Jeb Bush’s Education Foundation Offering Online Courses Promoting Common Core

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Potential 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush has made it clear that he will continue his support for the controversial Common Core standards initiative, despite the fact that the conservative base of the GOP is overwhelmingly opposed to it.

Bush’s education foundation, in fact, is offering online courses for policy-makers focusing on how to promote the idea that the standards are necessary for national security, why data collection is essential, and how to win over parents, teachers, and citizens in the education reform conversation.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Bush, and he served as its chair up until a couple of months ago, when he turned the reins of the foundation’s board over to Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.

As the New York Times also reported, Bush’s foundation is now offering three free online courses, including one titled “Securing Our Nation’s Future: The Urgent Need for Education Reform.” The course’s description poses the question of whether America’s greatest risk to its security is “located within its own borders.”

The objectives of the course are to “recognize and explain the causes of the current US education crisis” and its effect on National Security; to “communicate a clear understanding of why heightened accountability, standards, and meaningful assessments are critical education reform initiatives;” and to explore “solutions that can be adopted at the state level to strengthen education.”

Instructors for this course include Patricia Levesque, CEO of Bush’s foundation; board member Joel Klein, now CEO of Amplify, a digital learning subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp; Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White; former Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman; Arizona parent Kathy Visser; and John King, Jr., now a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Education and formerly the New York State Education Commissioner.

Ironically, King’s bio credits him as being a “driving force in New York’s successful Race to the Top application.” In a recent op-ed, however, Bush attempted to deflect some criticism from conservatives of his pro-Common Core stance by suddenly showing disdain for the fact that the Obama administration did incentivize states to adopt the nationalized standards, and claiming that the “federal government’s role in elementary and secondary education should be limited.”

“[T]he Obama administration has issued a patchwork of waivers and side deals, given out by fiat and without consistency,” Bush wrote. “No wonder parents and state and local leaders question Washington’s motives when it comes to our schools.”

Six years ago, however, Bush was wholeheartedly supporting the “patchwork of waivers” from the federal No Child Left Behind law and the offering of federal grant money from Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill (Race to the Top) as he urged states to adopt the standards.

The description of Bush’s foundation’s online Data Privacy course – which is co-sponsored by the Data Quality Campaign – starts out by emphasizing how crucial data collection is for improving student outcomes.

“Whether it is informing improved instruction, empowering parents and communities, or helping policymakers make decisions and target resources, our education system needs data in order to continuously improve,” the course description states. “In order to create a culture of trust that enables effective data use, policymakers and education professionals must ensure that the public has confidences that state and local leaders act to protect student data privacy.”

Communications Boot Camp: Winning the Ed Reform Conversation” is the third free online course offered by Bush’s foundation.

“How we talk about reform, how we deliver our messages, and with whom we communicate will make a big difference when it comes to winning the education reform conversation,” the course description states.

The objectives of this course are to “create, identify and explain effective messages in advancing education reform;” “develop an effective communications strategy and tactics…” and “clearly communicate the need for education reform…and refine messaging to different audiences.”

Among the instructors for “Communications Boot Camp” are Katie Harbath, Global Politics and Government Outreach Manager at Facebook, “where she focuses on political outreach,” and Aaron Lichtig, Head of Industry at Google.

Earlier in the month, Bush staunchly defended his support for the Common Core initiative in New Hampshire, touting his persistence and “backbone” to a Nashua Chamber of Commerce business roundtable.

According to the Times, “Mr. Bush’s recent comments, in which he said standing by his support for Common Core shows “backbone,” indicate that his future views won’t diverge in a big way from what his foundation is teaching.”


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