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A Conversation With Jeb Bush

By Alyson Klein — August 29, 2012 2 min read
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Tampa, Fla.

Probably no one in the country is more closely associated with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s education policy than former-Gov. Jeb Bush, of Florida. Bush wrote the foreword to the Romney campaign’s white paper on K-12, and anyone familiar with Bush’s track record in the Sunshine State could see his fingerprints all over the proposals.

Bush has a long record of promoting school choice, embracing charter schools, and the use of A through F grading systems for school accountability. Lately, he’s been working with like-minded governors and state chiefs, scaling up his ideas in part as the “godfather” of the new Chiefs for Change group.

I interviewed Bush on Tuesday, shortly before he spoke on a panel about the new parent trigger film “Won’t Back Down”, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. We chatted about Republican presidential politics, Romney, President Barack Obama—and whether Bush would be interested in serving as Romney’s education secretary.

Here are some highlights.

•Bush has publicly praised Obama’s education policy. On what the president has gotten right:

Bush cited Obama’s “efforts to challenge his own party on education reform.” And he said that [Race the the Top] helped “change behavior in places that people didn’t expect it would be changed.” He also gave the thumbs-up to Obama’s pick for an education secretary. “Arne Duncan was a great choice. ... It could have been a lot worse.”

•On where Obama has fallen short:

“His aversion to embrace school choice,” Bush said.

•On accountability, the federal role in education and competitive grants:

“The competitive grant process would be, I think, a good strategy if we actually have the money,” Bush said. “But when we borrow 40 cents on every dollar, you reach a point where [it doesn’t make economic sense.] ... My expectation would be that President Romney would be a partner with local and state policymakers. ... The president can speak about education as something of national importance.”

•On common core:

“I don’t believe that common core is a federal initiative,” Bush said. “A majority of the Republican governors support this. And we’ll see how the implementation goes. Romney’s view is that standards need to be benchmarked to the world. ... Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have signed on to this. ... I don’t think it’s coercive.”

•On whether Romney can work with Republicans who want to get rid of the U.S. Department of Education:

“I think he can just be president, that’s part of being a leader,” Bush said. “You’re never going to satisfy every person on every issue, you can earn people’s respect and support. You can’t organize your life around placating everybody’s views.”

•On whether the feds should have a role in promoting school choice, as under Romney’s proposal:

“I think it would be very exciting, it’s a bold proposal,” Bush said. “I think it would enhance the most ambitious school choice programs in the country.

•On whether he’d like to take over 400 Maryland Ave.:

“I don’t foresee being secretary of education,” Bush said. And he begged off on naming other names, telling me he’s superstitious.

Photo: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush looks at the convention floor from the podium during a microphone check at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Monday. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

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