Jeb Bush’s Deep Pocketed Education Efforts Could Rile GOP Voters

Jeb Bush
Gage Skidmore
Washington, DC

A foundation started by GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush paid approximately “$3 million in 2013 and 2014 to a public affairs firm headed by a top political adviser, Mike Murphy,” according to a Wall Street Journal report. The effort seems linked to the type of top-down, federal control of America’s education system Republicans and especially conservatives consistently and strongly oppose.

This could prove to be a major obstacle for Bush in a general election, even if he were to succeed in raising enough establishment dollars to dominate his party’s primary.

While rank and file Republicans have been fighting top-down federal control of America’s education system, Jeb Bush appears to have been consistently working for that very goal. He’s been raising and spending millions of dollars, with political and now campaign teams, to achieve his educational goals.

More via the WSJ – Team Bush seemed reluctant to respond even to the usual friendly Journal when it reached out on the subject:

Mr. Murphy is a partner at Revolution Agency in Alexandria, Va., which ran the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Learn More, Go Further campaign marking the 15th anniversary of the former governor’s education overhaul. Mr. Murphy is also a top adviser to Right to Rise, the political committee that has been collecting millions of dollars since January as Mr. Bush explores a potential bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Top donors to the foundation include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, GE Foundation, and News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal.

The foundation reported $11.4 million in revenue for 2013, up from $10 million the previous year. Expenses rose to $10.4 million from $5.9 million the previous year because of increases in staff, outside contracts and educational research and grants provided to states. The foundation has expanded from working with three states in 2008 to 43 states in 2013 on issues including digital learning, school grades, literacy, teacher training and charter schools.

The state-by-state effort and millions of dollars spent, along with the connections above are made all the more damning by a recent Newsweek op-ed that points out precisely what Jeb’s focus on education is helping to accomplish. It flies directly in the face of everything conservatives and even moderate Republicans once opposed – top down federal government control of the American education system with programs such as Common Core. As the CATO Institute’s Neal McCluskey writes:

Jeb’s Schools Plan Means More Federal Control

In a Washington Post op-ed laying out his thoughts on the federal role in education, Governor Jeb Bush wrote, “We are long overdue in setting the lines of authority so clearly.” Alas, the lines he offered would furnish just the sort of “clarity” that has led to nearly limitless federal control over schooling without any meaningful evidence of lasting improvement.

All of this is what has gotten us to the de facto state of federal control we are currently in:

“Transparency” has come to mean federally driven tests and curriculum standards—the Common Core—because under No Child Left Behind states had been defining “proficiency” for themselves, and it wasn’t sufficiently “transparent” for some people whether “proficient” kids in Mississippi were as educated as those in Massachusetts. Of course, you can’t have much more complete federal control than Washington deciding what students are taught.

Supporting policies with “a proven record” opens the door for any policies politicians declare “proven.” See, for instance, the rhetoric vs. the reality of pre-K education programs.

Making sure states “can’t ignore students who need extra help” has also been used to justify national standards and tests. Indeed, it underlies everything Washington does. Sayeth federal politicians, “Some groups aren’t doing so well, and since we spend money to end that we’d better dictate terms. So let’s connect to all that money to school nutrition guidelines, teacher evaluations, English and math content, school opening times…”

In effect, a would be 2016 GOP nominee (said to be supported by many GOP establishment donors because of his family ties) routinely spends millions of dollars on programs loathed by the Republican voting base through his foundation work. That is not the kind of candidate who will create the kind of enthusiasm required to beat Hillary Clinton, or possibly some other Democrat, in 2016.