Jeb Bush’s failed legacy in Florida

GOP Presidential candidate Jeb Bush left the Governor’s office over eight years ago, yet his influence continues to dominate the legislative agenda of the state GOP. His views on education have been particularly damaging and each GOP legislator in our state must pass a “Bush litmus test” on education in order to be in the good graces of party activists and donors. But when Bush was Governor, he eventually lost the support of many GOP lawmakers in Florida.

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. 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 & Scott Governorships.Now Bush seeks to push this radical agenda forward nationally using his candidacy for President as a vehicle.

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. Since jumping into the Presidential race, he’s appeared to be less shrill but also less confident/consistent in his words and mannerisms. Perhaps this is simply the works of handlers trying to make Bush appear more humble during the 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. The Donald Trump phenomena no matter how humorous for those who actually use of brain to critically analyze things does clearly show Jeb’s weaknesses among Republicans.  His greatest cheerleaders remain 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 the 2016 front-runner but the reality is that Florida’s Bush is every bit as petty and partisan as Karl 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. Defunding 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.

Bush cannot run from his record as Governor. It is in fact something that will give both Republicans and other voters pause. Moreover, Bush’s inability at times to work well with members of his own party might be instructive on how he deals with Congress should he be elected as President.


  1. Concerned Democrat · ·

    Gov Bush’s total destruction of Florida’s public school system and colleges and his Republican minions are to this day are continuing his legacy with their arrogance and being paid and bought off by the for profit private schools who don’t have to abide by any standards what so ever and the voting public keeps electing these idiots!!!


  2. Latha Krishnaiyer · ·

    Bush did nothing to actually improve education. The standards and accountability were already in place guided by Governor Lawton Chiles’ administration and the development of tests to align with the standards were ongoing, when he came into office. Jeb Bush used the standards and accountability to rank and penalize schools with the ultimate aim of directing public dollars to private schools, in direct violation of thenFlorida Constitution. The unconstitutionality of this program was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court, paving the way to creatively disregard the constitution via the current tax credit scholarships.

    Bush’s education legacy is more meaningless tests, forcing schools to teach to the test, thus depriving Florida children of a well rounded education, consisting of arts, music, PE and stifling the creativity of teachers. Parents are waking up and speaking out and these voices will continue to grow.


  3. Millie Herrera · ·

    Great article! The real goal behind “school choice” is to defund public schools to the point that most children receive a substandard education that eliminates critical thinking skills and teaches them just enough to get by as an employee who is always fearful of losing their low wages.

    We must continue to let the public know that it was Bush’s policies, systematic underfunding of public schools, and funneling money to testing so they can attempt to prove their point in the court of public opinion, and NOT the wrongly demonized teachers’ unions, or as they claim “the bad, lazy teachers” that have diminished the quality of our children’s public education.

    High quality, free, public education is what made this country great and the real fuel behind the American Dream and guarantees of a continued Democracy. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to keep the dream and the guarantees of freedom from oppression alive by electing people who defend these values.


  4. Latha Krishnaiyer · ·

    The rise of charter schools and other private for profit schools can also be directly attributed to Bush’s education policies. Parents are flocking to charter schools to avoid the excessive testing and regulations imposed on public schools. The current legislature continues to funnel away funds from public schools by giving more incentives and PECO funds to charters, several of whom close down shortly after acquiring these public dollars. Who are the education committee leaders who set the rules for charter schools in the House and Senate? They are all employees or connected to charter schools in some way or the other. A clear conflict of interest that continues year after year with no consequences.


  5. Dems in Action · ·

    More people need to speak out about these policies. I object to my tax dollars going to private schools. For the last three years all PECO funds have gone to charter schools. Our public schools are crumbling and the legislature keeps giving away public school money. This has to stop.


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