Dear voucher grifters: take Mary McLeod Bethune's good name out of your mouths

Florida's failed, family-of-color-scamming voucher system again turns to right wing "Critical Race Theory" to mask its grifting and incompetence. And it insults one of the greatest Floridians.


Mary McLeod Bethune built capacity.

She wrote her earliest known letter in 1902 to Booker T. Washington from my hometown of Palatka, Florida. She urged the great educator to help her build the reach and capabilities of her threadbare new school.

Honored Sir:

I hope a note of this kind may not greatly surprise you, as a man in your sphere must expect such.

I am engaged in a Mission work in this town and I greatly desire your interest in it. It is an Interdenominational work therefore [it] has no support. It is a work that is most sadly needed to be done, and it takes great sacrifices to get it in shape. I have a rented room where I gather the poor and neglected children and teach them daily. Aside from this I do general city mission work, the jail work included. I have no support what ever save some few of the children who are able to pay a little tuition. Now I would like to ask you, would you recommend this humble work to some friend asking their assistance? Would you yourself make a donation toward helping us secure an organ for the Mission room? Do you know any friend who would even send a few [articles of] clothing to be used for the poor? God has wonderfully blessed you and used you and I know He will be pleased to have you lend your influence towards the sustenance of this work.

I trust you may consider well before answering.

That builder — that Mary McLeod Bethune — would look at Florida’s corrupt, failed, and yet lavishly-funded low income school voucher programs with disgust.

She would marvel and protest the squandered voucher billions in corporate tax shelter money and direct tax money. She would object to Doug Tuthill and Step Up for Students getting rich through massive commissions, while scamming millions of kids and building no meaningful private capacity to provide quality education to low income children — or anyone else. She would ask: how does anyone whose heavily segregated, low income voucher programs have two- and three-year drop out rates of 60 and 75 percent have a job?

Mary McLeod Bethune would look with horror at the voucher betrayal of the descendants of her first students. She would not want thousands of black Florida children chased by useless public school testing into brutally substandard, unaccredited, unsupervised, segregated “schools,” which is what Florida’s voucher programs provide. She would not want her name associated with such failure, grift, and incompetence.

My 5-part “Jeb Crow” series earlier this year laid out everything I just summarized about Florida’s hideously racist voucher grift in excruciating detail. It’s all linked here. Start at Part 1. I made a YouTube video about it here.

Bethune-washing the SUFS grift

At the time of those “Jeb Crow” articles, in Polk County alone, 16 voucher schools had enrollments of more than 75 percent black children. Twelve of the 16 schools were 95 percent black or greater. 876 black children in Polk County attended those 16 schools. None of the 16 schools had any accreditation of any kind. Not one.

Astonishingly, Step Up for Students and various Florida grifters, the people who created and maintain this colossal racist voucher grift, have made it much worse in the last year. They are now desperately trying to launder their failure and incompetence by putting Mary McLeod Bethune’s name on Florida’s disastrous new super voucher grift pot of money.

They’re trying to Bethune-wash.

But I assure you, in 2021 America, Mary McLeod Bethune would not want her good name attached to “Preparing the Way Academy” in Lakeland …

Or “A’Kelynn’s Angels Christian Academy” in Winter Haven, where the state shut down a Pre-K of the same name because it was substandard, but the voucher grift rolls on unabated.

Or “Endtimes Christian School of Excellence” in Lake Wales …

Sacrificing Gardiner and McKay kids/parents for “Endtimes” academies

Step Up for Students is the unelected state School Board for vouchers. But it performs no oversight — at all. It just hands out checks and pockets commission.

Last legislative session, Step Up worked closely with Florida legislators like Kelli Stargel and Gov. Ron DeSantis to destroy the well-established Gardiner and McKay voucher programs for children with disabilities. While those programs — particularly Gardiner — had some grifty problems, they also functioned a million times better than the atrocity of unsupervised grift that is Florida’s low income voucher program.

Florida’s GOP-dominated government, in its corrupt wisdom, took these functioning programs, and threw them together with low income vouchers with one giant super-voucher pot of grift.

The effect of this is to funnel tax money and tax-sheltered corporate donations away from children with disabilities and to the operators of segregated scam schools like Preparing the Way, A’kelynn’s Angels, and Endtimes Christian School of Excellence.

On top of that, Step Up has thoroughly botched implementation of the new super-voucher grift pot. Parents of kids with disabilities, who were told they would still get Gardiner and McKay-like vouchers for services, are finding Step Up is too incompetent to deliver.


Listen to parents: “Hold SUFS accountable for their mismanagement of scholarship funds.”

Not surprisingly, all of that has proven very unpopular with former Gardiner and McKay parents — who are now seeing what “choice” really means in Florida. (If Florida had a functioning opposition party of any kind, it would be on offense about this now. Alas … ) Here’s a little example from a parents Facebook group.

That’s where Mary McLeod Bethune comes in.

William Mattox and Doug Tuthill: Critical Race Theorists

Tuthill and company want to name the super voucher pot of grift after Florida’s greatest educator and racial freedom activist. They want to use her honored memory as a shield.

Mired in a systemic meltdown entirely of their own making, reflecting their own greed and incompetence, Tuthill and Step Up are doing what they always do when they get in trouble. They’re retreating to their long-standing, hard core version of “Critical Race Theory.” It goes like this:

If you’re a parent — of any kind — who likes quality public schools or quality state-funded services for disabilities — and you don’t want resources diverted from those services so grifters can scam families of color at scale, you’re the real racist.

This CRT has worked many times for Tuthill before. It’s been the refrain of the entire Jeb Bush era. The shameless appropriation of Mary McLeod Bethune is just the latest incarnation.

If you want to read Step Up’s Critical Race Theory fully articulated, check out this column from right wing Critical Race Theorist William Mattox. Excerpt:

Then, the K-12 scholarship-seeking process will begin with the elegance and simplicity of the higher ed scholarship-seeking process: “Shouldn’t we seek to get a Bethune Scholarship for our child?”

And Floridians everywhere will have yet another reason to remember the name of our state’s greatest educator: Bethune. Bethune. Bethune!

Step Up for Students’ CRT is a real thing; the other CRT isn’t

“Critical race theory” in its common political usage today is a nonsense phrase.

It exists only as a political tool and talking point — a desperate attempt to glue together the Capitol Lynch Mob and Big Capital factions of the Republican Party so it can win some elections in the short term and cut taxes for capital and force labor to work cheap for management. It is nothing more than that — an instrument for the powerful to hold on to power and milk that power for personal benefit. That is the Florida Model of everything.

In four years (2016-2020) as an elected School Board Member in reddish Polk County, I spoke to thousands of parents. Not one of them ever said, “teachers are making my poor little white child feel bad about himself by teaching American history” or teaching anything else. No parent ever complained about the “Critical Race Theory” that wasn’t taught.

I did get plenty of complaints about Doug Tuthill’s garbage, unsupervised, predator-enabling voucher schools.

Alas, I could do nothing but write about them because Step Up is the unelected state School Board of vouchers — with endless power and no responsibility. Elected School Boards only have the obligation to clean up the voucher mess when 75 pct of voucher kids abandon their voucher grifted within three years.

So Step Up’s “critical race theory” is a very real thing.

It’s routinely, aggressively deployed as a weapon against all critics to avoid accountability and keep the money flowing. Step Up’s CRT says to itself: “Using race to intimidate good people keeps us all paid in voucher world.” The theory has proven entirely correct so far.

There is one other giant difference between graduate school Critical Race Theory that doesn’t exist in K-12 schools and the Tuthill/Mattox Critical Race Theory:

You, the Florida taxpayer, are paying directly to finance the Tuthill/Mattox Critical Race Theory. And Tuthill, at least, is making bank from commission on your money.

Mary McLeod Bethune would disapprove.

“A commodious four-story building with thirty-five rooms”

Fire destroyed Bethune’s Palatka house; and she eventually moved to Daytona Beach, where she founded the The Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in 1904.

Consider this from Bethune’s “Sixth Annual Catalogue of the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls,” written for the 1910-11 school year.

The Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School was founded in October 1904 to meet the pressing needs of our people for systemic training and education, domestic and industrial. From a five-room cottage with five pupils and one teacher, the institution has grown to a commodious four story building with thirty-five rooms, including dormitory, kitchen and laundry, and all modern conveniences when fully completed.

Within six years, she had turned a “Preparing the Way” academy into a “a commodious four story building with thirty-five rooms, including dormitory, kitchen and laundry, and all modern conveniences when fully completed.”

A decade later Mary McLeod Bethune helped lead one of America’s bravest civil rights movements/voter drives as part of the 1920 presidential election. White Floridians and white power put it down with viciously, murderously violent efficiency. It culminated in the Ocoee pogrom of Election Day 1920. Full account here.

No one ever taught me about that Mary McLeod Bethune in Florida schools because … reasons? Critical race theory?

By the mid-20th century, the Brown family in Topeka, Kansas sued to leave a physically beautiful segregated school because a similar white school was closer to their home.

This was the quality of facility black Americans rejected because it did not fully meet expectations for quality and equity. Mary McLeod Bethune had helped build those expectations of capacity nationwide.

Step Up for Students and Florida — rolling in capital skimmed off the vulnerable and the disabled — now want to slander Mary McLeod Bethune’s name to celebrate how they’ve rolled back educational expectations and capital in our endlessly corrupt state to this:

Protest openly

In the midst of World War II, in 1944, Bethune wrote an essay about black citizenship and equality called “Certain Unalienable Rights.” It contains this passage:

We must challenge, skillfully but resolutely, every sign of restriction or limit on our full American citizenship … we must seek every opportunity to place the burden of responsibility upon him who denies it. We should therefore, protest openly everything in the newspapers, on the radio, in the movies that smacks of discrimination or slander.

I can think of nothing more discriminatory than slashing educational expectation for low income and disabled children to “Endtimes” Academies.

And I can think of nothing more disgustingly slanderous than wealthy white institutional scammers chanting “Bethune. Bethune. Bethune!” as a weapon while they dine out on your squandered money.