Skip to content

Ridge-Lane Limited Partners Offers Jeb Bush-Heavy Education Expertise

May 3, 2022

Need help with your public or private business venture? Well, NY- and DC-based Ridge-Lane Limited Partners (LP) offers “venture development at the apex of public and private sector.”

Here’s Ridge-Lane LP’s opening spiel, “About Us”:

RIDGE-LANE Limited Partners is a strategic advisory and venture development firm founded by financier R. Brad Lane and The Honorable Thomas J. Ridge – focused on root-cause solutions to grand challenges in Education, Sustainability, and Information Technology – with a team of General Partners, Venture Partners, and Senior Advisors who have served at the highest levels of finance, government, and military.

We create value for our clients and society by bridging the gaps between private-sector innovation, investment capital, policy and procurement – across the Federal, State, and Local levels: an innovation ecosystem, providing corporate development to commercialize and scale novel venture-backed technology companies, as well as place-based solutions that improve cities and quality of life.

Our team serves as a fiduciary advisor to companies looking for strategic ways to accelerate growth, providing an integrated offering of Advisory, Capital, and Business Development – aligning the commercial interests of private business, with the needs of society and our future civilization – where our knowledge and networks are leveraged to create maximum value for all stakeholders.

Ridge-Lane will help you spend your (or taxpayer) money on them, as advisors on how to spend your (or taxpayer) money.

Of course, being an entity set on a public-private “apex,” one would certainly expect services available in the education sector. Ridge-Lane LP believes, for example, that “the education of our future workforce an American imperative” and in “scaling for impact” those identified “pockets of excellence in public and private schools.”

Ridge-Lane LP wants to help (for a fee, of course) with all of the following:

  • Bridging the gap between Research and Practice
  • Transforming K-12 Education
  • Enhancing Higher Ed: Closing the Knowledge & Skills Gap
  • Developing the Workforce
  • Aligning Financial Incentives
  • Professional Development: Educator Leadership
  • Appropriate Utilization of Technology
  • Procurement & Learning Efficacy: Data, Analytics, Review and Improve
  • Personalized Learning: The Whole Child
  • Life-Long Learning

In order to help bring about (for a fee, of course) any and all of the above for its education clients, Ridge-Lane LP “has significant experience in the K-12, post-secondary, college/university, and workforce training environments.”

Let us now consider the crew Ridge-Lane LP has on its team as its K-12 advisors, all of whom are listed as “Board Member, State K-12 Education Chiefs”:

Four of the individuals listed above were among the original Chiefs for Change and had their ed-reform careers notably influenced by former Florida governor, Jeb Bush: Hanna Skandera, John White, Gerard Robinson, and Chris Cerf. You can read about them in this March 2013 post I wrote on “Chiefs for Change in Bush’s Service,” but let’s also discuss them a bit below so that prospective Ridge-Lane LP education customers can know some more about the *expertise* that has escaped those lovely Ridge-Lane LP bios– and for which they would be paying.

Hanna Skandera

From 2005 to 2007, Skandera worked as an ed deputy under then-Florida governor, Jeb Bush. Although she lacked the qualifications to become ed commissioner in New Mexico, she held the job for several years unconfirmed (2011-2015) under the title, “designee,” until she was finally confirmed in February 2015. Before being a confirmed state ed chief, in 2013, Skandera became the chair of Bush’s Chefs for Change.

Despite having been positioned to hold a number of higher-level ed positions, Skandera has no classroom experience. She did promote Bush’s idea of school letter grades, billed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as “the lynchpin” for ed reform. In 2016, Skandera became the chair of the Common-Core assessment consortium, PARCC, without any public announcement. In June 2017, she resigned as NM ed commissioner with no professional destination. Between 2017 and 2019, in a sort of professional ed-reformer seeking of something to do, Skandera formed some organizations and joined others. Two years later, in 2019, she was appointed to the Colorado Community College System to complete an unexpired term for former board member, Theresa Peña.

John White

A golden boy to former Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, John White was brought in from New York in May 2011 to head the New Orleans Recovery School District. Only three days later, White was in the news as Jindal’s pick for next state ed superintendent following exit of another Chief for Change, Paul Pastorek, who implicated himself in having already hired White to head RSD before the state board actually voted on the matter. As for his lightening-fast rise from RSD superintendent to state superintendent, White had Jeb Bush’s folks working behind the scenes in arranging for a Louisiana state ed board that would vote him in as Louisiana state superintendent in January 2012.

In 2015, in the months preceding Jeb Bush’s presidential bid, White replaced Skandera as Chiefs for Change chair, even as the Bush-controlled organization formally became an independent entity. Note how 2015 EdWeek describes the organization, and keep it in mind when considering potential, Ridge-Lane LP education advice:

Chiefs for Change, the advocacy group of state superintendents prominent for supporting the Common Core State Standards and teacher evaluations based on test scores, has announced that it is shifting its mission to focus more on major urban districts. …

White and Skandera denied that Jeb Bush’s possible run for president in 2016 influenced the group’s decision to break away from the foundation he started, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, although Skandera did say that perceptions about Chiefs for Change and its links to the foundation did lead people to certain conclusions about its work.

Let the backgrounds of its acolytes attest to the conclusions one makes about its work– and the work of Ridge-Lane LP, who houses several of these Jeb Bush, ed-reform faithful.

In November 2019, near the end of his time as a state superintendent, White was replaced by Pedro Martinez as Cheifs for Change chair.

For all of his top leadership catapult, White has only three years of classroom teaching experience with Teach for America (TFA). His post-Louisiana bios boast of his having been the longest serving Louisiana superintendent, but he never mentions why he resigned from the third highest paid state ed chief position effective March 2020 and, like Skandera, was headed nowhere in particular. Prior to his resignation, he and former TFAer Paymon Rouhanifard started a nonprofit, Propel America, that actually had “pilot projects” in Louisiana while White was still superintendent– news that apparently blindsided members of the state board of education. After White’s departure, in 2021, he and a whole slew of former Louisiana Department of Education ed-reformers crafted yet another *venture,* Watershed Advisors.

Gerard Robinson

In July 2012, Robinson “resigned abruptly” after one year on the job. From the July 31, 2012, Associated Press:

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson is resigning from the job he’s held for a year, his time marked by glitches in the state’s school grading system and standardized testing program.

Robinson gave no reason for leaving in letters of resignation that he submitted Tuesday to Gov. Rick Scott and State Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan.

The letters included a list of accomplishments, but Robinson wrote only that he was resigning effective Aug. 31, “after much contemplation and discussion” with his family.

The board, not Scott, appoints the commissioner, but the Republican governor gave Robinson his enthusiastic support after pressuring his predecessor, Eric Smith, to resign shortly after Scott took office. The governor does appoint board members but when Robinson was hired most were appointees of former Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.

From my 2013 “Chiefs” post:

If reality breaks through and corporate reform is really embarrassed, well, one might have to “take one for the team.” That seems to be the case for former Florida “Chief” Gerard Robinson, who continues his time with Chiefs for Change as an emeritus member. Even though Robinson resigned “for family reasons,” his departure as Florida’s state education superintendent occurred amid national humiliation:

“…Robinson’s tenure had been dogged in recent months by the public-relations pounding the department took after FCAT scores collapsed, followed a few months later by the school grades mix-up. The Florida Board of Education was forced to lower passing grades for the statewide writing tests in May after the passing rate plunged from 81 percent to 27 percent for fourth graders and showed similar drops in eighth and 10th grades. Then, in July, the department had to reissue grades for 213 elementary and middle schools and nine school districts as part of a “continuous review process.” That came after the number of schools receiving an ‘A’ had plummeted from 1,481 in 2011 to 1,124 this year. The new grades showed 1,240 schools getting the highest mark — a jump of 5 percentage points from the first cut of the numbers.”

…According to this Orlando Sentinel article,, Robinson raised FCAT passing score thresholds in response to Bush’s own wishes:

“Robinson’s decision [to raise FCAT passing scores] bucks the recommendations of Florida’s school superintendents as well as other public school and college experts asked to weigh in on the new scoring system. But it meshes with the wishes of some State Board members, who said they worry the state’s high school standards are too weak, given how many graduates ended up in remedial classes in college. It also follows the suggestions of two politically influential groups, former Gov. Jeb Bush’s education foundation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.”

  Another source adds: “…Bush and the Chamber are so far dodging accountability for the FCAT Writing nightmare. It was they who served as Robinson’s backers on increasing FCAT stakes. Their silence on the three-day old story is telling as they’ve thrown Robinson under the bus.”

Bush-styled “test and punish” seems to mostly have punished the Florida superintendent promoting it. In Virginia, Robinson lasted as ed chief for only a year and a half (January 2010 to June 2011). In Florida, he held the top spot for only a year. And as for K12 classroom experience, according to his Linkedin bio, Robinson taught fifth grade at a private, inner-city school in Los Angeles for only one year. But here he is, ready to advise Ridge-Lane LP customers on K12 education.

Chris Cerf

Chris Cerf as an education advisor? All I can say to that is “Edison’s teacher pension bailout.”

From my 2013 “Chiefs” post:

Time to shift our focus to New Jersey’s Chief, Chris Cerf. What a story we have here between Cerf and Bush. In 2001, Cerf became president of a company called Edison Education. As Jersey Jazzman notes, Edison “couldn’t produce the results it claimed it could.” Edison had gone public in 1999 and was in deep trouble by 2003; not wanting corporate reform to ever appear to fail, Jeb Bush used the vast resources of the Florida teachers retirement system to bail out a company that ironically was trying to shut out public school teachers:

“Whittle and Cerf needed a buyout; someone with pockets deep enough to take the company private and protect the value of their own shares. Ironically, their white knight turned out to be funded by none other than the Florida teachers pension fund.

Yes, you read that right: Florida teachers paid for Whittle and Cerf to take their company private – a company that advocated for the continuing corporatization of public schools. Understand that the fund itself was being run by a firm that was engaging in some questionable practices.

… The deal was approved by the three trustees of the FL pension: CFO Tom Gallagher, then-Attorney General and future-Governor Charlie Crist, and then-Governor Jeb Bush.

… So the pensions of Florida teachers were used to rescue a failing company that advocated education policies counter to those of the teachers unions. This buyout saved the contract of an investment firm that was doing a lousy job managing the pension by playing to the ideological predilections of a powerful governor, who just happened to be the brother of a president who ushered in No Child Left Behind, the law that set the stage for ‘school choice.'”

Chris Cerf has involved himself in other shady and unethical (illegal?) situations. (See this this article by Leonie Haimson for a succinct yet pointed discussion on Cerf’s questionable doings.)

At least he is faithful to the reformer agenda of privatization, and after all, that is what matters, isn’t it?

Jeb says yes.

Another slice of Cerf, this time from the February 2014 NJ Spotlight News article announcing his first NJ resignation, this one as state ed chief:

As news becomes public today and reaction starts pouring in, there are sure to be those critical of his tenure, or at least his stewardship of [NJ governor Chris] Christie’s agenda.

Some have complained about the pressure created by the new testing and curriculum embodied by the Common Core State Standards, which Cerf embraced. Others have criticized tighter controls on school spending at a time of increased mandates and reduced state funding in a majority of districts.

The pace of change under the new teacher evaluations has been especially contentious, and even was subject of an Assembly committee hearing yesterday.

Maybe most significantly, before Cerf came into office, Christie drastically reduced school funding in the face of the recession-driven revenue cuts, and nearly 80 percent of districts have yet to fully recover. Nonetheless, Cerf has been left to defend the funding reductions and press for new ones.

Christie brought Cerf back a year later, in 2015, to take over the state-run Newark schools. From the August 2018 Newark Chalkbeat:

By the time Cerf was appointed by former Gov. Chris Christie in 2015 to take over as Newark schools chief, the district had become a case study in ambitious reform gone awry.

Parents, students, and the Newark Teachers Union had joined forces against the school closures and staff layoffs, and the superintendent who had pushed the changes, Cami Anderson, had resigned. The troubled reform efforts were detailed in a critically acclaimed book by journalist Dale Russakoff, published just as Cerf became superintendent.

In an effort to market Newark success upon his departure, in true education businessman form, Cerf turned to private investors to brand for himself a positive legacy. Use of private money conveniently keeps spending details– and vetting– from the public :

It’s common for outgoing administrations to highlight their accomplishments. But the district’s close coordination with donors, whose contributions often evade public scrutiny, raises ongoing questions about transparency and private influence over public schools, said Domingo Morel, a political scientist at Rutgers University-Newark who has written about state takeovers of urban school districts.

“It’s actors behind the scenes trying to shape public education without any role for the public,” he said.

Most of the money flowed through the Community Foundation of New Jersey, a nonprofit that manages charitable funds and has overseen the Zuckerberg money since 2016. District officials determined how the foundation money was spent, but donors still had to sign off, people familiar with the foundation said. The arrangement allowed consultants to do work for the district without being publicly vetted.

It’s All in the Edu-brand.

Branding is important in the education business, and certainly, that branding mindset shapes the details ed reformers include in their bios. Cerf does not mention the Florida teacher pension buyout of his failing Edison. He also doesn’t mention that according to his Linkedin bio, he was taught high school in Cincinnati for only four years several decades ago (1977-81). He should tout that accomplishment. Even though he was in the K12 classroom mostly during the Carter administration and left for good soon after Reagan took office, his being there for four years makes him the veteran among his fellow Jeb-Bushites.

Others among the Ridge-Lane LP K12 state education chiefs also mention association with Chiefs for Change in their bios (Candice McQueen, Steve Canavero). Furthermore, Lillian Lowery, who has no Ridge-Lane LP bio as of this writing, has also been involved with Chiefs for Change, as the 2019 Chiefs for Change publication below notes on page 2.

So, if you want to dip into some of this Ridge-Lane LP K12 “significant experience” (not in the classroom, mind you, but in Jeb Bush reforms, such as school grading, and Common Core, and PARCC, and pension funneling), then get your (or the taxpayer’s) proverbial checkbook ready so that these once state-ed superintendents can spin an income advising you out of those edu-dollars.

Jeb Bush

_________________________________________________

Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (don’t be scared) @deutsch29blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s