Florida Governor Jeb Bush Speaks on Education Reform

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"We're very proud of what we're doing in Florida," said Florida governor Jeb Bush. "We've done our best to take big and bold ideas and convert them into practical policy," he said. Bush, who addressed the Hoover Institution's Koret Task Force on K–12 Education and guests about education reform at a dinner on Thursday, January 12, stressed the importance of education reform for the country, stating that "if we don't change, the country will suffer."

Bush, who is in his second term as governor of Florida, has long advocated education reform to improve schools and student performance. During his first term Bush implemented the A-plus Plan for Education, a program designed to improve students' grades and revamp the state's public school system by offering students the opportunity to transfer to a private school if their school failed.

Along the way, he said, he developed what he calls "Jeb's Rules" on how to advocate education reform. The first rule, he said, is full transparency, which he defined as "say what you're going to do, then do what you say you're going to do." Next, have the courage to measure progress. "If you don't measure, you don't care." Dogged tenacity, the third rule, Bush defined as " stay[ing] in it to win it." The fourth rule, aggressive communication, is that, "if you are involved in a big idea, you must constantly communicate." The final rule, Bush said, is continuous reform. "Success is never final and reform is never finished," he said. "The only way to be successful in the battle of ideas is to be on the offensive constantly." He added that "you are either in ascendancy or decline; there is no such thing as neutrality."

The results of the education plan, he noted, have been impressive. Since 1998 in Florida, the number of fourth graders reading at grade level has increased by 20 percent; more students are taking the PSAT and advanced placement courses; and graduation rates have increased by 11.7 percent (to 71.9 percent), and dropout rates have decreased by 2.6 percent, nearly half of what they had been. Bush said he looked forward to 2006 as a year of reform similar to 1998 when the A-plus Plan for Education was first implemented.

The address by Bush was part of a two-day meeting of the Hoover Institution's 11-member Koret Task Force on K–12 Education.