Jeb Bush

George P. Bush attacks teacher unions


When he was even younger, the young George P. Bush taught for a while in an inner city high school in Miami. Presumably, he experienced many of the challenges that teachers face each day in the classroom and, you would think, learned to appreciate the vital role that teachers play in trying to prepare the next generation for a productive future.

But maybe the education of this former, short-term teacher came up a bit short. I say that because Bush, now a candidate for Texas land commissioner, delivered a direct attack on teacher unions at a campaign appearance in Richmond last week. He said he will not be afraid to take on “the teacher unions who are deteriorating public education,” according to a TSTA staffer who attended the event.

This was a political shot designed to appeal to the school privatization advocates and anti-public service zealots who dominate the Republican primary in which Bush is a candidate. And, it was a direct slap at the teachers whom he purports to admire, the teachers who are trying to save public schools from those privateers and ideologues.

In case you need a reminder, George P. is the nephew of former President and Texas Gov. George W. Bush. He is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who advanced a number of dubious school privatization schemes in the Sunshine State and continues to beat the drums for ideas to divert tax dollars from public classrooms to corporate pockets.

Speaking to a group of high school students in a conference at the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 – before he became a candidate for office — George P. Bush endorsed the school budget cuts that the legislative majority enacted that year. He said, in essence, that laying off teachers was better than raising taxes to cure a revenue shortfall.

“There will probably be some teachers that are let go,” he said then. And, there were.

About 11,000 teachers – among about 25,000 school employees – lost their jobs in the 2011-12 school year alone, cramming thousands of students into overcrowded classrooms.

This year, the Legislature restored about $4 billion of the $5.4 billion that was cut two years ago, and schools are beginning to recover. But the struggle against an inadequate and inequitable school finance system continues.

The office of Texas land commissioner helps administer oil and gas revenues from state leases that feed the Permanent School Fund. But other than that, the office has little, if anything, to do with setting education policy.

Why Bush saw fit to attack teachers – when you attack teacher unions, you attack teachers – may seem a little puzzling, until you realize how well that line played with the people who are really busy at the task of “deteriorating public education.”


Preachy on education – and wrong


Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick is preachy, as TSTA President Rita Haecker pointed out in an Associated Press story this morning. He also is demagogic, as one of his Senate colleagues suggested in the same story. And, he is an expert at grandstanding.

But when it comes to improving educational opportunities for low-income children, he is wrong, flat wrong.

“You do become a little bit of an education evangelist because you know this works and you know we must do all we can to make sure every student has an opportunity,” Patrick is quoted in the same story, promoting his proposals to expand charter schools and create tax credits for private school vouchers.

Every student? What Patrick is proposing would be limited to a small number of children, while taking tax dollars from the vast majority of students. Moreover, private school vouchers and charters DON’T WORK any better than traditional public schools in boosting educational opportunities for that vast majority. Research has borne that out. And, that includes Florida, which former Gov. Jeb Bush was still touting as something of an education miracle in an invited appearance last week before Patrick’s committee.

State-commissioned studies have found no evidence that low-income students who receive vouchers to attend private schools do any better at reading or math than kids in Florida’s public schools. Bush also expanded charter schools in Florida while he was governor. But the state’s high school graduation rate remains mediocre, and large numbers of graduates still need remedial help in math and reading.

Tax resources have been drained from traditional public schools in Florida, and now Patrick wants to continue doing the same thing to Texas schools. Instead, he should be leading an effort – which he is not – to restore the $5.4 billion he voted to cut from public schools two years ago.

Those cuts – an average $1,062 per student over the past two years – have done a lot of damage to educational opportunities for the low-income children for whom Patrick claims to advocate. They have been forced to study in overcrowded classrooms. They have lost teachers, teaching assistants and pre-kindergarten and other dropout prevention programs. Now, he wants to take even more of their public support away to enrich education profiteers.

Education evangelist? Texas school kids need a statesman who really knows what works for them.


Jeb Bush: peddling school privatization


Leading off the dog and pony show before the Senate Education Committee this morning, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush suggested that poverty was just an “excuse” for failures in the public schools. Bush, of course, doesn’t exactly have a clear comprehension of poverty, but it is not an excuse for tens of thousands of Texas schoolchildren. It is a reality, and it does interfere with a child’s education. When families are struggling to survive, the first priority usually isn’t a kid’s homework or, for many families, even keeping a kid in school.

More than half of the children in Texas public schools are “economically disadvantaged.” That means they are poor. And many of them are still struggling to learn English. Yet, Bush’s answer to their educational needs is to keep cramming standardized tests down their throats, take tax dollars away from their neighborhood public schools and give the public money to private school owners in the form of student vouchers or scholarships.

That was Bush’s approach in Florida while he was governor, and now he is traveling around the country claiming it worked. In reality, it may have produced some immediate improvements, but over the long haul it hasn’t turned around Florida’s educational system. The state’s high school graduation rate is nothing to brag about, large numbers of graduates still need remedial help in math and reading, and state- commissioned studies have found no evidence that low-income students who receive vouchers to attend private school do any better at reading or math than Florida kids in public schools.

And, there are other problems. If you want to read more, click on the link at the end of this post for a good news article about the illusion-versus-reality of Bush’s education legacy.

Bush, indeed, may want to improve public education. But he is not the successful education “reformer” he claims to be. Instead, he is a promoter of school privatization. His misnamed Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and its affiliate, Chiefs for Change, are conduits for letting their corporate donors – a who’s who of education profiteers – connect with and privately influence state policymakers on expanded testing, expanded online learning, private school vouchers and other privatization raids on public tax dollars.

The foundation has had some success – tapping into untold millions of education tax dollars — in several other states, and now it is trying to promote privatization efforts in Texas.

Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick was all too willing to feature Bush as a star witness to promote Patrick’s voucher and charter expansion goals. Instead of wasting time on such unproven schemes, though, Patrick and his colleagues in the legislative majority should be restoring the $5.4 billion they cut from public school funding two years ago. Because of those cuts, per-student spending in Texas has plunged by $1,062 since the 2010-11 school year, according to National Education Association rankings.

Texas now is 49th – near the bottom of the barrel – in per-student spending among the states and the District of Columbia. Only Arizona and Nevada spend less. Thousands of Texas students have been forced into overcrowded classrooms, dimming their learning opportunities. And, many of those students are poverty-stricken.

Bush said “reforms,” such as accountability testing, need to be imposed on public schools to assure that students can become upwardly mobile, become financially more secure than their parents.

Public schools were making students upwardly mobile long before the privateers came along. But millions of Texans, and not just poor people, have seen their family incomes become frozen or recede in recent years, and that is not the fault of the public schools. That is the fault of federal regulatory and economic policies that have favored the wealthiest 1 percent of the country’s residents, while squeezing the middle class and everyone else. Jeb should have given the upwardly mobile lecture to his brother, George W., while W. was still in the White House.