersey, $42,220.

Also, FEE paid the Treasurer, State of Maine” one “public information grant” of $50,000.

In short, the FEE cash flowed to every state represented by a Chief for Change (including emeritus members) as listed on this 2013 Chiefs member page.

Until December 2014, Chiefs for Change openly shared its affiliation with FEE– and the same physical address.

Now that Chiefs for Change is “moving out of its parent’s basement,” the Chiefs website indicates that it has no staff and no advertised physical address.

According to its March 10, 2015, press release, Chiefs for Change has registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit– which means it will be able to accept privatizing reform money from those who wish to invest in it.

It also means that the new Chiefs must have a physical address. Whether that address is shared by some other corporate-reform entity remains to be seen.

Chiefs for Change might be new on the nonprofit block, but think cosmetics: The new Chiefs for Change is nothing more than John-White-directed effort to carry out what benefits Jeb: Recruit both state and city superintendents to advance the same test-score-driven agenda that corporate reform has been pushing and paying for especially since Jeb’s brother, George W., built mandatory, punitive standardized testing into the 2002 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization known as No Child left Behind (NCLB).

The question is whether the likely Jeb-crony money-dump into what is now (at least on the surface) John White’s “Chiefs for Change Facelift” will actually get that “united [test-driven-reform] voice” around the current attempt to reauthorize ESEA.

Moreover, though Jeb’s fingers might not be directly in this nouveau-Chiefs pie, rest assured that he is working to drum up fat-walleted “volunteers.” (In 2011, when Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal wanted White as state superintendent, Jeb Bush’s FEE was right there to “encourage” his Chiefs to assist in getting the “right” Louisiana state ed board members elected to approve White. See this link.)

As to Chiefs for Change “parent” FEE: Jeb has been busy quietly establishing a lobbying arm for FEE, Education for Excellence National (EEN), a 501(c)4 nonprofit established in July 2013, according to its 2013 990. Here is the EEN mission statement:

Excellence in Education National, Inc., was established in 2013 to advance education policies in America that maximize every student’s potential for learning and prepare all students for success in the 21st century.

In other words, EEN is going to lobby for test-score-driven reform. In Jeb’s case, that almost certainly includes both the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and annual testing in the ESEA reauthorization.

Concerning the FEE and EEN symbiosis: Those wishing to support Jeb Bush’s privatizing education reforms may donate money to the 501(c)3 nonprofit, FEE, for a tax break. FEE can then hand the money over to EEN so that it might fund much more lobbying in the name of “social welfare” than FEE could do as a 501(c)3. (For more info on 501(c)3’s with related 501(c)4’s, click here.)

Though FEE might not be directly donating funds to new nonprofit Chiefs for Change, it does not mean that FEE money into EEN will not be clearing a political path for the same Jeb agenda under a new candy-covered shell of a privatizing superintendents club.

jeb bush 2


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.




  1. stefananders323323 permalink

    I wonder what all of this money is being used for. What does Eric Smith do that makes him worth upwards of 130K?

  2. Laura chapman permalink

    Thanks for the intricate and clear explanation of this structure and pass through of money. Picture of Jeb with his Cheshire cat grin is great.

  3. Donna permalink

    When will we rid ourselves from these disgusting for profit non profits? I’m sick to death of it all. John White has no credibility with people on the ground, but those up in the castles in the sky love his rhetoric. Nothing these reformers say is plausible; it is beyond laughable, but they are getting away with it. I just don’t get it. How many people little people have to say no? When will our voices be heard?

  4. alex hennigan permalink

    what’s sad is that the legislature has accepted John Whites’ request to be reimbursed for his travel expenses for Chiefs for Change travel. How sad is this! FEE has received over 5.2 million from the Gates Foundation. Why can’t they pay his travel instead of us poor Louisiana taxpayers!!!

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