Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talks to Senate Education committee
Date Posted: 2/27/2013 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell, CAE
The Senate Education committee held an informational hearing this morning featuring Florida's former Gov. Jeb Bush as an invited speaker. Bush spoke on behalf of his Foundation for Excellence in Education, along with Patricia Levesque, who was previously an education adviser to Bush and now serves as CEO of the foundation founded by the former governor. Bush's foundation advocates for reforms including vouchers, digital learning and grading schools on an "A" through "F" scale. The foundation has been criticized recently for aggressively lobbying for policies that would provide a financial benefit to some of its major corporate donors, including the testing giant Pearson and the for-profit virtual school company K12. At today's hearing, Bush encouraged aggressive reform of the Texas public education system with big ideas, even if those ideas are unpopular. He emphasized the need for proper funding to make reform measures successful and described how the state of Florida sent additional funds to schools that improved their "grades" under the state's accountability system based on student test scores. During his tenure as governor, Florida dramatically expanded charter schools, online and virtual learning programs and private school voucher initiatives, all ideas being touted by current Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston). There have also been bills filed this session that would include the same “A” though “F” ratings assigned under Florida's accountability system. According to Bush, these types of reforms helped turn around Florida’s struggling education system. However, critics say the turnaround was largely due to increases in the amount of funding the state spent on education. More recently, Florida students' scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) have actually declined. In response to questions from senators attending today's hearing, Bush and Levesque confirmed a few noteworthy distinctions that exist between our state and Florida: unlike Texas, Florida law provides for universal pre-K and strict class-size limits in all grades (a maximum of 18 students in pre-K through third grade, 22 students in grades four through eight and 25 students in high school core curriculum courses). Ethan Herr contributed to the reporting of this story.
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