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Last Refuge of Scoundrels

Has Florida become the last refuge scoundrels? The dumping ground for right wing extremists who can't get work anywhere else? Has it come to that?

Apparently so, with Jeb Bush's selection of Cheri Yecke as Florida's K-12 Chancellor. The selection has become yet another national embarrassment for Florida.

What follows is out original August 30, 2005 post on this issue together with updates.

Original Post: As K-12 Chancellor; the Tallahassee Democrat blithely reports as follows:
"I was asked by Governor Bush," Yecke said Monday. "What an honor to be asked to serve under Jeb Bush. Everything Florida is doing is right. You've got strong accountability, and you're closing the achievement gap."
"K-12 chancellor named". The St. Pete Times posts a similarly bland description of the selection in "Minnesotan to be Florida's K-12 chancellor".

However, there is a bit more to this woman than the standard it's "an honor to be asked to serve under Jeb Bush" reflected in the above story. Fortunately, the Tampa Trib digs a bit deeper:

A former Minnesota commissioner of education who was forced out in 2004 was chosen Monday to be Florida's chancellor of K-12 education.

Cheri Yecke, 50, now works for a conservative Minnesota think tank and, until Monday, was a candidate for Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. ...

After being in office for more than a year, however, she lost her confirmation hearing after nine hours of testimony, The Associated Press reported.

That report described Yecke as a controversial figure, painted by critics as a "divisive ideologue who is taking education down the wrong path." ...

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported in April 2004 that detractors said Yecke pushed for social studies standards that were overtly conservative. In June 2003, The Associated Press reported that Yecke believes in creationism but didn't want the subject to be part of new science standards.

A Minnesota Public Radio report said Yecke was campaigning for the congressional seat on educational issues, restrained government spending, retooling Social Security and enacting a ban on same- sex marriages.
"Conservative Minnesota Official To Oversee Florida K-12 Education". The AP story also provides a little insight, noting that Yecke is considered by some to be a "divisive ideologue" who "was removed as her state's education commissioner". "Former Minnesota official picked to oversee K-12".

As noted above, Yecke works for a so-called "conservative Minnesota think tank", the "Center of the American Experiment". "Conservative"? That is putting it politely: these folks are first order wingnuts. The website links to the neo-fascists at Powerline at the top of their main page as follows: "Powerlineblog.com: Scott Johnson and John Hinderaker's Celebrated Blog" (the link is not off to the side in a list, put prominently displayed front, top and center). The site also (in the "About us" section) brags about their associations with folks like Ward Connerly and Charles Murray.

The views expressed by Yecke on this page are disturbing to say the least. Can't imagine what she thinks about "intelligent design"? Might be interesting to see the transcripts of the Minnesota hearings that resulted in her ouster.

Where does "Jeb!" find these losers?

Too bad the Florida Legislature won't say a thing about this embarassing choice.

Update: DKos addresses this issue on the front page today with "How the GOP Works in Florida Affects Us All" with the usual discussion thread. The post includes this link: "I'm sorry, FloridaÂ…". As you might expect, Yecke does have some, ahem, "problems" with that crazy theory of evolution: "Yecke's hypocrisy". Here's some info on her failed confirmation hearing: "Paper full of Yecke"; see also "Tales from the State Senate Education Committee meetings: Part I".

Florida Blues has more: "Thanks, Minnesota. Thanks a bunch", including this embarassing bit about treatment of Native Americans. See also "Heart of Darkness: a trip to Willmar".

Also via Florida Blues, this from the Organization of American Historians: "What Happened in Minnesota?"
In the past academic year, the K-12 public school system of Minnesota survived an attempted hijacking of the statewide social studies curriculum by an alliance of radically right-wing and evangelical Christian activists who were empowered, startlingly, by the state's own acting Commissioner of Education. This effort was defeated over the course of several months by a remarkable collaboration between an energized group of K-12 teachers and parents and members of the University of Minnesota's Department of History. We describe this struggle, which has counterparts in a number of other states, and then assess some of its ramifications both for the place of history in K-12 curricula and for the public relevance of academic history.
Read what happened here.

FlaBlog has this: "Right-wing appointment for schools".

Update 8/31/05: Though not surprising, the follow on coverage of the embarassing Yecke appointment has been less than impressive. See e.g., "She's no stranger to discord" ("Passionate or polarizing? When it comes to Florida's new K-12 chancellor, it depends whom you ask.") See also "Meet the New K-12 Boss" and "Education chancellor hired"

By the way, the "Florida job isn't subject to confirmation by the state Senate, but that wouldn't be a problem because it's also in Republican hands." "Happy to See Her Go?".

Update 9/04/05: This editorial from the St. Pete Times is disappointing: "Leave politics behind, Chancellor". To be sure, Yecke is recognized as a rabid GOoPer hack:
She is relentlessly partisan. ...

Wendy Swanson-Choi, a Republican parent who worked to elect Gov. Tim Pawlenty and served on an advisory committee for Yecke, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune there was another side. "She did herself in," Swanson-Choi said. "From the time I met her and saw her interacting with people, I thought, "You know what? We're set up for a problem here.' She didn't listen to anyone. It was just, "We're doing it my way. I'm right.'"

Gov. Jeb Bush and his Department of Education have operated in much the same fashion in Florida, demonizing critics instead of listening to their concerns. The political paranoia has diminished the professionalism at DOE and hurt Bush even with those in his own party.
But in the end, the editorial does not call for her removal, but instead says that (at least some) of her "ideas are welcome".

Scott Maxwell also soft pedals Yecke's extremism in "K-12 chief holds strong views". It's the usual, some people say she's got an
"An ideological take on education -- a very conservative one."

That's the word from Jamie Crannell, a high school chemistry teacher in Minnesota who worked with Yecke when she was the state's education commissioner in developing standards for science classes throughout the state. "The only thing she was interested in was the intelligent-design issue," Crannell said of the creationism term. "The other 95 percent of what we do in science was ignored."
While others say she's wonderful. Maxwell's conclusion:
while many of her preliminary ideas raised eyebrows, the standards ultimately adopted under her leadership during the 16 months she was education commissioner in Minnesota were relatively well-received.

Plus, she has an impressive resume that includes 10 years of teaching middle and high school, three years on the Virginia State Board of Education and degrees at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate level.
There you have it.


Comments Close this window Collapse comments
Anonymous said...
What an embarassment to the State of Florida. Hopefully someone - anyone - in the Legislature will stand up to this.

6:49 AM

Redstate Blues said...
Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a hardworking press that would research this woman's writing (she seems to have quite a record) and ask some hard questions?

8:11 AM

Anonymous said...
What a joke. And the media will doze through it all as she assumes her new position.

8:52 AM

Anonymous said...
Just great! We promote rejects from other states.

10:11 AM

Peter Schorsch said...
Read here [.pdf file]: www.yeckeforcongress.com/PDF/Filibuster.pdf

1:33 PM

spencer said...
Wesley Elsberry, who posts regularly at The Panda's Thumb (www.pandasthumb.org), has already begun the process of putting together Florida Citizens for Science, which will fight against the anti-science policies of Yecke and those like her at the grassroots level.

Go here


if you are interested in getting involved.

4:01 PM

Michael Hussey said...
Raise your hands. Who anyone expecting Bush to appoint a good chancellor?

10:10 PM

Michael Hussey said...
Pat Sajak is a member of the Center of the American Experiment. If they have him and Ass Rocket then they must be cool.

10:16 PM


8/31/2005 11:27 AM, by Anonymous Anonymous

And the fabulous Donna Arduin has crawled back to Florida (and apparently Bush's good graces as well) after participating in that train wreck in California.



8/31/2005 9:13 PM, by Anonymous Anonymous

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.



9/05/2005 5:37 PM, by Blogger MinnBEST

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.



9/05/2005 5:39 PM, by Blogger MinnBEST

while many of her preliminary ideas raised eyebrows, the standards ultimately adopted under her leadership during the 16 months she was education commissioner in Minnesota were relatively well-received.

That is because teachers, parents and professors took matters into our own hands and rewrote the standards.
see www.MinnBEST.org for all the info.



9/08/2005 4:11 AM, by Anonymous Anonymous

When Yecke came to Minnesota, Virginia parents (who years later are trying to undo the damage done under Yecke's rein: www.solreform.com) said "Good luck Minnesota, you can have her."

All I can say is good luck Florida; I hope parents pay close attention to her Yecke's agenda and strongly voice concern to their legislators.

-A Minnesota Parent



9/10/2005 4:33 AM, by Anonymous Blue

Unlike Minnesota, Yecke's Florida job will not require confirmation (and even if it did, Bush has a compliant Legislature willing to jump when he snaps his fingers). Florida is, to put it bluntly, screwed.



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