MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s calls for education reform, free from the interference of teachers unions, were well-received by attendees at the Mackinac Policy Conference Wednesday.
“We must give parents a choice on where they should send their kids to school,” Bush said. “We embrace school choice across the board.”
Bush delivered the keynote address at the annual conference, which attracted more than 1,500 attendees from around the Midwest region, according to the Detroit Free Press.
During his speech, Bush praised Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for signing right-to-work legislation last year, effectively ending forced unionism in the state. That’s particularly important for teachers who want to concentrate on their profession without the constant distraction of union politics.
“He wasn’t reading the polls when he signed right-to-work into law,” Bush said. “He knew the payoff would come over the long haul.”
Snyder, who spoke earlier at the conference, also discussed the need for education reform and said he plans to reinvent the state to “bring a new era of innovation.”
“We have to have a strong educational system,” Snyder said, laying out a vision for an education that begins before birth and ends with a career-ready individual. “Shouldn’t we make it a seamless system?” Snyder asked.
“We can’t give every child an equal start in life… But we can give them an equal shot,” said Bush, depicting a program that ensures all children are proficient in reading before the fourth grade. He called low expectations for student achievement the “greatest mistake we make in public education.”
“There must be consequences (for teachers) for poor performance on tests that measure critical thinking skills. If there are not, fewer kids will master those skills. If you have no expectations and you don’t have accountability around this child, the net result is we get what we built.”
Bush, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, is the founder of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.