Jeb Bush’s decision to drop out of the GOP presidential campaign Saturday means his long record on, and relatively detailed plans for, K-12 will evaporate from the race.
The former Florida governor announced he was suspending his campaign Saturday after a poor fourth-place showing in the South Carolina Republican primary, according to preliminary results.
Thanks to his time as Florida governor and leadership of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Bush perhaps had a more extensive record regarding public school policy than any other White House hopeful. Like many of his GOP compatriots, Bush is an enthusiastic backer of school choice, and made a point of highlighting his record expanding choice in the Sunshine State on the presidential campaign trail. He cast the issue as important to low-income families and their children in particular.
But Bush also had an extensive background in promoting online education, school accountability using A-F grades, and requiring third graders to demonstrate literacy, among other policies. His foundation in particular proved quite influential in bringing state lawmakers around to Bush’s point of view on various K-12 issues, while also garnering criticism for controlling state policy too directly.
Public school policy has not received a lot of attention in the 2016 presidential contest, even with Bush in the race. Arguably, it reached the most eyeballs and ears during debates, when GOP frontrunner Donald J. Trump attacked Bush for supporting the Common Core State Standards.
But even the controversial standards haven’t gotten the attention some thought they might in the presidential race. Without Bush to talk up his record, K-12 could fade even further into the background.
It’s also fair to wonder, however, if Bush would have had a pretty limited impact on education policy even if he had ultimately won the general election.
After all, the Every Student Succeeds Act was just signed into law last December and will be in effect for at least the first term of the next president. A President Jeb Bush would have been able to impact the federal government’s handling of ESSA in 2017 to a certain extent. But that’s a lot different than being able to write, lobby for, and sign federal legislation.
Whether Bush returns to the education policy landscape at the state level, through his foundation, or another avenue, remains to be seen. And at least one Twitter user suggested that there still might be a role for Bush in Washington K-12 policy next year - as a potential secretary of education.
Photo: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush helped 5th graders Angelica Pinero, center, and Diamonique Christian, right, with math exercises at Tangelo Park Elementary School in Orlando, Fla. Mr. Bush visited the school as part of his work with the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/AP