Jeb Bush commemorated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by unveiling his plan to improve American education, saying, “Dr. King’s vision for America was based on equality of opportunity,” in a video announcing the release. “Without a quality of education, there is no equality of opportunity. It is the civil rights issue of our time.”
David Jackson of USA Today reports that Bush’s plan includes increasing school choice, holding teachers accountable for student achievement, emphasizing early childhood education, and shifting authority from the federal government to states and local entities.
Specifically, Bush’s plan converges a host of proposals and ideas that have gained currency among conservative policymakers hoping to reform the nation’s education system. For example, Bush intends to double federal support for charter schools, replace a hodgepodge of federal programs with a $2,500 annual scholarship in the Education Savings Account (ESA) of every low-income child under age five and provide every high school graduate access to a $50,000 line of credit.
Bush’s campaign says that his plans are budget neutral and will not contribute to the federal debt. Additionally, as reported by Politico, Bush argues that his plans will cut the federal Education Department by 50%.
Sergio Bustos of ABC News reports that Bush developed a national reputation as a governor after he overhauled the public school system in Florida. He championed the value of testing and held educators responsible for students’ academic performance. Bush also oversaw some of the nation’s first voucher programs and founded Florida’s first charter school.
Even after his time as governor, Bush continued working in the education sector through his Foundation for Excellence in Education. Unsurprisingly, Bush cites his record reforming education as one of the major accomplishments preparing him to serve as president.
Despite this, Bush has faced criticism for his record on education. His Republican rivals lambast his support of Common Core educational standards, which they believe ceded control from local and state authorities to the federal government on matters of education policy. Indeed, most of Bush’s primary opponents have outpaced him in national polls. On the campaign trail, Bush has recently distanced himself from his prior support of national standards, saying that the term is “poisonous,” but he has denounced them much less vociferously than his rivals.
Nevertheless, Bush remains undaunted. In a campaign dominated by controversy, eccentricity, and sensationalism, Bush believes that voters will care most about detailed and sometimes jejune policy prescriptions. “Hey, I’m a substantial guy,” Bush said in a phone interview, according to Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post. “I think ideas have consequences.”
As detailed in his plan released on Medium, Bush outlines a system that would show potential college students statistics on earnings, graduation rates and debt repayment for the institutions to which they might apply — and the intent to make schools partially responsible for a graduate’s inability to repay student debt.
Voters head to the polls in Iowa in less than two weeks to caucus for their preferred candidate in the first official contest of the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Bush will see how his gamble pays off.