Jeb Bush wins prestigious Bradley Prize

Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, has won a prestigious national award in recognition of his work on education reform in the Sunshine State and the rest of America. Bush will receive the Bradley Prize, awarded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

 Bush’s recognition comes less than two weeks after he was keynote speaker at the annual Citizenship Dinner of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. At that event was recipient of OCPA’s Citizenship Award. 

 During his visit to Oklahoma City, Bush said that Oklahoma and Indiana were the two American states doing the most to advance education reform in 2011. 

 “Governor Bush has been at the forefront of education reform,” said Michael W. Grebe, president and chief executive officer of the Bradley Foundation. “During his administration and since, Florida students have made incredible gains.  He has also been a vocal advocate for school choice.”

 Bush is chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and a close ally of the Foundation for Educational Choice, a group dedicated to advancing the ideas of robust competition and choice in education formulated by Milton and Rose Friedman.
 Yesterday (April 12), in a discussion with CapitolBeatOK, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said Bush’s visit was “very ratifying and affirming of what we are trying to do in education reform. It was encouraging to our legislative members, providing examples of ideas similar to many of the proposals made here that have passed and had a huge impact in his state.” 

 When members of the Capitol press corps here in Oklaoma City had an opportunity for questions during his Blue Room press conference with Governor Fallin and advocates of education reform on March 30, Bush was specific in his reflections.

  CapitolBeatOK asked Bush what one or two reforms — or “cluster” of reforms — made the most difference in changing educational outcomes in Florida. In response, he first joked that he did not use the term of “cluster” but preferred to describe the cumulative ideas in the Sunshine State as a “suite of reforms.”

 Turning serious, the former chief executive of Florida said that the impetus for change began in his first year with “the introduction of accountability ” in the form of letter grades for individual schools. 

 That reform brought new levels of transparency and accountability to the system, especially in combination with incentives for improvements in performance. When “under performing schools suddenly became “schools with a grade of D or F,” voters understood, Bush said.

  The next essential step was weaving in choice programs for children in the worst schools, including a voucher system that was later ruled unconstitutional. He noted that tighter reading programs with “reading coaches and teachers” yielded data that then led to a proposal to ban “social promotions” from third to fourth grade.

 He said the elements of competition and pressure for excellence that came from choice had, in conjunction with the other changes, brought undeniable progress. On standardized test results, Bush said, Florida is now sixth out of 50 states in fourth grade reading performance. Before introduction of his “suite” of reforms, the state was in the bottom half.

 After sketching that “suite,” he added, “the critics were proven wrong about fundamental reform.” Bottom line, Bush contends, “low income kids in Florida are leading the nation in learning.”

 Bush shares this year’s Bradley Prize with Harvard Professor Harvey Mansfield, New York University Law Professor Richard Epstein and economist Allan Metzer.

 Bush and the other honorees will be presented with the award during a ceremony to be held in Washington, D.C., at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The prizes carry a stipend of $250,000.