Bush's Foundation Plays Role In Idaho Mastery Rollout

Sep 22, 2015

GOP presidential candidate established the Foundation for Excellence in Education in 2008.
Credit Idaho Education News

As Idaho moves into the realm of mastery-based education, the state is getting unpaid help from a prominent education reform group.

But the Foundation for Excellence in Education — founded by GOP presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — is itself a newcomer to mastery. During a meeting with the State Board of Education in May, a foundation official said the group has not worked with any other states on implementing mastery programs.

Idaho is making a slow but significant shift toward mastery-based learning — in which students move from class to class based on command of a subject, not seat time. Idaho’s mastery movement has been in the works since at least 2013, when Gov. Butch Otter’s education task force recommended the concept. The 2015 Legislature followed up with a law to launch 20 mastery pilots across the state in 2016-17.

The state has no contract with Bush’s foundation, said Jeff Church, a spokesman for state superintendent Sherri Ybarra. And while the mastery pilot law earmarked $400,000 for the launch, the foundation is receiving no money for its work, he said.

Ybarra has met on two or three occasions with Karla Phillips, the foundation’s state policy director of competency-based learning. Phillips has joined state officials as they meet with local school superintendents, to answer questions about the mastery pilot program.

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