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A Times Editorial

Unlikely pair focus on education reform

Of this much we can be reasonably sure. When President Barack Obama and former Gov. Jeb Bush appear together at an education forum today in Miami, there will be no man-hugs. Bush probably could get away with a public show of affection better than former Gov. Charlie Crist, whose warm embrace of the Democrat was wrapped around his neck by conservative Republicans. But no need to risk it, and today's moment still will set an example of a serious bipartisan education policy conversation in an era of fractious public discourse.

Obama and Bush will join U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan at Miami Central Senior High School, which has received federal grant money targeted to improve under-performing schools. While worlds apart on other issues, both men have been supportive of one another regarding how best to address the nation's pressing education challenges. The president and the former governor support improved standardized testing, evaluating and rewarding schools based on student achievement and providing additional federal funding for school districts that link teacher compensation and student performance.

Politically, Obama and Bush should each benefit from their joint appearance. Obama can point to his willingness to reach out across the political divide to work cooperatively with the Republican Party's de facto leader. Bush's conservative credentials are not in doubt, and this visit only adds to his reputation as a national leader in education reform. Working together might irritate the most partisan in both political parties, but it should appeal to most mainstream voters.

At a moment in the nation's political history when bitterly partisan dialogue seems to rule the day, Obama and Bush are demonstrating that two thoughtful men of often differing views can come together over a substantive issue such as improving the nation's educational system. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is not scheduled to attend today's forum, could learn from their example.

So celebrate today's bipartisan education forum. Look for a picture of the incumbent president and perhaps a future candidate for president. But forget about a hug.

Unlikely pair focus on education reform 03/03/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 4, 2011 1:13am]
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