The Agenda

Perry, Romney, and Jeb Bush

Given that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been criticized for his state level DREAM Act, it is interesting that Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and a much-admired figure in Republican circles, has defended the policy, as Beth Reinhard reports:


In 2001, Perry signed the first state law in the country that allowed the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates. Former Florida state Rep. Juan Zapata said the Texas law was “the model” for legislation that he repeatedly—but unsuccessfully—pushed in his state. Two of his key allies then are now among the GOP’s most sought-after stars: Bush, the subject of perpetual draft movements to run for president, and his fellow Floridian, Sen. Marco Rubio, a sure bet for the GOP’s vice presidential shortlist in 2012.

“I think that is a fair policy,” Bush said in an e-mail to National Journal on Tuesday, adding that the students who benefit from the tuition breaks find themselves in the United States through “no fault of their own.”

What I’d like to know is what Jeb Bush makes of the fact that Perry evidently believes that defending the Race to the Top Initiative makes one essentially indistinguishable from President Barack Obama, as Bush himself has praised it

It turns out that Bush has discussed this explicitly with Alex Leary of the St. Petersburg Times:


“Being in favor of the Obama Race to the Top … that is not conservative,” Perry said in the debate, a line echoed in the web ad. The Washington Post notes that Perry selectively edited out the end of Romney’s remarks, where he says “but for me, get that back to the state level.”

Bush told the Buzz: “Leaving aside the idea of whether the federal government should be spending money it doesn’t have, I would rather have the feds be funding reforms in the teacher profession, strong testing and assessments, and school choice (sadly not private school choice) than funding the status quo. States were not obligated to do anything. They could compete for the money or not. It is not intrusive federal policy. The focus should be on rising student achievement. Reform will make that more likely.”

Leary also provides the context for Romney’s actual remarks on RTTT:

The Romney campaign provides his full quote on Race to the top, saying it shows “Romney supports some of the overall goals of “Race to the Top,” but not the fact that Obama wants to make it a federal program. Here’s the full quote from Romney last week in Miami: “But the real answer for me on education is get it back to the states. Get information to the states. Encourage with incentives programs that work like school choice. You know, I think Secretary Duncan has done some good things. He’s the current Secretary of Education. I hope that’s not heresy in the room. He for instance has a program called Race to the Top which encourages schools to have more choice, more testing of kids, more evaluation of teachers. Those are things I think make sense. For me, get that back to the state level.” [Emphasis added]

Wait a second. So if I’m reading this right, the former Massachusetts governor began and ended his statement with “get it back to the states” and “get back to the state level.” In between, he praised the concept of “more choice, more testing of kids, more evaluation of teachers,” and Secretary Duncan for advancing those ideas.

In fairness, Romney might have instead said, “Get it back to the states, get it back to the states, states, states, states, states, get it back to them,” which might have made the job of interpretation somewhat more straightforward.  

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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