Jefferson City, Mo. – Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush highlighted a number of education reform efforts while speaking in the Missouri Capitol Thursday.
Bush spoke at a press conference in the House Lounge with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, advocating for several measures, including school choice, charter school education, and greater access to online classes.
In his two terms as Florida’s governor, Bush was a strong champion for education reform efforts, putting higher standards in place for student achievement, improving transparency in school performance and providing school to those in failing districts. After leaving office, he established the Foundation for Excellence in Education to continue in his work and help other states reform their education systems. He argues that those same efforts could benefit Missouri.
“I come here simply as a person who believes passionately that every child can learn, and it is up to politicians, teachers, business leaders and parents to ensure that every child reaches their God-given abilities,” he said. “That’s where we are today, and for our country to maintain its greatness, we have to transform how we educate our children and ensure that more children receive the power of knowledge.”
Missouri Chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan spoke to those in attendance prior to Bush, saying that education reform was overdue in the Show-Me State. He noted the results of the 2030 Gallup survey, commissioned by the Chamber, which shows that only 15 percent of the state’s business leaders believe Missouri high schools are preparing students for the workforce.
“When Gov. Bush became governor, Florida’s K-12 system was ranked 46th in the nation. Recently, Florida was ranked in the top 10,” Mehan said. “Jeb Bush is clearly America’s true education champion, and he proves that strong leadership and an all-in business community can totally change student numbers.”
The Missouri General Assembly is currently considering several education reform bills, similar to the topics on which Bush spoke.
Rep. Rebecca Roeber is one of the representatives sponsoring legislation on education reform. She says she supports school choice because she taught for 18 years at a public school in which the district’s performance continued falling. She watched as students moved to other districts, and said that many had no other options than to attend the schools they had been assigned to.
“Increasing school choice through expanding charters, virtual learning, and tax saving accounts will allow students to live up to their full potential and learn the necessary skills to become happy productive citizens,” Roeber said.
Several other Missouri lawmakers stood next to Bush in support, including Reps. Kurt Bahr and Shamed Dogan, and Sens. Bill Eigel, Ed Emery, and Andrew Koenig.
“We need to redefine what public education is. Public aid for education should not be going to a government school but to a educating a child. Public institutions, or government schools, aren’t necessarily meeting all of the needs of every child,” Koenig said.
“If anyone of us were sitting down with a blank sheet of paper today and devising how we wanted to educate a child to adulthood, we would not come up with the model that we have,” Emery said. “The real question that we have to deal with is how we can transition from the model that seemed effective 100 years ago to the model that we devise today. That is the challenge that we face.”
“This is a great window of opportunity, and you have a governor who is totally committed to these reforms,” Bush said. “I think all of these bills together would put Missouri in the forefront, and I hope you all stay strong, be big and be bold.”
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.