StudentsFirst winding down FL operation


Michelle Rhee’s education reform group is scaling back its Florida operations, saying it wants to focus on policy battles elsewhere.

StudentsFirst will maintain a nominal presence in the state, but it’s pulling out most of its policy and outreach resources. Some of its leadership positions in the state, including state director, had already been vacant.

Lane Wright, the group’s regional spokesman, said StudentsFirst will keep operating in neighboring states. The group has been active in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

“We will still weigh in publicly on some education reform issues in (Florida),” Wright said late last week. “We will not be as heavily involved as we have been with our outreach and our policy.”

Wright said the decision was shaped in part by the fact that Florida has already adopted more of its policy agenda than any state besides Louisiana.

StudentsFirst’s state report card gives Florida especially high marks for teacher effectiveness, but its efforts to win changes in other areas met resistance.┬áIt was among the groups that pushed for the “parent trigger” legislation that died on tie Senate votes in 2012 and 2013. This year, it shifted focus to spending and governance, but a bill that would have required the state to measure schools’ return on investment did not make it out of the Legislature.

Wright noted that in some cases, constitutional provisions, including the class-size amendment, could present a barrier to other proposed reforms. He said that, combined with the policies already in place, contributed to a decision to “shift of our resources to other states to help them accomplish what we’ve accomplished in Florida.”

“There are probably a few things that Florida could do better,” he said. “But when you compare the landscape to other states in the country, we’re really outstanding on policy.”