Jeb Bush’s Education Plan- Fulfilling the American Dream

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Jeb Bush’s Education Plan – Fulfilling the American Dream
By Jeanne Allen*

I disembarked my flight to Tallahassee International the morning of my speaking engagement in http://southbuffalonews.com995, tired from a long flight but ready to help solve Florida’s most pressing problems.  To my surprise, Jeb Bush was waiting for those who came to speak at his new organization’s big event.

Without hesitation he walked up, thanked us for coming, and walked us out to his car in the hourly lot. The entire drive he peppered me with questions about promising education reform efforts, the way they might improve schools and the positive impact they could have on the state in general.

After the event, Jeb drove us back to the airport. As we enjoyed a beverage waiting for our return flight, he made a toast, and a commitment to one day make the vision we outlined a reality for Floridians.

It would not be long before he’d accomplish that vision. One of his tours around the state led him to T. Willard Fair, the long-time head of the Miami Urban League at his headquarters in Liberty City, one of the most opportunity-deprived areas in the country. Dedicated to the same opportunistic vision for America’s children, the two founded a charter school, literally using their heads and hands to build it from the ground up. Ten years later, despite achieving the state’s highest rating, it was forced to close its doors for good when the lease expired and the traditional system’s hostility toward charters deprived them of the necessary funds to build their own.

When Jeb Bush became Governor in http://southbuffalonews.com999 more than sixty percent of minority and low-income fourth graders in Florida couldn’t read at a basic level. Barely half of Florida’s high-school seniors were graduating. Making educational opportunity a reality for every child was at the top of Jeb’s priority list and The Center for Education Reform was called on to work with state leaders to develop and adopt what remain dominant ideas and best practices for laws that improve schools, positively engage and involve parents, and help students achieve.

According to the federally funded Nation’s Report Card, those laws created achievement gains in math and reading that were larger than anywhere else in the country—save Washington, D.C. Florida’s graduation rate improved twenty-five per cent, reaching an all-time high. Bush measured results, held schools accountable, and exposed them to competition. Even as vested interests in the system protested, student achievement accelerated.  Today parents have choices among more than 600 exceptional charter schools and hundreds of private schools across the Sunshine state and district school scores are on a steady ascent. On top of that, the reality of higher education for more students exploded, improving life and economic conditions for scores more individuals at all levels of life.

By 2003 Jeb was a hero to Floridians and to a growing, bi-partisan, multi-ethnic, education reform family around the country. To those who would prefer Trumpian hubris, Jeb’s humility might seem trite. But it’s because he sincerely respects the achievements of others that he shuns attention. In agreeing to accept an award for his leadership at the CER http://southbuffalonews.com0th Anniversary gala, his stipulation was that the award go to his state, not to him, for the collective accomplishments they shared.

One final story makes clear the depth to which this man will go for others. I had been speaking at the Governor’s education summit when a call had apparently come for me that my son had gone through a glass door back at home. When I finished, Governor Bush appeared and as he walked with me he said, “We have a car for you, your son was hurt and he’s okay but get going. God Bless.”

It was nothing that a few stitches couldn’t fix. A day later, my son John got a gift from the Governor –  a Jacksonville Jaguars hat and a hand written note wishing him well.

Who does something like that? Jeb Bush does. Hundreds of people have told me about their hand written notes from Jeb. There are no doubt thousands more. Jeb values people. Rather than rather than scream and shout about ideas that are different and beliefs that differ, he offers compassion, direction and proven solutions to difficult situations.

When I hear the criticisms that Jeb doesn’t come off enough as a fighter, I think about what this man has done for others with a quiet strength. This is a man who could step up to any podium and truthfully brag about his success, about the book he wrote about immigration long before others took credit for raising the issue, or the policies he got a huge majority of people to accept that allowed him to rebuild Florida– a state more populous than all but two others and nearly as complex as the federal government. Have you noticed that instead of “I” he usually says “we?” We fixed education, we improved the economy. We. That’s not politics. It’s who he is.

With his reserved ego and his well-informed understanding of policy and politics and his acknowledgement of the fact that nothing gets done, in either sphere, without a multitude of people, Jeb has shown in this campaign why he would make a great president. No, he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops but rather talks concretely about issues and solutions, shows proof of concept. He expects that others are like him – hungry for ideas, passionate about America doing better for everyone. And not expecting a show.

His success in turning a slow sleepy state into an economic and attractive destination and place to live for millions more of all incomes, races and cultures is one thing. But his proposals for what he would do for the whole of America is even more exciting. This week Jeb Bush announced his plan to ensure that education opportunity and excellence becomes a reality for all people, from pre-K through higher education. His plan isn’t full of empty promises or reliant on the taxpayer to fund new ideas. Instead, he promises the distinctly American and all too lacking principles of freedom, flexibility and innovation to fuel a new generation of learning opportunities for learners at all levels. Parents with choices, educators with flexibility, schools with innovation – these things require changes in law not new money, changes that give us power, and allow us all to achieve the American dream.

To accomplish such a vision however requires governing prowess, proven leadership and a commitment to helping everyone reach their fullest potential, all things unique to Jeb Bush. And as Thomas Jefferson once said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

*Jeanne Allen is Founder and President-Emeritus of the Center for Education Reform. Affiliation is for identification purposes only. To learn more, go to www.jeanneallen.net.

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