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story.lead_photo.caption Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, at the Arkansas Capitol at an education rally held by a group pushing for changes to the way the state approves charter schools. ( Lee Hogan)

— Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged the expanded use of charter schools in Arkansas and throughout the country Tuesday morning at a rally at the state Capitol.

Bush said it was fitting to be speaking in Little Rock, the site of the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis in 1957, as he called equal education to be this era's civil-rights issue.

"The path to success has to go through education," Bush said.

The education rally was hosted by A Plus Arkansas, a group that is pushing for legislation that would give an independent commission the power to approve charter schools in Arkansas, taking the power away from the state Board of Education.

Bush, who was Florida governor from 199-2007, told a group of reporters after the rally that he supported that legislation, which Gov. Mike Beebe has stated he opposes.

"My experience around the country is that an independent statewide authorizer, in all likelihood will not be used that much, but it will instill some discipline in local school districts not to just reject out of hand high-quality charter schools," Bush said.

Governors should lead the push for education policy changes, Bush said, adding that the issue should be their top priority.

Bush's message for public schools that feel threatened by charter schools was simple: Improve.

"First, I would say that charter schools are public schools," Bush said. "Rather than feel threatened, embrace this concept, because I think it will be better for all kids."

Bush said that Arkansas has the foundation for improving its schools, but innovation and change is needed.

"Our children can't wait for plodding, incremental change," Bush said. "We need disruptive change. We need to invest in new ideas, new approaches in education."

Bush said the chief priority in creating improvement was creating more options for parents and competition among schools.

"One of the most exciting advances we're seeing in education is blended learning," Bush said.

Bush says the approach combines technology with hands-on guidance from teachers.

"It allows kids to learn in their own way at their own pace," he said. "It doesn't hold them back if they've already mastered the material. They can learn at a faster pace if they have the capability of doing it. It doesn't just pass people along that haven't mastered the material. It customized the learning experience for every child."

Bush blamed government bureaucracy for not seeing more innovation and change sooner.

"The change we must have has to also have school choice for parents," Bush said. "To empower them to make choices that are best for their kids."

Jeb Bush urges charter-school expansion in state

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spoke Tuesday morning at the state Capitol at an education rally about the expansion of charter schools in Arkansas. (By Lee Hogan)
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Archived Comments

  • FlatulentBurst
    January 29, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.

    Ask ole Jeb about how his charter schools are performing down there in the Sunshine State....Not good, sez the reports....Once again, the GOP wants to get rid of public schools...

  • MaumelleHog
    January 29, 2013 at 11:51 a.m.

    To: FB
    Charter schools are public schools. Some perform better than others, but those that perform poorly must improve quickly or they will be shut down. In central Arkansas, we have many traditional public schools that have performed poorly for years. Those schools just keep plugging right along, continuing to fail students and the community, and wasting millions of tax dollars. Charter schools provide a much-needed option. Parents should have the opportunity to choose a school that is more accountable and efficient, yet still tuition-free. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue - it's an education issue.

  • Whippersnapper
    January 29, 2013 at 12:19 p.m.

    The GOP wants to get rid of failing public schools that are run by unions and make effective change impossible to accomplish. As pointed out, Charter schools are by definition public schools, created under the authority of the state, funded by the state, answerable to the state, and accepting any children who wish to enroll. In the Lib world, that doesn't equal a public school because they are not bound by every little union-backed regulation, but in the real world it makes them public schools.

  • FreeSpiritMan
    January 29, 2013 at 12:20 p.m.

    Charters underperform public schools

    By Stanley D. Smith, special to the Times
    In Print: Sunday, November 25, 2012
    As a professor of finance, I advocate the use of business analysis in evaluating government programs. So when the most recent state test scores came out for Florida's elementary schools, I ran some numbers to look at the performance of charter schools as well as the effects of poverty and minority status. The bottom line? The numbers tell us we should question the state's increasing emphasis on charter schools because as a group they underperform traditional public schools

  • FreeSpiritMan
    January 29, 2013 at 12:37 p.m.

    People Just watch the movies "The Ron Clark Story" and "Freedow Writers" both are based on actual events and facts and public education in triditional schools.
    Those that do not deal in facts need not watch, because you may feel these movies are a conspiricy of the left.

  • Populist
    January 29, 2013 at 12:55 p.m.

    Maumelle Hog is correct. Good schools should not be a Democratic or Republican issue. Everybody should want good schools. Instead of listening to a former governor of a state with mediocre schools, why don't we take lessons from one of the best school districts in the country? Montgomery County, Maryland is one of the best schools systems in the country, and they will sell their curriculum which is targeted from everybody from rockets scientists down to those who are barely literate. Hire people to teach the curriculum instead of employing numerous lawyers and administrators. The curriculum works because it sets high standards for young people and moves them up the ranks. Ignore the teachers' unions. Adopt a system in which problem teachers are put on notice, given additional training, and fired by the principal if they cannot teach. Teachers can appeal dismissal to a board consisting of half teachers and half principals. Hire some new people from successful school systems. Move the kids who excel into advanced classes and keep teaching the basics to those who don't. If a kid cannot do the work, have them repeat a grade until they get it. Flood the schools with computers and computer classes. Teach the kids anatomy and health from an early age. Technology job and jobs in medicine are in high demand. Have free educational summer camps which will keep the kids from losing education progress over the summer. Stop spending money on guns for Game & Fish employees and every other bureaucrat in the state and start spending on the schools. Then, we won't have to have a bond issue to finance a new business; businesses will want to come to Arkansas.

  • Whippersnapper
    January 29, 2013 at 1:02 p.m.

    Hey BS, how about citing real studies? Here's one that specifically declares that Arkansas is among the list of "States with significantly higher learning gains for charter school students than would have occurred in traditional schools". In the study, five states' charter schools did better (including Arkansas), six states did worse, and four saw "mixed results or were no different than the gains for traditional school peers."
    ht tp://credo.stanford. edu/reports/MULTIPLE_CHOICE_CREDO.pdf
    Furthermore, let's look at some of the conclusions:
    "The academic success of charter school students was found to be affected by the contours of the charter policies under which their schools operate."
    "States that have limits on the number of charter schools permitted to operate, known as caps, realize significantly lower academic growth than states without caps, around .03 standard deviations."
    "However, charter schools are found to have better academic growth results for students in poverty."
    "English Language Learners realize significantly better learning gains in charter schools."
    And here is the kicker:
    "Students do better in charter schools over time.  First year charter students on average
    experience a decline in learning, which may reflect a combination of mobility effects and
    the experience of a charter school in its early years.  Second and third years in charter
    schools see a significant reversal to positive gains."
    So, Charter Schools are working in Arkansas. Charter schools work well with poor kids and non-English speaking kids. The longer you leave kids in charter schools, the better they do. Which part of this makes it sound like they are a really bad idea for us here in Arkansas? Oh yeah, none of it.

  • RonalFos
    January 29, 2013 at 1:05 p.m.

    Charter schools most of the time are nothing more than desegregation by another name. This is how white people get away from minorities they don't like.

    January 29, 2013 at 1:31 p.m.

    Who the hell cares what Jeb Bush says anyway? Not Me.

  • Populist
    January 29, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.


    You are right that the CREDO study concluded that Arkansas kids were doing better in the Charter schools than their public. In most states, that is not the case. Apparently, when your schools are SO BAD, there is only one way to go and that is up. The one thing that Charters can do, which public schools in Arkansas cannot, is to fire bad teachers. Public schools systems such as Montgomery County Maryland which can fire their teachers are doing fine. The public schools in Arkansas will improve when they adopt better standards for training or firing bad teachers and when they adopt a more rigorous curriculum for those who excel and teach at a more remedial level for those who do not.