Jeb Bush: Obama is changing the political dynamic on education reform
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is in Washington D.C. this week, at a national education summit sponsored by his Foundation for Excellence in Education. In a brief phone interview, he talked to reporter Ron Matus about the politics of school reform and what he thinks of President Barack Obama's education agenda.
Why do you think the political lines nationally – and maybe even in Florida – are blurring when it comes to positions on education reform?
Fights that were fought 10 years ago when we first embarked on our reforms, the context has changed. We in fact have been successful, as measured by any objective indicator, for moving the needle on student achievement. It’s kind of hard to continue to argue. It’s like policy makers in Washington continuing to fight the Cold War.
(Nationally) a lot of the credit goes to President Obama and his secretary of education, who have been outspoken in their opposition to the old way … This is one place where President Obama has advocated an unorthodox position that takes on a core constituency of his party. That changes the dynamics a lot. … That speaks well of him. And rather than doing the typical thing in Washington, which is to oppose the president on every thing, this should be a place where reform-minded liberals and reform-minded conservatives can come together.
What grade or grades would you give the education reform agenda outlined and pursued to date by President Obama?
I’d say a grade of incomplete. We haven’t even got to the mid-term finals yet. They haven’t been given the FCAT yet. It’s definitely a work in progress. If you give a grade for intent and effort, it’d be a very high grade. Rhetorically, the message is a clear one, and if they stay the course, it will have very significant results.
What single initiative put forward by Obama and Duncan do you like the most?
I think the comprehensive nature of the reforms - starting with data, good accurate data … an emphasis on teacher efficiency or teacher competency, a recognition that there’s a range of teacher quality, that we need to have all teachers be effective and we need to reward it. I think that’s a very powerful thing to advocate … It seems to me they’re proposing more accountability, more choice, higher expectations. That’s all great.