Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett cites former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a major influence on his approach to policy and politics in a recent Education Week article.
“He’s had an incredible influence on me, because he knows exactly what to do and how to get it done,” Bennett tells writer Sean Cavanaugh. “He wore what he believed would change the system on his sleeve, and he really invited the debate.”
Bush, a younger brother of President George W. Bush, served as Florida’s governor from 1999-2007. He established the Foundation for Excellence in Education after leaving office. He disavows speculation that he may someday run for president, Education Week says.
The article focuses on Bush’s shift from governing the fourth most populous state to being a national leader on education. It identifies Indiana as one of the states where “lawmakers and officeholders say they are determined to follow the ambitious and often polarizing education blueprint fashioned by Mr. Bush.”
That includes promoting charter schools, taking aggressive steps to turn around low-performing schools, evaluating teachers on student test scores gains, and grading schools on an A-to-F system. It also includes taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay for some students to attend private schools. Florida adopted a voucher program under Bush but the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 2006.
In November, Bennett joined state education leaders from Rhode Island, Louisiana, Florida and Virginia to form Chiefs for Change to push for ambitious state-level reforms. The group was launched at a summit sponsored by Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.