Contrary to what those protecting the adults in the education equation would have you believe, Gov. Jeb Bush’s record on education is one that promoted students and resulted in a continuing record academic achievements for Florida’s children.
Bush took on the state’s powerful teachers’ unions to promote school choice and give parents more control of their children’s educations. He also demanded more accountability from public schools, establishing a grading system to let parents know how their kids’ schools were performing. From 1999-2006, the number of A-B schools in Florida increased from 21 to 74 percent.
As a result of Bush’s reforms, Florida led the nation in literacy gains for low-income and black fourth graders. Our low-income and Hispanic fourth graders are the best in the nation in reading.
Contrary to Dan Gelber’s criticisms in his June 23 Other Views article, Jeb Bush no champion, these tremendous gains haven’t come at the expense of Florida’s best students. In fact, the top 10 percent of Florida’s students also benefited under Bush with achievement gains in both reading and math.
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Between 2002 and 2009, Florida was third in the nation in producing additional high school graduates and the state’s high school graduation rate has risen by nearly 50 percent since 1999. From 1999 to 2012, the number of Florida students taking and passing an Advanced Placement exam rose by 316 percent.
The number of African-American and Hispanic students taking and passing the AP exam more than quadrupled. From Governor Bush’s first year in office to his last, the number of African-American students enrolled in college in the state rose by 8,000 and the number of Hispanic students enrolled rose by nearly 20,000. In those same years, the number of total Florida college graduates rose by 18,000. Gelber’s failure to recognize the gains made by African-American and Hispanic students is particularly striking. The achievement gap between white students and non-white students is perhaps the greatest crisis facing American schools, because it is closely tied with the opportunity gap in America.
For Florida children and their parents, Bush reforms often were the difference between a lifetime of struggle and a lifetime of opportunity. And that’s a record worth celebrating.
Anitere Flores, Florida senator, District 38, Miami