Last weekend, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hosted a national summit on education reform in Florida. It didn’t receive a lot of media attention. As the presidential campaign continues to gather steam, Midwest weather continues to wreak havoc and world hotspots continue to frazzle, the education agenda remains on the back burner where it has pretty much rested for the past few years.
Argue that point or not. But while the Bush administration campaigned hard on education reform and led the charge for the much-debated No Child Left Behind legislation, the focus changed considerably after the 9-11 attacks. No longer would we hear long debates about the value of AYP (adequate yearly progress), as the standards movement, with it’s huge momentum, took backstage to terrorism, which has pretty much led the program in the years after President Bush was first elected.
Jeb Bush, the president’s brother and a popular Florida governor who left office in 2007, is now running a foundation in Florida with an eye to energizing the dialogue around educational improvements. He acknowledged that media outlets often have focused on politicizing the debate and chose his words carefully in a conference call with reporters. It was clear that he didn’t want to make news and really wanted to keep the attention focused on what works for kids – not whose way is right. That debate has polarized families, schools and governments over the last few years amid outcry for choice and change.
Political motives or not – how could he stay away from the GOP ticket in 2012 if Sen. Obama wins the general election this year, a few future-thinking political observers ask – we believe his new foundation is an interesting initiative for parents, educators, researchers and lawmakers to join as a marketplace of ideas setting for change. It’s not just about vouchers – or “opportunity scholarships” as they were known in the Sunshine State – as some would likely (and love) to argue, but putting more energy and ideas around individualized solutions that help kids learn, he said. Certainly more talk around helping children and schools do a better job is welcome, particularly in a presidential election year where public education has not yet emerged as a key issue.
You can check out Mr. Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education at www.ExcelinEd.org.