Jeb Bush at the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit  Photo credit: Dave Davidson - Prezography.com
Jeb Bush at the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit
Photo credit: Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush recently said that he was skipping out on the Iowa Straw Poll in favor of attending the RedState Gathering.  No surprise here, Bush is becoming particularly adept at avoiding my state.  He will be here this weekend for a fundraiser and then a 10 minute speech at the Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner.  That is the first time we’ve seen Bush in the state since appearing at a fundraiser for Congressman David Young (R-Iowa) and the Iowa Agricultural Summit back in early March.

So his strategy is quite clear – avoid Iowa. It would bigger news if he announced he was going.

Bush avoids campaigning in the state, but yet he says he can convince GOP voters on issues like Common Core where his view has gotten him in trouble with the base of the party.

He told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Sunday after a speech at Liberty University (his first major interview in 2015) that the early polling that shows him tanking are “irrelevant” (as we’d expect any candidate in his shoes to do) pointing out that he isn’t a candidate yet.

While he may see a bump his numbers are not going to change overnight because his negatives won’t change overnight.

Kelly pointed out how unpopular Common Core is with Republican parents.  Bush responded, “Common Core means a lot of things to different people, so they could be right based on what’s in front of them.”

Well what seems like a small concession, and then added, “I respect people having a view, but the simple fact is, we need higher standards. They need to be state-driven. The federal government should play no role in this, either in the creation of standards, content, or curriculum.  If we don’t have high standards and assess them faithfully we’ll get what we have today which is about a third of our kids being college and or career-ready.”

The problem is Common Core are not higher standards, they were not state driven, the federal government did play a rule in pushing them, and Bush backed them.  There also isn’t any proof that centralized standards with assessments will help.

Kelly pressed him further.

“A lot of things… Social studies are being ascribed to Common Core… It’s reading and math.  I hear legitimate complaints about changing, which is a dramatic change as it relates to math where you are not memorizing a multiplication table or addition table in the classroom you are challenging kids to explain why you got (that answer).  Because five years from now when you are taking algebra all of the things that you learned, those building blocks, will make it possible to take higher order math,” Bush stated.

How standards that will only get kids through Algebra II by the time the graduate and put kids two years behind their international peers by the time they reach 7th grade will help make it possible to take higher order math is beyond me.  Provided kids are not so frustrated with math by the time they reach that level that they even want to take higher level math. That is the one thing Common Core has proved it can accomplish with kids in kindergarten, first grade and second grade who face standards that are developmentally inappropriate.

“You look at our country compared to other countries that are successful in reforming their education we’ve been dumbing things down, spending more money focused on the economic interests of the adults, fighting over limited school choice.  Countries that are successful reward teachers and they have high standards and they allow more options,” Bush added.

Please Governor Bush cite some examples of the successful countries doing this.  Finland?  Our standards and accountability system doesn’t duplicate  what we see over there.  China?  Do we really want to emulate China?

His approach to standards and accountability have conflicted with true educational choice.

Kelly asked how he is going to “get right” with Republican activists when they feel so strongly about Common Core.

“I am going to tell people what I think which is high standards are better than low standards, and I am going to show them the record in Florida where we led the nation in terms of learning gains… we ended social promotion, we had the most dynamic school choice program in the nation by far.  When people begin to see the Florida record and see the learning gains that have taken place where we were at the bottom of graduation rates and moved to the middle.  Hispanic and low-income kids are now national leaders in Florida compared to their peers and where there is a focus on ending this political correctness of our time that casts away thousands and thousands of kids.  I am willing to stand on that record and fight for it,” Bush answered.

That sounds great, but what in his answer has anything to do with Common Core?

Absolutely nothing, and it should be added that when Florida saw those gains (and it’s debatable that his reforms are what led to that change entirely) was pre-Common Core.  What we also see today in Florida is a high-stakes testing culture run amok that parents and teachers are pushing back against.

If Bush is going to make his case he actually needs to come to the state first.  Otherwise Iowa Republicans will not only see him as wrong, but arrogant as well.  Unless he only plans to try to convince Republican parents in New Hampshire and South Carolina.  Good luck with that.  Those states have seen even more movement against Common Core than Iowa has.

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