Jeb Bush: ‘Choice’ is key to education reform
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Taking notes from the state of Florida, former Gov. Jeb Bush is in Texas this week outlining the ways he believes he reformed public education in the Sunshine State.
Bush, who is brother to former President George W. Bush, was invited to testify in front of the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.
Some of the strategies he implemented as governor of Florida are being proposed here in Texas. For example, giving parents more choices when it comes to where they want to send their kids to school, whether it’s private school, charter or online classes.
Bush also said more choices have a positive trickle down effect because it encourages schools to perform better when parents have more options to choose from.
"It has been the catalytic converter, if you will, of the kind of learning gains we've experienced," Bush said.
As Texas lawmakers work to improve schools for the state's more than five million students, the idea of ‘choice’ has been the keyword, especially in discussions about the expansion of charter schools.
"All we want to do is say to every parent, ‘You have a choice,” Senate Education Committee Chair Dan Patrick said. “But particularly to those parents who don't have any choice because of their economics."
Opponents, however, claim Florida isn't a good model for Texas to use. They're also standing firm in their claim that more charter schools would have an adverse effect on traditional public schools.
"You can experiment with a lot of these privatization schemes, but they're all unproven,” Clay Robinson with the Texas State Teachers Association said. “They continue to drain money from the traditional public schools, which is where the vast majority of children in Texas and Florida will continue to be educated."
Bush said the proof to his message can be seen within the Florida school system.
"It really has created a sense of urgency,” Bush said. “That if parents are given other choices, then the failed options that they're forced to have, that those failed options get better pretty quick."
The former governor also talked about creating an easier and more transparent way to grade a school's performance by giving them letter grades, A through F.
"A parent has a right to have a school that they believe is best for their child and don't trap a child at a bad school because of five numbers, and those five numbers are your zip code," Sen. Patrick said.