Florida's Think Tanks - Heavy Hitters
Florida has a cadre of think tanks determined to help shape the state's policies.
2010 Revenue: $1.3 million
Key Personnel: Mark Wilson, Bentina C. Terry, Tony Carvajal and Tracey Lowe. Wilson is president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and president of the Florida Chamber Foundation. Terry, vice president for external affairs and corporate services at Gulf Power, chairs the foundation’s board. Carvajal, former COO for the now-defunct Collins Center for Public Policy, is executive vice president, and Tracey Lowe, also formerly of the Collins Center, is director of program development.
Funding Sources: Not disclosed
About: The business-led group got its start in 1968 as the Florida State Chamber of Commerce Educational Foundation with the goal of improving Florida’s education system. By 1983, the foundation broadened its scope to address Florida’s growing population and demands on water, energy and transportation and the need to diversity the state’s economy. A major project of the group has been the development of its “Six Pillars” framework to serve as a “visioning platform” for a long-term strategic plan for the state. The think tank created a Florida Scorecard, an online tool that provides key metrics for tracking economic progress in the state’s 67 counties.
2011 Revenue: $8,498,544
Key Personnel: Jeb Bush and Patricia Levesque. Bush is chairman. As CEO, Levesque oversees the 47 staffers who work on policy, advocacy, events, development, communications and marketing and perform other duties for the group.
Funding Sources: Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, the GE Foundation, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Walton Family Foundation, among others. Sponsors of the group’s annual summit have included education companies Amplify and Pearson, Microsoft and Target and various philanthropic groups.
About: Bush founded the non-profit in 2009 to export the education reforms pioneered in Florida to other states. The group’s agenda includes implementation of “rigorous academic standards” such as Common Core, digital learning, ending tenure for teachers and implementation of data-based evaluations and compensation. The foundation, which shares an address and some staff with its related non-profit, Foundation for Florida’s Future, has also organized a coalition of state school chiefs and leaders called “Chiefs for Change” to help advance its agenda.