As a Floridian who lived through the gubernatorial reign of Jeb Bush, brother of our former president George Dubya Bush, I can honestly say I haven’t missed him since he left office. Unfortunately, one of the reasons I haven’t missed him is because he hasn’t given me much of a chance to miss him. In some ways, he didn’t really leave at all.
Jeb has remained a serious political player in this state, although he’s now doing it from the position of a private citizen/businessman rather than an elected official. And, he has remained in the public eye with regard to a couple of issues which he dealt with when he was our governor.
The biggest of these issues is educational reform. Jeb Bush, as Florida’s governor, worked to increase the use of school vouchers and charter schools. This was a boon to for-profit educational companies, including (in what surely must have been a bizarre coincidence) an educational materials/software company run by Bush’s brother Neil. Governor Bush simultaneously instituted a system for allocating funding to public schools, based on the grades they received each year after students took a standardized test known as the FCAT. Schools that did well got more money than schools that performed poorly. Of course, the poorly performing schools were often in areas that were literally poor, and serving students in a low socioeconomic bracket. These schools needed the funds more than the schools that were already doing well, and therefore a vicious circle of low funding begetting low performance, and low performance begetting low funding, was virtually guaranteed by Bush’s policies.
Since exiting the Governor’s Mansion, Jeb Bush has continued developing and lobbying for his particular brand of education reform, not just in Florida but nationwide. He still extolls the value of “school choice”, advocating the position that education should be considered more of a free market concern than a governmental one. His Foundation for Florida’s Future pushes the same voucher/charter school mantra that was in place during Bush’s term as governor. Now, however, a few new twists have been added. One of the most recent, and the most controversial, was a measure pushed by the Foundation for Florida’s Future known as the “Parent Trigger” bill. This legislation would have allowed parents of students at low-performing schools to essentially take control over those schools, superseding the local school board to do so. It would have offered parents the option to change the school from a public school to a charter, under the management of a for-profit company. Considered by many to be the full-throttle drive toward privatizing schools that Bush had always dreamed of (but could only get away with after leaving public office), the bill was defeated in Florida’s legislature earlier this month. Bush was more successful, however, in pushing Florida into adopting a new requirement that all high school students must take at least one online class in order to graduate. In what surely must be another bizarre coincidence, Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future is funded by a plethora of companies that are involved in online education. Thus, in making sure that some of Florida’s already strapped education budget gets channeled to these for-profit companies, Bush ensures that financial support for his non-profit organization is secured.
A different aspect of Jeb Bush’s legacy was thrust into the national spotlight recently, due to the unprovoked shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida last month. The shooter, George Zimmerman, was not arrested by local law enforcement at the time, and remains a free man as of this post. The Florida law known as “Stand Your Ground” has been cited and discussed as the defense Zimmerman may use for the killing. This measure, signed into law by Jeb Bush in 2005, enables people who feel that they may be in a life-threatening situation in an area outside their own homes to use deadly force in self-defense. It basically covers someone who shoots first, and asks questions later. At the time, the bill was being heavily pushed by the NRA, who (in yet another bizarre coincidence) strongly supported Jeb Bush and enjoyed a very friendly and mutually advantageous relationship with the then-governor. Since the Trayvon Martin incident blew up in the media recently, several of the state’s lawmakers are beginning to debate the value of the law, including current Governor Rick Scott, and members of the media are insinuating that those responsible for passing the law have Martin’s blood on their hands.
Despite this uproar, Jeb Bush is still riding high. His endorsement of Mitt Romney was highly coveted, highly anticipated, and made national headlines, proving that he still holds a formidable position in the political world. Floridians are divided as to the way Bush served our state as governor, but his time here obviously impressed conservatives across the country. To some in the GOP, a 2016 presidential run with Jeb Bush and fellow Floridian Marco Rubio on the ticket would be a dream come true. For me, it would be a lot more like a nightmare. I really wish he would just go away already, the way I thought he would when he left office here in 2007. But, like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, it seems he’ll be haunting people’s lives for quite a while to come.
Norbrook’s Blog – Trayvon Martin and Some Thoughts on Gun Laws