Jeb Bush’s “Unabashed Hostility” for Public Schools

To be sure MSNBC was never going to be friendly to Jeb Bush – or any republican for that matter. But in its RachelMaddowBlog, reporter Steve Benen has been taking a hard look at Bush’s entire record on education policy-making. Consider this summative conclusion:

If education does become a centerpiece of Jeb’s national platform, he might also have to reflect on his unabashed hostility for the public education systems, which he recently blasted as “government-run, unionized monopolies.”

Among the hard right, any demonization of teacher unions prompts a lot of head-bobbing. Any Bush speech includes such red meat and it serves to shadow his actual record.

Rank and file public school teachers and public school advocates have come to realize that they have been abandoned by the establishment left as a Bush centerpiece, the charter school movement has become a cause celeb. Moreover, many no longer trust their union apparatus after the national unions acquiesced on Common Core. Many are further seduced by Bush’s stance on immigration reform. As a result, it is up to left-leaning media outlets like MSNBC to report on Bush’s real record. Another that is emerging in VOX. Benen links this from reporter Libby Nelson:

Four economists who studied the A-F grades in 2007 found some good news: risking a failing grade seemed to force schools to improve. Students at F schools fared better on both the FCAT and on a lower-stakes test the following year than similar students at schools that received higher grades. Schools that got Fs were also more likely to offer summer school or after school programs, and to focus more on the students that needed the most help. Over time, the number of Florida schools rated A or B increased from 21 percent in 1999 to 72 percent in 2012.

But it wasn’t perfect: another study found that some schools also gamed the system, classifying poor and low-performing students as disabled so that their scores wouldn’t count.

The stakes for schools really were high. So the FCAT became the classic example of a high-stakes test. Schools held pep rallies to encourage children to do their best (and to make the scary tests seem more fun). Parents reported that their kids had stomachaches, headaches, and anxiety surrounding the FCATs. The same study that found scores went up in reading and math at schools with low grades also pointed out that those schools relaxed minimum time requirements for subjects that weren’t tested. More time for reading and math meant less time for art, music, and physical education.

Bush knows he is actively replacing what he perceives as “government-run, unionized monopolies” with a corporate-run high-stakes test” accountability system. He continues to receive ideological and political cover from a republican-dominated legislature in Florida who dutifully pass his favored policies and turn their head when the system collapses.

Bush has been accepting corporate cash for quite some time from the people who want to control education through a federally controlled Common Core curriculum hammered into stone by high-stakes tests generated by two corporations – Pearson and McGraw-Hill.

All this hot-talk in the media over the past few weeks about the Clinton’s ties to corporate money ignores Bush’s. At some point the Democrat-leaning media establishment will seek to prop up Hillary Clinton’s campaign and will turn to Bush. Sadly for the nation’s public schools, the Clinton’s have been accepting cash from the same powerful corporations as has Bush.

CORRECTION: MSNBC reporter Steve Benen’s name was misspelled in the original post and it has been changed.



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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