Term limits for Tuthills, part 2: …and Kirtleys and Levesques and Goffs and the Florida Education Deep State

Here’s part 1, “Term limits for Tuthills, part 1: confront unelected power with real world referenda”


I’m a first-term elected School Board member in Polk County. But imagine I’d been around since 2008; and this was my record:

  • I oversaw and doled out money to a publicly-funded (through tax credits) voucher program aimed at Florida’s most economically vulnerable kids. And that program, the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) voucher maintains a 61 percent two-year drop out rate.
  • Two of my schools (Kingdom Prep and Akelynn’s Angels) just disappeared in Polk County in the last year without me knowing about any problems whatsoever. In one of the schools, the headmaster/football coach is headed for trial in March on charges that he groomed voucher applicants for sexual abuse. Imagine I did nothing to help any kid in the aftermath.
  • I didn’t have a word to say about reform or oversight or even asking where-the-hell the Akelynn’s Angels kids went when the school closed. Indeed, I thought they were still there. [Ed. note: The reality of Akelynn’s Angels, which remains open, is both more complex and much worse than this original passage indicates. This link provides a full accounting. ]
  • My program openly discriminates, with state blessing, against an entire class of Florida kids.
  • I hired my kid(s) to work PR for the school district — much of which involved attacking public schools.
  • And I responded to public reporting of any of this by saying, “Lalalalalala, here’s another check. And you’re racist for asking.”

You wouldn’t need to term limit me, dear voters. You would toss me out with well-earned disdain. And you’d probably call for a grand jury to microscope me. For all the problems of local school boards and districts, I don’t know any of us with a record quite like that.

Tuthills all the way down

And yet, that’s Doug Tuthull, of the titular Tuthills of this article.

Doug Tuthill is the unelected, unaccountable president of Step Up for Students (SUFS), Florida’s voucher School Board. He has run SUFS since 2008. That’s a 12-year, ongoing term. Nobody is sponsoring any term limit legislation to end his reign of error. So expect it to continue because you can’t vote on it.

And here is Doug’s son David, who is on the tax credit-funded/tax funded SUFS payroll for…reasons.

I find David’s reference to “product of 13 years of education choice in the magnet programs of Pinellas County Schools” amusing. I promise you, Doug Tuthill would never, ever let his kids anywhere near the Akelynn’s Angels/Kingdom Preps of the world. In the real world, for elite people, “choice” always means taxpayer-funded, self-selecting, ESE-excluding publicly-funded private schools, mostly for white people. That’s magnet and charter, both.

“Choice” doesn’t mean that for vulnerable kids. It means Kingdom Prep and 61 percent program drop-out rates. Doug Tuthill may pay David Tuthill to shill for Pastor Tiger and Kingdom Prep. But David Tuthill’s children will never darken an FTC voucher school door, unless it’s an Academy Prep or one of the tiny handful of truly reputable providers. I promise you that.

Indeed, stacked self-selecting public choice for elite Tuthills, from magnet and charter, is the true competitive threat to public education. It’s not garbage vouchers, which are only a threat to their users.

The Florida Education Deep State has names and a dark mission: try to make public education and teachers unpopular.

This isn’t something one can prove scientifically; but I consider Doug Tuthill the spiritual leader of the the unelected, unaccountable Florida Deep Education Deep State. I introduced you to the Florida Education Deep State as a powerful, unaccountable concept in part 1 of this two-part series, which you can find at the beginning and end of this article.

Here’s a key excerpt from Part 1 about the Florida Education Deep State’s purpose and sense of entitlement:

Florida’s deeply entrenched, unelected education power finds public education’s durable popularity utterly intolerable. That’s why it inflicts all the useless testing and “accountability” and fraud on your children. It’s been trying to make public education and the teaching profession unpopular; so you, the public, will help them kill both.

And yet, people still love their public schools and their teachers, despite everything that Jeb Bush’s deep state has thrown at it for 25 years.

And the blasphemous idea that an elected politician would try to harness that popularity, weaponize it, and turn it against the Florida Education Deep State, as I am openly and loudly trying to do, must feel to them like a personal violation.

That’s how entitled and entrenched they are in a grift that harms your children’s lives every day. How dare you tell the truth about us and try to destroy our power openly? And with the help of the public. Don’t you know the public doesn’t matter? We are the Education Deep State. You don’t disrupt our comfortable grift and lives; we disrupt yours. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis has actually empowered the Florida Education Deep State far more than Jeb Bush ever did. I don’t know if he intended to do this, or if he just doesn’t know anything because he’s a silly TV personality. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  But the Florida Education Deep State is taking advantage — and also way overstepping, I think. Political vulnerability lies in believing their nonsense, Gov. DeSantis.

As I wrote in part 1:

Richard Corcoran was on the ballot in Polk County during the Red Weekend. “Should Richard Corcoran fire 1200 teachers en masse in Polk County?” We had a snap referendum on that; and Polk County’s teachers, with the massive backing of the Polk County public, kicked Richard Corcoran’s ass all up and down the I-4 Corridor.

Either way, those of you who love Donald Trump should really internalize DeSantis’ love for the Florida Education Deep State. Those of you who don’t, well, I doubt this changes any perception for you.

But DeSantis has given a boost to a handful of endlessly recycled, unelected, educational also-rans. With DeSantis’ blessing, they are assuring Florida keeps fighting the tired, fake battles of 1998, when most of them rode to power on Jeb’s coattails.

Indeed, Doug Tuthill is not the longest-lingering member of the Florida Education Deep State. Not even close.

What follows is a shortlist of some of the longer-paid members, with the length of their endless Education Deep State terms, and some of their claims to infamy. Many of them have a central role in dreadful, anti-human, pro-test-and-punish education reform bills being heard right now. See Monroe County School Board Sue Woltanski’s important primer and call to action here at this link.

John “Vouchers” Kirtley: 22-year term, cares only about abstract “choice,” not the 61 percent drop out rate

You can read SUFS’ take on John Kirtley at this link. He’s sort of the father of Florida vouchers. But I found this quote from 2011 far more telling. Indeed, it explains a lot, including the ongoing  terrible quality of the voucher provider network. 

Kirtley said expenditures by his political advocacy group are designed to “inform voters about the records of candidates.” He said candidates are picked “solely on their views on parental choice for low-income families.”

His personal contributions, he said, were made based on the same standards. “I’m a single issue person,” he said. “I don’t care about their position on anything but parental choice for low income families.”

Let’s put that another way. Let’s say John Kirtley is a home-building contractor. And he says to would-be homebuyers: I don’t care about the home you want to me to build you; I only care that you sign your name to the contract so my subcontractors get paid. 

  1. That would send you to prison, quickly, if you ever succeeded in getting someone to sign.
  2. No one could run a business with that blasé an attitude toward customers and your product.

“Choice” is just an abstract word.

It’s not the product; it’s just your name on the contract. And as SUFS and Kirtley make clear, they don’t care about the product; they only care about the contract and the sale. They only care about the photo op and the “racist” political argument they get to use against public school advocates who object to their grift. (By the way, public school advocates, we have to stop fearing that attack. It’s deeply harmful to actual flesh and blood children of color; and we owe it to them to fight through lies and abuse. Who cares what shameless people call us? It’s just name-calling. )

What’s horribly racist is luring families, many of whom are families of color, into places like Akelynn’s Angels and Kingdom Prep, and then abandoning them when it goes bad. The difference between me and John Kirtley is that he only cares about the abstract choice; and I care about the flesh and blood kid. If John Kirtley cared about flesh and blood kids, FTC would not have a 61 percent 2-year program drop-out rate.

Today, Kirtley chairs the K-12 Education Committee for the Committee of 100. The Committee of 100 is one of those Deep State Big Business shill groups that speaks in platitudes and hates public education and teachers.  Here’s an interesting story from a few months back about how awesome the Committee of 100 thinks Richard Corcoran is. Quote from Kirtley:

“As business leaders, we know that education is the building block of prosperity. We want to ensure every student in Florida gets the education that prepares them for success for years to come.’’

LOL. Now, fast forward to aftermath of the Red Weekend and the Tallahassee teacher rally. Suddenly, the Committee of 100 is all about teachers; and Kirtley is nowhere to be quoted. I find that very interesting — and perhaps telling.

In any event, always, always, always remember, especially in election years, the only thing Kirtley says he cares about — and it’s not your child’s well-being; it’s getting your child’s name on the voucher.

“I’m a single issue person,” he said. “I don’t care about their position on anything but parental choice for low income families.”

Shan “FSA for toddlers; and school grades for Pre-Ks” Goff: 35-year-term, has broken literally everything and won’t go away

If you like Florida’s standardized testing and school grades for K-12, you’ll love it for your pre-school and toddler. It’s coming unless you stop it.

Shan Goff, the Florida Education Deep State’s recycled executive director of the Early Learning Coalition, is the human being most likely responsible for inflicting this on your small children. Here’s how Sue Woltanski describes the “Test-and-Punish/Common Core for Toddlers” bill to be discussed Tuesday in committee:

SB1688 overhauls oversight and accountability in VPK, the state’s largest voucher program. A-F-like school grades will be assigned to this mostly private marketplace, based in part on standardized, progress monitoring of pre-schoolers… 4-year olds… sigh… Families accepting the VPK voucher will be required to subject their children to the state testing. Participating schools will qualify for differential payments based on the new accountability system, with more funding going to the higher performing schools (most likely those with wealthier clientel). Low performing schools (likely those in lower income neighborhoods) will face sanctions, be placed on probation or be removed from the program.

Perhaps no individual so thoroughly embodies the endless Florida Deep State recycling of failed ideas and performance than Shan Goff, who is overseeing Test-and-Punish/Common Core for Toddlers on behalf of the Florida Education Deep State, which is dictating it. Here’s how Goff’s bio puts it:

She is now on her second term as the executive director for the Office of Early Learning, having previously served for two years in the position. She was appointed to her current term by Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran.

In addition to Shan’s experience in state government, she has a rich background in both research and policy-making, having worked for the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University and most recently as the Florida policy director for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. [Ed. note: “Foundation for Excellence in Education” is Jeb’s foundation.]

Florida has America’s worst test score growth with age; deep ESE problems; one of the worst American teacher shortages; the most incompetent state DoE; and the most dishonest use of data to harm your kids. See this article. 

If you’re looking for the one operational person most responsible for that, you can do worse than Shan Goff. She’s been educratting since 1985, even before JebWorld. Almost nothing in Florida education has escaped her bizarro-world Midas touch.

I had the great joy of interrogating Shan Goff face-to-face at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Lakeland during the 2016 campaign. Read all about that here. One fun excerpt:

But I did point out to her that no county in Florida has more thoroughly embraced her model of choice and segregation and punishment than Polk County. And here we still are. I told her that DoE would likely rig the school grades again this year to push them generally upward the same way it rigged them to push them generally downward last year. That will help cover the ongoing carnage at the five schools a little bit.

“They don’t rig the school grades,” she said. Yes they do, I told her. Any unfixed evaluation system that uses year-to-year comparisons for punishment is rigged, political, and deeply immoral.

And I told her that her entire record as an educator boils down to creating segregation and a teacher shortage. “I think you’re smart enough to know it,” I said. But there’s a big difference between intelligence and morality.

Patricia “Change the school grade fraud system again” Levesque: 22-year term, ready to inflict more school grade fraud on your kids because she doesn’t know what else to do about Florida’s terrible test data

Speaking of rigging the school grades…

In November, I wrote this about the Jeb’s Foundation’s luxurious annual convention in San Diego.

There may be some sexy new punishments for teachers and principals announced. I’m not kidding about that. As Levesque makes clear in her article, ExcelinEd is gearing up to order Tallahassee to rig the school grade formula to create more Ds and Fs and punish more vulnerable schools and people. This is their only idea. They’ve done it for 20 years; and they know nothing else. Again, go read for yourself. (The school grade change is also how they plan to get out of paying any bonus or salary that DeSantis announces for veteran teachers at zoned schools. But that’s for a different article.)

The people in charge of this event — and of education in Florida — have no imagination, no shame, and no capacity self-criticism; but they have a lot of power and a mountain of money. And they have expense accounts the size of my house on top of that. They will put on good parties while our people are working and stressing to meet their fraudulent edicts back home under the risk of losing their $45K per year jobs.

Was I right? Ladies and gentlemen, meet House Bill 7079 and Senate Bill 1498. Again, here is Sue “Accountabaloney” Woltanski: 

HB7079 will dramatically disrupt the current high school grade calculation and direct more schools, labeled as failing by altered school grade calculations, toward privatized options, while chipping away at local control, requiring school boards to obtain permission from our appointed Commissioner of Education before they elect to close or repurpose public school buildings.

In case you missed it, last year, Florida’s Commissioner of Education made clear his goal of transitioning 2 MILLION of Florida’s 2.8 million public school children towards private options before the end of Governor DeSantis’ first term. HB7069 will help make Corcoran’s goal achievable.

Yesterday, the bill sailed through the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee with no questions and no real debate. No one discussed the massive disruption the bill will have on school grade calculations. No one questioned why school boards should have to seek Commissioner approval before repurposing a school building. No one defended the local control of our public schools. A lobbyist for the Department of Education waived in support. The bill moved forward on an unanimous vote.

Patricia Levesque is likely the driving force behind these bills. Here’s her bio. It should say generalized Bond villain henchwoman to Jeb Bush; but I don’t think that’s an official title: 

Patricia is the Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation. Previously, Patricia served six years in the Florida Legislature in the Speakers Office and as staff director over education policy.

Kim “your state School Board lobbyist” McDougal: 31-year term, thinks educating children is like “fixing a car.”

Who is out there fighting the good fight against all these Education Deep State malefactors on behalf of Florida School Boards and the voters who choose them?

Well, that would be this woman.

Kim McDougal is the lead contracted lobbyist for the Florida School Board Association. How’s she doing, based on what you’ve just read? Here’s McDougal’s bio, so maybe you get a sense her loyalties actually lie when she’s “lobbying” on your behalf.

Kim is a senior government affairs consultant in GrayRobinson’s Tallahassee office. She lobbies across a wide range of policy areas on behalf of public and private clients. Kim brings almost three decades of education policy knowledge and experience to the firm’s lobbying practice, having served in multiple leadership roles at the Department of Education, including Governmental Relations Director and Senior Policy Advisor for several Commissioners of Education.

Kim began her public service career with the State of Florida in 1989 as a program auditor with the Office of the Auditor General, and later worked for the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability. During her 10-year career with the Florida Legislature, she worked on a wide array of policy areas, but the majority of her policy work focused on K-20 education policy. Kim has worked as a senior advisor or in a leadership role for many of Florida’s Education Commissioners. She also worked for Governor Bush in several roles within the Executive Office of the Governor, including as the policy coordinator for education in the Office of Planning and Budget.

Most recently, Kim served as Chief of Staff to Florida Governor Rick Scott. In this role, she was responsible for directly serving and advising the Governor on issues pertaining to 100,000 plus executive branch employees and administered an $83 billion state budget. She also served as Governor Scott’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Legislative Affairs Director, Education Policy Coordinator and as Policy Advisor during his successful re-election campaign.

I wrote a whole big article about Kim McDougal a couple months ago — and how she helps keep the FSBA impotent against the Florida Education Deep State. In fact, I suspect that’s the role the Florida Education Deep State, of which she is a part, expects her to play. You can read that article here.  

McDougal’s other great claim to infamy is telling anti-testing education activist Ted Dintersmith that “educating children is like fixing a car.” Here’s the excerpt from Ted’s book, What School Could Be?

I introduced myself and began explaining what I was doing. I tend to talk fast but after a couple of minutes, KM stopped me. “Look. I know everything I need to know about education. You don’t need to tell me anything. What can I explain to you?”

Me [Dintersmith]: I believe that the more test-driven a school is, the more it puts kids at risk in a world of innovation.

KM: You’re making this too complicated. Educating children is like fixing a car. You take a car to the garage and pay them to fix it. We pay our schools $7,000 per student and expect them to be educated.

Me: How do you know they’re learning anything?

KM: That’s why we have standardized tests.

When I started to respond, KM stood up and informed me, “Look. I’m important to the governor. Thank you for your time.” And left. In a year with a thousand meetings, this was the worst.

Lovely. That’s your lobbyist.

Five people. 122 years with the Florida Education Deep State. Endless human damage. Not one of them ever faced a voter or a term limit.

The Florida Education Deep State takes no calls; accepts no responsibility, and thinks as your children as nothing more than sellable data to exploit. And they don’t face voters. This is giant problem I am trying to begin solving by naming and shaming them. Everyone should; it’s the only way to touch them. And we have to touch them somehow.

It’s the only way to save public education and restore some public say over how our children are educated. Those of us who want state government to treat children as human beings have to widen our circle of understanding of what “government” means. It means these people, with these names. And there are more. Please send them to me if you want.

These five people have been “governing” you, your children, and your children’s teachers for a combined 122 years. And we’re fighting them for the very existence of public education. 122 years of pillage and plunder and harm is plenty.

It’s time to retire the Florida Education Deep State.


Term limits for Tuthills, part 1: confront unelected power with real world referenda

1 thought on “Term limits for Tuthills, part 2: …and Kirtleys and Levesques and Goffs and the Florida Education Deep State

  1. Thank you. Billy. I am retired with no children in school. Part of my career was as a public high school teacher in Connecticut, and as a sub at schools for ESE kids here in Florida that last couple of years. I was also a student finance director at a private (now charter) school in Polk County and was blown away at how easy it was for me to get a “scholarship” for in-coming students and how little oversight there was from the organizations who administered them and Tallahassee. I could procure scholarships (in some cases for up to $22k per school year) in a matter of minutes online. Yes, MINUTES. That particular school was frequently in the news because of both financial and physical abuse, but now is a charter school. Ugh. Thank you for your dedication and hard work. Polk’s beautiful children are not being served and it breaks my heart.

Comments are closed.