Do Florida Republican Lawmakers Revere or Fear Jeb Bush?

Few pundits have been willing to say publicly that the current chaos of Florida’s education accountability systems is of Jeb Bush’s doing. But Palm Beach Post writer Jac Versteeg has done just that this morning.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush has an undeserved reputation as an education reformer. Florida’s recent education progress has come not from implementing Mr. Bush’s policies but from cleaning up after them.

Mr. Bush has been visiting legislators in Tallahassee to talk about education policy. Get out the mops and buckets. Taxpayers also should reach for their wallets, since the former governor’s new big ideas involve transferring more public dollars to the for-profit companies behind him.

Mr. Bush’s biggest idea, enacted immediately after taking office in 1999, was to give each school an A-to-F grade based on student scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. That misuse of the FCAT continues. The test’s many shortcomings were even more serious when Gov. Bush initiated FCAT tyranny. The test covered only a few subjects, students took it long before the end of the school year, and half of elementary and high-school students didn’t even take it. Yet the entire school received a grade, on which parents, students and Realtors fixated.

…….In yet another revision to the grading formula Gov. Bush perversely and prematurely treated as infallible, Florida made FCAT scores count less in some school grades. Still, Florida in 2011 also required teachers to be evaluated based on FCAT scores, even if a teacher had no students who took the FCAT.

This is not “creative destruction.” It’s harassment, and it has created enormous ill will. Gov. Rick Scott’s frantic reversals in preparation for a reelection run — he has called for teacher raises not linked to the FCAT — show how unpopular Mr. Bush’s education legacy is.

With the FCAT writing test looming this week, a Palm Beach County school board member spoke for many educators when she lamented that “this is one test on one day that means more than it should.” But urging students and parents not to stress out is futile. Failing the FCAT still has out-sized consequences — such as no diploma.

Mr. Bush’s fans note that Florida’s education rankings and results have improved. The dubious rankings give Florida credit simply for having “accountability,” systems even if those systems are bogus. Improving test results and graduation rates are incremental and could have been achieved — and surpassed — more quickly without the turmoil Mr. Bush inflicted.

Now Mr. Bush heads several foundations pushing for a rapid expansion of charter schools and virtual schools. His Foundation for Excellence in Education accepts donations from private companies that would profit from lax new laws that Florida and other states are rushing to enact. The sort of careless “reform” Jeb Bush advocates will end up with taxpayers fleeced and students and parents cheated. He has a reputation for reform. He has a record of making messes.

Even as lawmakers look for a way out to prevent a train wreck – Plan B on Common Core Standards and PARCC tests with more tweaks to school grade formulas and teacher evaluations – Bush continues to be revered by them. Or is it feared? The former Florida governor controls the purse strings to Florida’s business community and speaks from the bully pulpit on everything.  For a republican to oppose him is political suicide. Bush’s control of education policy coupled with his unopposable political clout is a chilling and dangerous vacuum of absolute power.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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4 Responses to Do Florida Republican Lawmakers Revere or Fear Jeb Bush?

  1. tom james says:

    it’s very simple folks. Vote OUT all Corrupt Republican bums and the problem will be solved. Jebby Bush will be OUT OF BUSINESS in Florida under a Democratic governor!

  2. Diane Kepus says:

    It came to me this morning after reading your posting – the FCAT forced teacher’s to “TEACH TO THE TEST” and the other subjects would be pushed aside. Parents have complained about that since the inception of the FCAT. Teachers hands have been tied. Does this sound like a man who is really interested in the education of our children?

    I would like to pose the question- Was this all a set-up deal for the failure of public schools to give the very push for Charter schools?. Failing regular public schools as the incentive to open Charter schools and push the suppport for Virtual education and the PARENT TRIGGER bill and at the same time indoctrinating our children with communist ideology

    Florida and her education system are nothing to be applauded and other states need to turn their eyes away from us for leadership along with its leader Jeb Bush. Dump the CCS and the lies being sent out by Jeb Bush and his supporting businesses who are getting rich off of the backs of our children.

    • Tom Jefferson says:

      As a teacher, I have to disagree with your assessment that we have to teach to the test. Unless, by teaching to the test, you mean educating students in reading comprehension, common mathematical concepts and a standard writing style that they can build from later in life, Our hands are not tied, we simply have to be creative in our delivery of content. It is no longer acceptable to “stand and deliver” our material while students furiously take notes on everything we say. Our new teachers are hopefully being shown how to adapt any lesson to standards that the community thinks are important for their children to learn. Example, I teach history. Does that mean I can’t incorporate reading comprehension into my curriculum? Of course I can. That’s why my students do well on the FCAT every year.

      As for CCS, I am excited about this. The standards are broad and rigorous. The concept is basic, yet powerful. 10 standards that were built upon the 10 standards from the year before. They are broad enough to be customized by the states and districts but also rigid enough that transient students are still learning the same skills no matter where they go. I am excited about the direction that florida is taking in education.

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