Experts Are Taking Another Look At Jeb Bush's Education Cred

Nov 27, 2012

Experts say that Jeb Bush's education gains in Florida deserve stricter scrutiny.
Credit World Affairs Council of Philadelphia/Flickr

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been riding a wave of popularity in the last few years. Members of the Republican Party have been clamoring for him to seek higher office as he travels around the country taking on some of the more extreme positions recently taken by members of his party.

Among his credentials, which are currently prompting all the focus, is his popularity with the Latino community and his credentials as a successful education policy innovator.

However, Reuters reports that his credibility in the education policy world is getting a second look from experts.

Primarily, Reuters took a closer look at claims that Bush made significantly positive and pervasive changes to Florida's education system.

A close examination raises questions about the depth and durability of the gains in Florida. After the dramatic jump of the Bush years, Florida test scores edged up in 2009 and then dropped, with low-income students falling further behind. State data shows huge numbers of high school graduates still needing remedial help in math and reading.

And some of the policies Bush now pushes, such as vouchers and mandatory online classes, have no clear links to the test-score bump in Florida. Bush has been particularly vigorous about promoting online education, urging states to adopt policies written with input from companies that stand to profit from expanded cyber-schooling.

Many of those companies also donate to Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, which has raised $19 million in recent years to promote his agenda nationwide.

According to Reuters, a lot of the changes and improvements to education made while Bush was Florida's governor did not continue after Bush left the governor's mansion. Many of his new ideas, such as his push for charter schools and online education for K-12 students, have also proven to not withstand close scrutiny.

There is also the argument that Bush was in office when schools were generally receiving more money for students than they have been in recent years. Bush was governor of Florida during a housing boom that generated significantly more in property tax revenue for schools.

Researchers have also found that many of these innovations have yet to show the gains that are required to shape up the system for low-income, non-English speaking or special needs children.

Many of Bush's business-funded education policy summits have led to reforms all over the country, not just in Florida.