Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

Remembering Former First Lady Barbara Bush, an Advocate for Literacy

By Alyson Klein — April 18, 2018 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Former first lady Barbara Bush, an advocate for early and adult literacy in the White House and afterward, died Tuesday at the age of 94.

The wife of President George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, and the mother of George W. Bush, the 43rd, as well as of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and of three other children, Bush used the bully pulpit of her office as first lady to advance the issue on the behalf of both for children and their parents.

Back in 1989, as first lady, she started the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Over the past 29 years, the Tallahasse-Fla.-based organization has helped provide more than $110 million to create or expand family literacy programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the nonprofit’s website. The foundation has supported efforts to help young parents learn to read and write and to earn GEDs. It also bolsters early-childhood education.

Bush wrote a memoir and two books C. Fred’s Story and Millie’s Book, from the perspective of the family dogs. Proceeds from the books supported adult and family literacy programs.

“If everyone could read and write, all the problems I worried about could be solved,” Bush, told USAToday in 2014. “If you can’t read, you can’t do anything.”

A passion for education appears to run in the family. Bush’s husband helped spur the standards-based education redesign movement by holding the only White House summit on education in 1989 in Charlottesville, Va., attended by nearly all the nation’s governors.

As president, her son George W. Bush, signed the No Child Left Behind Act, which required all states to test students annually the first time. And as Florida governor, Jeb Bush helped push to expand choice and teacher accountability.

Bush’s daughter-in-law, former First Lady Laura Bush, a one-time school librarian and teacher, also made literacy a focus of her tenure in the White House. And her grand-daughter, Jenna Bush, taught at a charter school.

Back in the early 1990s, Mrs. Bush also helped champion her husband’s signature education initiative, “America 2000,” the national strategy to move the country toward the six education goals.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has worked closely with Mrs. Bush’s son Jeb at his Foundation for Excellence in Education, had warm words for the former first lady.

“A true advocate for lifelong learning, no one in America has done more to advance the cause of literacy—both for students and for parents—than Barbara Bush,” DeVos in a statement. “She continued this commitment long after her days in the White House, and her work has changed thousands upon thousands of families’ lives for generations by helping them unlock the power of literacy.”

And Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who served as President George H.W. Bush’s education secretary, lauded her championship of adult literacy. “Today our country lost a bright, caring, independent lady, and [my wife] Honey and I lost a good friend,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “Barbara Bush set a wonderful example as wife, mom, first lady, and advocate for adult literacy.”

First lady Barbara Bush reads a story to children at Martha’s Table Day Care Center, a nonprofit center which also feeds the homeless, in 1989 in Washington. --Bob Daugherty/AP-File

Education Week Librarian Holly Peele and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


Follow us on Twitter at @PoliticsK12.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Education Department Opens Civil Rights Probes in 5 States That Ban School Mask Mandates
The move on behalf of students with disabilities deepens the fight over masks between the Biden administration and GOP governors.
4 min read
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles on April 13, 2021.
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles in April 2021.
Jae C. Hong/AP