Tony Bennett Controversy: Jeb Bush’s Dangerous Education Agenda

With the Tony Bennett news I wanted to write some analysis, but since I am very pressed for time today with other items, here is a piece from the last week of the 2013 session about Jeb Bush’s education agenda from a historical perspective.

From May 1, 2013:

Jeb Bush left the Governor’s office over six years ago, yet his influence continues to dominate the legislative agenda of the state GOP. This week’s  no vote on the “parent trigger” bill was just the latest salvo in a nearly two decade battle to save Florida’s schools from Jeb Bush’s political agenda.The death of parent trigger for another year completes what has been a wretched two months for the former Governor. Last month Bush completed a disastrous  national media tour where he contradicted himself repeatedly and also slipped so far behind his one time protege’ Marco Rubio on the national radar he withdrew from the CPAC Presidential straw poll. (Rubio placed second in that poll and first among what I would refer to as “Republicans who can actually be nominated.”)

While at first Republicans signed on in lock-step to Bush’s “reforms” cracks in the support for school “choice” have been apparent for a decade now. Many Republican elected officials have realized for all of the phony organizations and big corporate cash splashed on the school “choice” effort, that grassroots support for anything that destroys the public schools system is minimal even among self-proclaimed conservatives.

Bush failed to deliver on job promises and his funneling of state funds to Scripps Research Center now looks like a disaster. By contrast, Rick Scott has done well with creating jobs and relocating facilities from other states with long-term potential upside. Scott can and needs to do better for our state but when compared to Bush’s sorry legacy in less difficult economic times, it is very telling.

Since Bush began pushing for school “reforms” Florida’s ratings in academic progress and higher education have continued to decline and we have seen countless for-profit schools go out of business.  The “reforms” pushed by Bush including an over emphasis on standardized testing has contributed to a downturn in morale among Florida’s best and brightest teachers. Despite all of this, Bush’s allies continue to push “reforms”  which cast aspersions on the public school system when in fact the failures in the education system have come from the inadequate funding, constant tinkering of standards, over-emphasis on testing and the push for charter schools/vouchers during the Bush &  Crist Governorships.

When he was Governor, Bush was always confident bordering on cocky. His self assurance and quite frankly his  arrogance rubbed most the wrong way including many Republicans. However over the past two months he’s appeared to be less shrill but also less confident in his words and mannerisms. Perhaps this is simply the works of handlers trying to make Bush appear more humble in anticipation of a potential 2016 Presidential Campaign. Maybe it’s some growing as Bush has gone from being a younger conservative ideologue committed to making Florida the center of right-wing think tank inspired legislation to phony senior party statesman.

Yet behind all of the Bush machismo, one can sense growing insecurity. Bush does not have the influence he thought he did with Republicans both here at home in Florida and across the country. His greatest cheerleaders are those seeking education “reform” and the so-called intellectual wing of the conservative movement who read such magazines as the Weekly Standard and National Review. Mainline conservatism has moved beyond him while his Florida legacy is in shambles.

The national and state media continue to give Jeb Bush credit for being wonkier on policy, especially when compared to his older brother George W. Bush. From those same pundits we consistently hear about Jeb as a 2016 contender but the reality is that Florida’s Bush is every bit as petty and partisan as Rove and probably more so than his brother. In Texas, Rove worked with Republican legislators and statewide officials to curb the power and influence of the trial lawyers, whose campaign contributions kept the Democrats competitive against the corporate funded GOP. De-funding the left was the mantra and in Florida, the younger Bush repeated the trick by curbing the power, influence and ultimately the spirit of the trial lawyers and the teachers unions. This was the goal of Jeb Bush’s governorship: to fundamentally remake the political playing field in the state in favor of big business, insurance companies, for-profit schools and polluters.

Florida Republicans can do better than simply parroting Jeb Bush and so can our state. In fact, thise week’s parent trigger failure when viewed with the perspective of Bush’s disastrous month of March may mean after almost two decades, Jeb Bush’s influence on Florida Republicans is at an all time low.

3 comments

  1. […] views of Jeb Bush particularly on education issues are well-documented. As someone who was a veteran of the bruising legislative and political battles of the late 1990s […]

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  2. […] is especially true in Florida. Jeb Bush brought in a new wave of partisanship to the state with his drive toward privatization and many have jumped ship as the Tea Party rose to power and dragged the middle further to the […]

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  3. […] is saying and how he is articulating it. My view of Jeb Bush, particularly on education issues, are well-documented. As a veteran of the bruising legislative and political battles of the late 1990s and early 2000s, […]

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