Politics & Policy

Jeb Bush: ‘Go to the Black Churches and Talk About School Choice’

Oklahoma City, Okla. — Earlier today, former Florida governor Jeb Bush touted his record of education reform in the state with perhaps the strongest grassroots opposition to the Common Core standards his foundation supports, and it turned out alright.

“Education reform happens at the state level, not in Washington D.C.,” Bush said, to the delight of the crowd in attendance here at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. “Washington should not mandate — directly or indirectly —​ content, curriculum, or standards. We should push it aside.”

Bush’s reference to direct or indirect mandates was an apparent nod to the Common Core opponents who believe that President Obama’s Education Department is orchestrating a federal takeover of education by using money from the 2009 stimulus to induce states to adopt the standards.

Some of the fiercest opposition to Common Core developed in Oklahoma, as activists convinced the state government to repeal the standards in the face of opposition from Governor Mary Fallin — who introduced Bush here Friday afternoon.

“Once we were able to educate [parents] as to what they needed to do to stand up for themselves, they really started flooding their representatives with e-mails and phone calls and all of that,” Jenni White, one of the leading opponents of the standards, told National Review last year.

‘Go campaign in the Latino barrios across this country. Go to the college campuses that haven’t heard a conservative in a long while. Go to the black churches and talk about school choice.’

Bush directed the animosity​ of the crowd of conservative activists toward the teachers’ unions who dominate public schools, saying that Americans can’t “just passively sit back and watch 13,000 unionized, government-run monopolies and expect them to change overnight.”

Instead, he noted, his administration had created a statewide school-voucher program and initiated other scholarship funds and reforms.

“There are 240,000 more kids that are grade-level readers than there were prior to the reforms,” he said.

Bush prefaced his comments on education policy with a warning that Republicans couldn’t win elections by preaching only to the conservative choir.

#related#“I love the choir, don’t get me wrong,” he said, before drawing applause with a specific list of recommendations for broadening the party’s appeal.

“Go campaign in the Latino barrios across this country. Go to the college campuses that haven’t heard a conservative in a long while. Go to the black churches and talk about school choice.”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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