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Jeb Bush on Education

Republican FL Governor; V.P. prospect


No Child Left Behind got states to start reforms

Q: "No Child Left Behind" was one of the great bipartisan achievements that your brother had. What's its legacy?

BUSH: I think "No Child Left Behind" pushed states that refused to begin the process of reform into the arena. So now every state is on the journey. Some really slow and some far more advanced. But ultimately this is a state-driven kind of enterprise. But the jump start for a lot of states that refused to use accountability and testing and a focus on early literacy and all the things that began with "No Child Left Behind" wouldn't have happened. So I think it served a useful purpose.

Q: How bad is the current system?

BUSH: If you measure it by outcomes, 25% of kids pass all of the four segments of the ACT test which means that they're college-ready or career-ready. And about 20% don't graduate at all. That's failure.

Source: ABC This Week 2013 series of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Oct 20, 2013

Common core lets 1,000 different curriculum flowers bloom

Q: How important is it to have national standards?

BUSH: Well I think higher standards is really the element of this that's most important. So if you dumb down the standards, everybody feels good. Little Johnny's going to get a piece of paper that says he's graduated from high school. But this massive remediation that's necessary to access higher education is evidence that we're not benchmarking ourselves to college readiness. So higher standards matter. The commonality of them--in this case 45 states--voluntarily creating them.

Q: The common core?

BUSH: The common core standards in language arts and math is important because curriculum is developed in this kind of system where there's common expectations. You'll have one thousand different flowers blooming as it relates to curriculum. It won't be homogenized, it will be diverse and alive which is what we need.

Q: But a lot of conservatives, certainly Tea Party movement, are very suspicious of this process.

BUSH: Sure.

Source: ABC This Week 2013 series of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Oct 20, 2013

We test too much; focus on accountability instead

Q: Standards means testing; you hear a common complaint, "We test too much."

BUSH: Right.

Q: We study to the test. Do you agree with that? Do we test too much?

BUSH: I think we do test too much. You could have fewer tests and achieve the desired results of transparency and accountability for sure.

Q: It's hard to fire bad teachers. It's hard to reward good teachers. This has been a complaint in education reform circles for decades.

BUSH: Right.

Q: Has the system gotten any better?

BUSH: It has. In states like Florida we've eliminated tenure for new teachers. It's clear that we have to do this. But great teachers need to be rewarded more. Bad teachers, they should get out of the classroom. And those in the middle, there ought to be teacher development to help them enhance their skills. It's hard to do that in a system where collective bargaining based on longevity of service for all employees in school districts, not just for teachers, is the organizing principle.

Source: ABC This Week 2013 series of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Oct 20, 2013

More STEM grads, to maintain global technology leadership

We need large and increasing numbers of high-skilled immigrants [because] our schools are not producing well-educated graduates--especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics--in anything approaching the numbers we need to sustain and grow our economy, much less to maintain our leadership in global technology. The US ranks 25th out of 34 countries in the OECD in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading. That performance simply will not do in a highly competitive global economy.
Source: Immigration Wars, by Jeb Bush, p.179-180 , Mar 5, 2013

Civics & government for high school graduation

The lack of adequate civics education means that many Americans have little idea how their government works or how to effectively influence it. Indeed, nearly 2/3 of American cannot name all three branches of government and less than 1/2 can name a single Supreme Court justice--but 3/4 can correctly name all of the Three Stooges. The majority of American 8th graders could not explain the purpose of the Declaration of Independence, and only 5% of high school seniors could explain how Congress and the Supreme Court can check presidential power.

Even as we strengthen the immigration examination to ensure that newcomers understand American ideals and mechanisms for civic participation, we think in recent years, our education policy increasingly has recognized the importance of mastering subjects like math, science, and English. And yet we treat civics as a distant relative.

Source: Immigration Wars, by Jeb Bush, p. 60-61 , Mar 5, 2013

Full immersion for English learners

Language barriers and the need for many young Hispanics to leave school to help support their families lead to low educational attainment & high dropout rates. One part of the solution appears to be English immersion. Sixth Street Prep, a charter school in L.A., provides a good example. Its students are overwhelmingly Hispanic and low-income, and 1/3 are English learners. The school uses a "full immersion" approach, teaching subjects in English rather than in both English and Spanish. Remarkably, 100% of the school's 4th graders scored proficient on the state's mathematics test, and 93% on the English exam. While the jury is still out on such immersion efforts, we are strong believers in giving states and schools broad discretion to try different approaches. At the least, the federal government should cease its use of civil rights laws to thwart such efforts, which has the perverse effect of taking away educational options from the very children who are the intended beneficiaries of those laws.
Source: Immigration Wars, by Jeb Bush, p.183 , Mar 5, 2013

800,000 FL parents selected schools, not district zoning

Starting in 1999, Florida embarked upon a series of reforms designed to improve public schools and broaden educational choices.

All parents should be empowered to choose the best schools for their children, and in Florida school choice is widespread. Last year in Florida, nearly 800,000 students attended schools selected by their parents, not by district zoning laws. More than 200,000 students attend public charter schools. About 25,000 special-needs children attend private schools using scholarships. Almost 50,000 students from low-income families receive scholarships funded by tax credits to attend the schools that best fit them.

Source: Immigration Wars, by Jeb Bush, p.184-185 , Mar 5, 2013

Teacher bonuses for students passing AP courses

Florida's performance pay system rewards teachers who help generate student academic gains. It also provides monetary incentives for teachers who accept positions in low-performing school districts or who teach high-demand courses such as math and science. In 2002, Florida began providing bonuses for teachers whose students earn passing grades on Advanced Placement courses, which has helped significantly increase the number of students taking and passing such courses, especially minority students. Those courses translate into increased college attendance and success. Florida also recognizes several methods of alternative teacher certification, which increases the number of qualified teachers.
Source: Immigration Wars, by Jeb Bush, p.186 , Mar 5, 2013

Education savings accounts: Fund students instead of schools

The best way for education policy to catch up with technology advances is to fund students rather than schools. After the Arizona Supreme Court struck down a voucher program for foster and disabled children under the state's Blaine Amendment, the Goldwater Institute proposed an innovative idea called education savings accounts. For any eligible student who leaves the public schools, the state each year deposits the student's share of state education spending in an account owned by the student's family. The accounts can be used for any educational expense, from private school tuition to distance learning, computer software, tutors, community college classes, and discrete public school services. Any money remaining can be saved for college.
Source: Immigration Wars, by Jeb Bush, p.193 , Mar 5, 2013

Florida Formula: schools graded A-to-F; extra funding for A

Bush's "Florida formula" rests on the principles of increasing accountability and expanding parental choice. Among its tenets:
Source: Stephanie Simon on Reuters, "Bush Foundation" , Nov 30, 2012

Restore schools via standards for teachers instead of tenure

Jeb Bush today called for a "restoration" of lost American values and economic mobility based on educational accountability. With the gap between the impoverished and privileged widening, the solution lies in a regime of school and teacher evaluation, national standards and more "school choice," he said.

Bush won election in 1998 with a campaign for overhauling education, rewarding high-performing schools with added state funding. It was enacted into law, and is similar to a "No Child Left Behind" law that Pres. Bush pursued in Washington, requiring school testing and holding schools accountable for showing yearly progress.

Only a national commitment to educational progress can reverse a trend in which 1/3 of students drop out of high school, Bush said; "I would suggest to you that high standards is the first step," he said, calling for a national system of common student measurements and teacher evaluations based on professional skills, not union membership or tenure.

Source: Mark Silva on Bloomberg News, "Bush calls for restoration" , Nov 27, 2012

Let's give every parent in America a choice about schools

There is a moral cost to our failing schools. We say that every child in America has an equal opportunity. Tell that to a kid in whose classroom learning isn't respected. Tell that to a parent stuck in a school where there is no leadership.

The sad truth is that equality of opportunity doesn't exist in many of our schools. We give some kids a chance, but not all. That failure is the great moral and economic issue of our time. And it's hurting all of America.

I believe we can meet this challenge. We need to set high standards for students and teachers and provide students and their parents the choices they deserve.

We must stop excusing failure in our schools and start rewarding improvement and success. We must have high academic standards that are benchmarked to the best in the world.

Education is hard work, but if you follow some core principles, & you challenge the status quo, you get great results. So let's give every parent in America a choice about where their child attends school.

Source: 2012 Republican National Convention speech , Aug 29, 2012

School choice is about unions versus kids

There are many people who say they support strong schools but draw the line at school choice. "Sorry, kid. Giving you equal opportunity would be too risky. And it will upset powerful political forces that we need to win elections."

I have a simple message for these masters of delay and deferral: Choose. You can either help the politically powerful unions. Or you can help the kids. Now, I know it's hard to take on the unions. They fund campaigns. But you and I know who deserves a choice.

Source: 2012 Republican National Convention speech , Aug 29, 2012

Pushed 1st statewide voucher program & school testing

Bush was not an imperious executive, shielded from legislators by a phalanx of gatekeepers. He was the kind of governor who roamed the halls. He could be an emotional speaker; he had a habit of crying during speeches. A policy wonk with seemingly boundless energy, Bush made great headway on his ambitious agenda to steer the middle of the road state in a more conservative direction on both social and economic policy. He pushed through the first statewide school voucher program in the nation, as well as controversial school testing measures. During his 8 years he vetoed $2 billion in spending and enacted state tax cuts totaling $19 billion, though many cities and towns have since been forced to raise taxes to fill the gaps.
Source: The Rise of Marco Rubio, by Manuel Rogi-Franzia, p.131-132 , Jun 19, 2012

Guarantee college admission for top 20% of high school grads

After discussions failed to convince him to delay his initiative until 2002, Bush stepped in with an executive order banning racial and gender preferences in university admissions and state contracting. Called "One Florida" the governor's program guaranteed college admissions to the top 20% of each high school graduating class, provided that students had taken college preparatory classes. It also required agencies of Florida state government to make special efforts to reach out to minority contractors and to increase state business with such companies without the use of set-asides and price preferences.
Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p. 91 , Dec 11, 2009

Catholic Conference sought more voucher accountability

The underlying assumption of school choice theory is that alternatives to the regular public schools will enjoy high-quality management that will not affect the nature of the education involved. The Bush administration discovered that this assumption was too optimistic and that such issues can affect substantially the performance of these schools.

Governor Bush's voucher programs also encountered the kinds of accountability problems other privatization projects faced, but he would take no action to correct them even when the Florida Catholic Conference, a major beneficiary of vouchers, pushed for accountability standards, and the Florida Senate and the state auditor general specifically criticized the McKay Voucher Program for failure to screen and monitor the types of schools being awarded the funds involved and for allowing operators who did not have the capability to provide proper educational services to enroll students in their schools.

Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p.130-1 , Dec 11, 2009

60% of FCAT-passed schools failed to meet NCLB standards

Bush's educational reform program focused on changing the way in which Florida's regular public schools delivered their product and reported on their performance. The policy contained two components:
  1. grading public school reading, writing and mathematics performance on an A-F scale; and
  2. annual reporting of these grades to the public.
Bush mounted an aggressive effort to defend his A+ Plan, citing the quality of the FCAT and improved student performance on the test as evidence that the plan worked. The governor's position was that the narrow focus on reading, writing, and mathematics that he advocated ensured that all students had similar experiences that prepared them for the future.

One national education organization claimed that the FCAT reflects "modest expectation." In 2006, 60% of the schools that scored either A or B on the state FCAT test failed to meet the standards for the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p.139 , Dec 11, 2009

OpEd: Stacked Board of Regents with Republican donors

In 2001, Jeb cooked up the plan to eliminate the long-standing Board of Regents that oversaw the state universities. In its stead came individual boards of trustees for each of the schools--boards that Jeb promptly stacked with GOP donors.

Jeb's tampering with the higher education system so ticked off Bob Graham, then a Senator and a former governor, that Graham led a petition drive that successfully pushed a constitutional amendment essentially recreating the Board of Regents under a new name.

Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.133 , Feb 15, 2007

Repeal class size limit state constitutional amendment

In 2002, Jeb worked mightily to defeat a ballot initiative sponsored by confirmed foe Kendrick Meek that sought to put in the state constitution the requirement that Florida's public schools reduce their class size by 2 children each year until they reached the goal of no more than 18, 22, and 25, depending on the grade level. A reasonable enough idea, it would seem, to a man who had paid many tens of thousands of dollars to ensure that his own children attended private schools that advertised small classes. But no, to Jeb the plan was mere political treachery, designed to saddle his 2nd term with an expensive mandate that would make further large tax cuts impossible. By election day, he drove the favorable ratings of the amendment down from the mid-60s to a mere 52.4% passing margin, setting up a repeal of the amendment as his top legislative priority for his 2nd term.
Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p. 14 , Feb 15, 2007

Co-founded a charter school in poor Miami neighborhood

Jeb thinks he knows about schools. He's visited a lot of them, sure, running for office and then being governor. He even cofounded a charter school in Liberty City, a blighted section of Miami. In 2005, he was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board. Presumably this was in recognition of his philosophy that schoolchildren should be tested as much as possible, as often as possible.

But is he interested in really learning about education? That's not clear. He doesn't have much rapport with teachers, except with those who happen to agree with his idea about schooling. He knows that all children can learn, and that no child should be left behind, but doesn't want to hear from people who might agree with those noble concepts yet who believe that schools need more money and more teachers to accomplish them. And he definitely does not want to hear that an annual high-stakes test that consumes months of a school's effort is not the best thing for actual learning.

Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p. 35-36 , Feb 15, 2007

Make school plan more punitive and more vouchers

As Lt. Governor, Jeb ultimately went with Frank Brogan, the sitting education commissioner. Brogan helped immensely both during the 1998 campaign as well as the 1st term by softening Jeb's hard edge. In the end, he predictably had little influence on Jeb's policies. Jeb is such a domineering personality, it was hard to imagine otherwise. Jeb's much-vaunted "A-plus" education plan is a perfect example. Brogan, a former teacher, a former school administrator, a former education commissioner, had drawn up the 1st draft. Jeb rejected it out of hand because it wasn't punitive enough and didn't generate a sufficient number of school vouchers quickly enough.
Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.111 , Feb 15, 2007

1997: Smaller schools are better schools, but also cost more

Jeb teamed up with the head of the local Urban League, T. Willard Fair, to start a "charter" school in Liberty City, a poor, black section of Miami. Ostensibly this was to give him an understanding of the challenges facing the state education system, although it is not clear exactly what lessons Jeb took away from the experience. For example, Jeb claimed in 1997 that he had come to appreciate that smaller schools, in which the principal could know every student, were better schools. Yet as governor for 2 full terms, Jeb did absolutely zero to reduce the size of schools built in Florida, because, frankly, smaller schools are also more expensive schools on a per-student basis--and Jeb was far more interested in tax cuts for the wealthy than he was in public education for the masses.
Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.115-116 , Feb 15, 2007

Don't restrict creationism discussion, but don't require it

When he was asked whether "intelligent design" should be taught in public school science classrooms, Jeb paused, and said: "It's not part of our standards. Nor is creationism. Nor is Darwinism or evolution, either."

Huh? The state's Sunshine State Standards for science are actually quite clear about evolution. High school students are expected to understand how genetic mutations occur and "natural selection"--the two fundamental concepts underlying evolutionary biology.

When I pointed this out to Jeb, he claimed that he had been told by his education commissioner that the standards did not include evolution--not a terribly likely scenario given that his commissioner, a former science teacher, had been part of the education bureaucracy in Florida for a dozen years.

So then Jeb said: "I like what we have right now. And I don't think there needs to be any changes. I don't think we need to restrict discussion, but it doesn't need to be required, either."

Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.316 , Feb 15, 2007

Voluntary universal Pre-K: fund 9,600 pre-school teachers

In this country true opportunity starts with education. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark case that guaranteed equal access to education. Today, Florida is closer to fulfilling the promise of Brown v. Board than ever before, because the Legislature had the will to pass sweeping education reforms and demand more for our children.

Next year, we'll add voluntary universal Pre-K, and I urge you to provide the resources we need to train 9,600 pre-school professionals this year, and to create the framework for a comprehensive high-quality program focused on critical early literacy skills. As we increase the number of children ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, we decrease the number who will struggle, be retained, and require remedial help in higher grades.

Source: 2004 State of the State speech to the Florida Legislature , Mar 2, 2004

A+ Plan: Make "F" schools disappear; make more "A" schools

There were 78 "F" schools in 1999. They illustrate the sad consequence of low expectations and little accountability. They were 78 sites that held the buried potential of thousands of our schoolchildren.

But look what happens to the "F" schools in the two years since we implemented the A+ Plan. They are gone. They have disappeared.

In 1999, only 21% of our schools were high-performing "A" and "B" schools. Now there are twice as many high-performing schools, 41% in all. With the A+ Plan, we have nearly doubled the number of high-performing schools in Florida. We have provided a first-rate education for hundreds of thousands more students.

To help build on the successes of the A+ Plan, we must continue to increase funding for our schools. This includes--in the K-12 system--an 18 percent, $2 billion increase in student funding for Florida's public schools over the last three years. We should continue this trend, and so this year I am proposing we greatly increase total K-20 funding.

Source: State of the State address to 2002 Florida Legislature , Jan 22, 2002

Push for gains among minority and disadvantaged students

With the A+ Plan, we have nearly doubled the number of high-performing schools in Florida. And better still, we have made some of our greatest gains among minority and disadvantaged students. Last year's average gains on the FCAT for grades 8 and 10 in math were higher for African-American and Hispanic students. Let me be clear, we still have a long way to go, and the achievement gap between ethnic groups is still too large, as it is across the nation. But these results demonstrate that we can make progress, and we must keep our commitment to leave no child behind. We are beginning to win this fight.

But now is not the time to grow complacent. School grades will now measure the annual learning gains of students, which was part of the original vision of the A+ Plan. Now, in addition to tougher standards in reading and math, schools will be held accountable as well as rewarded for the progress of their lowest performing students. We must continue to push the envelope.

Source: State of the State address to 2002 Florida Legislature , Jan 22, 2002

Social promotion doesn't do our kids any favors

We must conclusively address the issue of social promotion so that we once and for all eliminate the practice of advancing students because of their age rather than their knowledge. The A+ Plan sought to eliminate social promotion, but many of Florida's school districts have failed to comply with the intent of the law. We aren't doing our kids any favors when we challenge them with advanced material before they've mastered the basics.

I propose we give the social promotion language some teeth so that school districts won't give up on teaching our kids how to read. The best solution, of course, is to remediate struggling readers during the school year, to get them the extra help they need to stay on track. But for school districts that continue to circumvent the intent of the law, there should be consequences, perhaps including the withholding of administrative funds.

Source: State of the State address to 2002 Florida Legislature , Jan 22, 2002

Restrict grade inflation by imposing minimum standards

I have signed and hereby submit to you with reservations Senate Bill 842. It contains changes designed to prevent practices in some school districts where low grades are ignored altogether in the calculation of final grade point averages for seniors or where schools are able to liberally replace poor grades.

In response to these practices, Senate Bill 842 limits district grade forgiveness policies to replacing “D” or “F” grades in required courses with a “C” or higher earned in the same or comparable course. Any course grade not replaced according to a school district forgiveness policy would be included in the calculation of the cumulative grade point average required for graduation.

I believe that without some kind of minimum standard, many school districts will continue to implement overly-liberal policies that artificially inflate grade point averages. Therefore, I have decided to sign Senate Bill 842, and work towards strengthening this law.

Source: Approval notification on Senate Bill 842 , Jun 7, 2000

School prayer OK if prayers are voluntary and student-led

No longer faced with a sure-fire veto by the governor, a Republican-heavy group of lawmakers is resurrecting a controversial school-prayer bill for the first time in three years. "Children should be allowed to pray if they choose to so long as all religions are respected and it's not during class time," said one state Rep. State law permits public schools to offer secular Bible or religion study as an extracurricular activity, but the House measure would allow students to lead a public, nonsectarian prayer at graduations, school athletic events and some assemblies.

The measure is virtually identical to a bill that made it through the Legislature in 1996 but was killed by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat who vowed to veto any future school-prayer legislation that crossed his desk. In Gov. Jeb Bush, though, the Legislature now at least has a willing ear. Bush has said he would consider school-prayer legislation if the prayers were voluntary and student-led.

Source: Karla Schuster in Orlando Sentinel, "School Prayer" , Mar 20, 1999

More funding for schools; merit pay for teachers

Source: 1998 Florida National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998

Focus on abstinence; end social promotion

Source: 1998 Florida National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998

Grade inflation breeds culture of falsely perceived success

The self-esteem excuse is used today in a variety of forms at many of our institutions of higher learning. Many of our graduate and professional schools these days function on an inflated grading curve. For some of the nation’s most prestigious schools, [the average of] the curve is set at a B+. That means anything below a B+ is considered below average. Students in a class could be performing only C work, but because the grading curve is a B+, those students’ grades will be bumped up to a grade of B+ or higher.

The justification for this high grading curve is apparently part self-esteem and part fear of competition. Many schools in the upper echelon now inflate their grading curves so that their students will have an advantage in the job market. As other schools get wise to this grade inflation, they too inflate their grading curves, breeding a culture of perceived successes and abhorrence to failre.

Source: Profiles in Character, by Jeb Bush & B.Yablonski, p. 62-63 , Nov 1, 1995

Instituted school voucher plan

[In his campaign], Jeb Bush called for fewer appeals for death row inmates and speedier executions, said Florida should withdraw from AFDC and replace it with limited temporary assistance, and called for school choice and demanded voter approval of all state and local tax increases.

In his first 100 days, Bush’s legislative agenda met with stunning success. He passed a school voucher plan, got longer prison terms for gun-toting criminals, and instituted a $1 billion tax break.

Source: National Journal, the Almanac of American Politics , Jan 28, 2000

Supports charter schools & vouchers

Source: 1998 Florida National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998

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