Jeb Bush‘s prominent and idiosyncratic views on education are liable to make or break his presidential ambitions, writes Alec MacGillis in The New Yorker. Few people doubt that he’s developed an expertise on the subject. But whether his public policy conclusions will alienate Republican primary voters is another question altogether:
Dan Gelber, a Democrat who served in the Florida legislature, recalls an e-mail debate with Bush about the rating system for test scores. ‘We ended up having this very esoteric exchange, and I remember thinking, He either has a roomful of experts writing these e-mails or he really knows something.’
… Bush, a longtime technophile, saw in virtual schools the same revolutionary potential to expand choice that he had seen in vouchers and charters. Unions consider virtual schooling ‘an even bigger threat than vouchers because it’s such a disruptive idea,’ he told National Review. In 2010, he convened a ‘digital learning council’ that included virtual-school executives from around the country. It issued a report urging states to adopt industry-friendly measures, such as eliminating limits on virtual-school enrollment. Several states proceeded to do so.
As the educational policy victories began to accumulate for Bush, so did the cash.
By 2011, Bush had joined Academic Partnerships as an investor and an adviser, and he became the company’s highest-profile champion. Best told the Washington Post that Bush’s annual salary was sixty thousand dollars, but he did not disclose the terms of Bush’s investment stake. For the first time, Bush was making money in an educational enterprise. But Campbell, Bush’s spokeswoman, is careful to draw a distinction between his work for Academic Partnerships and his education advocacy, noting that Academic Partnerships is involved in higher education, not K-12 schools.
In the final analysis:
Bush’s decision to walk away from his business interests suggested that he had heard the call of duty. ‘It’s not easy,” [former RPOF Chairman Al] Cardenas said, but “there are lots of things you do for your country—and this is one of them.’