Jeb Bush, Rupert Murdoch bound for S.F.


The Foundation for Excellence in Education, a Florida-based nonprofit led by Jeb Bush, will host its National Summit on Education Reform at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco Oct. 13 and 14.

Bush, former Florida governor and the brother of former President George W. Bush, will deliver a welcome address Thursday. Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire head of News Corporation who came under pressure in recent months as the News of the World phone-hacking scandal erupted, will deliver a keynote address Friday.

Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss sums up the irony of having Murdoch as the guest of honor at the conference here:

"Yes indeed, the Rupert Murdoch set to speak on technology’s power to transform education is the same Rupert Murdoch recently hauled before a British parliamentary committee to explain why a newspaper he owned had used technology to hack the phones of thousands of British citizens for years — including the phone of a murdered 13-year-old girl, thus interfering with the police investigation. (Murdoch closed the newspaper.)"

Panelists at the event will include News Corporation executives, CEOs of for-profit schools, state senators from Florida, Arizona, and Oklahoma, and the author of a book titled School Boards in America: A Flawed Exercise in Democracy.

The conference will feature a number of "strategy sessions," and one is actually called, "Don't Let a Financial Crisis Go To Waste." The session will focus on education funding formulas and purports to explain "just what lawmakers and policymakers can do to get a better return-on-investment for their education dollars," according the conference agenda. It will be moderated by a director of education policy at the George W. Bush Institute, which "champions change" based on the educational policies of No Child Left Behind.

The first strategy session is called "The Teaching Profession 2.0," and hints of an anti-union agenda: "During the last two years, states across the country have ushered in the most sweeping reforms of the teaching profession in our nation’s history," according to the workshop description. "More meaningful evaluations. An end to tenure and destructive last-in, first-out policies. Salaries that reflect student learning rather than seniority. Learn how lawmakers and policymakers from states around the nation are changing the paradigm of the teaching profession."

Another segment will focus on digital learning, or teaching through technology, which the Foundation for Excellence in Education seems dedicated to advancing. A video on a newly launched website touted by the foundation features Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Open Education Solutions, explaining, "Our mission is to advance digital learning in every classroom, in every school, in every state in America." But Vander Ark's recent vision for opening charter schools in New York City did not go so well, according to this New York Times story. Murdoch delivered an address at the e-G8 in Paris last year titled, "Digital's Next Frontier: Education."

In any case, San Francisco -- famed for its left-leaning politics -- seems an odd choice for Bush and Murdoch, especially during a week when the streets are likely to be filled with protesters marching in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.