Republicans rediscover education
The GOP in Washington might not yet have its ducks in a row when it comes to education policy, but Republicans at the state level are a whole different story. These renegade reformers—Tony Bennett and Chris Christie immediately spring to mind—all have something in common: the man who serves as their education mentor. We refer, of course, to Jeb Bush—who has stepped into the fore of the national education-reform movement with his Foundation for Excellence in Education. While the governor of Florida, Bush brought a rigorous accountability system to the state, expanded charter schools and school-choice options, launched a far-reaching virtual-school program, and fostered early experiments with performance pay. Now, Bush has emerged as a thought leader on issues ranging from school choice to digital education, and has been acting as a sounding board for policymakers across the country, offering counsel on the nitty-gritty of policy and pointers on how to sell controversial proposals to elected officials and the public. And his soap-box audience is growing, as more and more state Republicans see education reform as a necessary means to a right-sized budget. From Maine to Minnesota, newly elected officials are taking to the podium to limit union power, rethink Cadillac benefits, and restructure teacher-tenure legislation. With their increased power and influence following the recent November elections—at least six states, Ohio among them, boast a Republican governor, Senate, and House—don’t be surprised to see major reforms pushed through on the coattails of the budget crisis. And don’t be surprised if many of those reforms look as if they were born in Florida.
“Strained States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions,” by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, January 3, 2011.
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