Jeb Bush argued for higher academic standards, more online learning, and heavy doses of school choice before a gathering of education business officials here Monday night—and predicted that bringing private-sector-style innovation to K-12 systems would lead to academic payoffs.
Fostering entrepreneurial ideas in schools “is not a threat to public education,” despite what critics say, Bush told attendees at the ASU/GSV Education Innovation Summit. “It is its savior.”
(For an overview of the scene throughout the week at ASU/GSV, see the EdWeek video embedded below.)
The far-reaching but often divisive education policies of the former Florida governor, a Republican, have served as a model for GOP policymakers in states across the country. In his speech on the summit’s opening day, he offered a breakdown of those ideas, many of which he enacted during his two terms in office. Democrats fought many of those policies, particularly vouchers, which they argued siphoned resources from public schools.
The Floridian also has been a vocal backer of the Common Core State Standards, despite strong opposition from some quarters on the political right. Without delving into common-core specifics, he made a case for higher standards in his speech, saying that too many states were dumbing-down their academic benchmarks because it was easier than the alternative.
Bush, who many Republicans hope will run for the White House, also made a case for policymakers to set standards for children to be able to read proficiently before being allowed to move beyond 3rd grade—a policy he championed in Florida, which has been imitated in other states.
“The future of a child is determined in an unforgiving, short time span,” Bush said. “At the tender age of 10,” he said, a child’s path to academic success or failure gets set in motion.
Bush called for merit pay for exceptional teachers, and support for educators who struggle. But those who consistently underperform should be “kicked out” of the classroom, he said, a line that drew modest applause from the ASU/GSV crowd.
The former governor also jabbed some of his longtime adversaries, blasting “union empires” that he said were resistant to new ideas. (Unions opposed many of Bush’s policies in Florida.) “The empires,” he said, “do not go quietly into the night.”
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