Former Gov. Jeb Bush was greeted at Florida TaxWatch‘s annual meeting as a returning hero. The Republican took the stage at a Coral Gables hotel blocks from his home and reveled at a list of conservative accomplishments achieved during his eight years in the Governor’s Mansion.
But then he delivered a staunch warning to those in celebration mode and a concern that success has borne complacency.
“We’re resting on our laurels,” Bush told the crowd.
Both the organization and the former Governor expressed pride not only at fiscal policies launched during his administration, but that subsequent Governors have stayed that course. Bush won election as Governor in 1998, two years after Republicans won full control of the Legislature for the first time. No Democrat has won election as Governor since, nor have Republicans lost control of either chamber of the Legislature.
“We are on a roll here in Florida,” he said. “It is a place where freedom reigns supreme, where we don’t shut down because of some ideology, where our universities are increasingly being ranked at the top of the country.”
But he said the state still has problems that remain unsolved, and some that will spring up if policy arenas don’t receive continued attention. Namely, the property insurance marketplace remains a mess, and education reform is far from complete.
The latter, in particular, seemed a stinging assessment, as a grading system implemented when Bush served as Governor shows an increase in A-rated schools. But he said shifting standards mean many students coming out of A-rated schools still cannot show grade-level reading proficiency in 3rd grade, a critical threshold for ensuring future success.
“At least 50% of our kids are functionally illiterate or close to it, and we’re proud about that?” he said. “We have these schools for kids who don’t graduate from high school because they can’t pass the comprehensive test. And certainly if they pass, they can get a diploma because 90% do, but they’re not qualified to go to college and they’re not qualified to get a job. It’s time to double our efforts across the board.”
Bush today serves as Chair of ExcelInEd, a non-profit pushing for education reform across the country. He said it troubles him that even many reforms passed while he was Governor still are not fully enforced.
As an example, he said the state during his tenure banned “whole language” reading, as opposed to phonetic reading. The approach, which encourages identification of whole words rather than learning to sound them out, is one Bush considers an “insidious way to teach kids how to read.”
He argued it’s particularly harmful to low-income students, whose parents don’t have time to supplement “whole language” instruction by teaching kids at home how to sound words out. Yet 26 Florida counties still have curricula that include the practice.
“We should stop this insidious idea that you can guess what the words are rather than teach kids how to read,” he said.
Bush also expressed dismay that property insurance remained a challenge, and attributed that largely to the state’s litigious climate.
“Our property insurance system sucks,” he said. “We have 7% of the property insurance premiums in the country and something like 70% of the claims. You all ought to demand that the trial lawyers that have taken advantage of this and the adjusters that are taking advantage of this system, take a backseat. Then we let the property insurance owners actually have a fighting chance to afford their homes.”
Bush continues to preach stridently conservative views, and Florida TaxWatch awarded that effort by giving Bush its Florida TaxWatch Founder Sen. Philip D. Lewis Award for Outstanding Public Leadership.
But notably, Bush also closed on an assertion that politics has become too bitter a fight and too tribal an arena. He suggested many challenges during his tenure that were not based in ideology. Issues with the Department of Children and Families, he argued, could only be addressed by bringing public leaders from all sides together. That becomes increasingly difficult to do each day, Bush said.
That’s partly the fault of the politically engaged, and he encouraged all in the room to expose themselves to the viewpoints of others.
“If you’re conservative, and probably most of you here are, force yourself to read The New York Times,” he said. “I subscribe. It’s expensive. But it’s worth doing because you get a different view that may make you change some of your thoughts. And it will give you a sense that these people may be wrong, but they’re not enemies. And if you’re liberal, watch Tucker Carlson from time to time.”
Too often, he said, modern society allows people to only socialize and discuss policy with those who hold similar points of view, but such tribalism leads only to division and closing minds to any ideas of those perceived as on the other side.
“We need to get back to the idea that we’re all in it together,” he said.
December 2, 2022 at 9:37 am
Typical, It was his policies and approaches to compromise a majority of the time with Teachers, Lawyers, school boards, etc.,
and now wants to pretend he is concerned?
He hasn’t changed. He’s doing exactly what he did in the past to get us to this place of evil in the justice system, education, and family life.
Talking with fake outrage, then having dinners, lunches, and golf outings with the people responsible for this mess.
December 2, 2022 at 10:14 am
BINGO to the above poster. Jeb and his ilk are the problem.
December 3, 2022 at 8:11 am
December 2, 2022 at 10:30 am
I have a warning for Florida too.
There is a literal Neo-Nazi living in Mar-a-Lago, and he wants to try and run for President again in 2024. All Republicans who support Trump now are supporting Nazis. He literally had two self-proclaimed Nazis over for dinner. And as the head of the Republican party, I can only assume ALL Republicans are Nazis until they prove otherwise.
December 6, 2022 at 4:58 am
Ahhhh…. Guilty by association…. Does that work for liberals as well??? Cause if so you certainly believe that all the known associates of Jeffery Epstein are rapists and pedophiles…… regardless of political affiliation I might add.
Many people who have agendas I do not prescribe to have sat at my table…. That does not make me part of who they are…….
December 2, 2022 at 10:53 am
Freedom my azz. Freedom for the rich and freedom t-shirts for everyone else. Bound to end up badly. Also mucho corruption in Florida.
December 2, 2022 at 11:24 am
Today’s overall economic outlook for the USA is looking better than it was two years ago.
Unemployment is 3.7% , the average American worker salary is up over 5% to $32.00 per hour., inflation is beginning to show stability, the Fed admitted that their prior policies of very low interest rates attributed to inflation, and finally the USA report 10,000,000 unfilled jobs …. and that is a huge problem.
Only Florida and Arizona have authorized and encouraged K1-12 schools to hire College students with a minimum of two years of College education. Low educator annual salaries coupled with draconian government education policies will take a decade to fix. Meanwhile Florida students suffer ….. especially when their parents move to a northern State and find out that their Florida six grader matriculates as a fourth grader in New England.
Another problem for Florida is the lack of affordable housing for hospitality workers that has resulted in shuttered businesses. A business owner on Lincoln Road Mall can’t afford to stay open for four to six hours a day….. when employees are available.
December 2, 2022 at 12:36 pm
We in Florida pay one of the highest auto insurance rates in the country. Governor DeSantis and the republican packed state congress it’s time to do something about that.
December 2, 2022 at 1:45 pm
Get yourself some insurance from The General. Best company and cheapest even here in Florida.
December 2, 2022 at 3:57 pm
This is a major problem with the damn no fault insurance that needs to disappear
December 2, 2022 at 4:48 pm
Florida’s per capita automobile crash death rate is higher than California!
Florida has the most active automobile accident lawsuit claim rates in the USA.
Expect nothing to change!
December 2, 2022 at 3:21 pm
Jeb is right about phonics.
December 2, 2022 at 6:05 pm
But we’re not all in this together, low energy Jeb. You just want conservatives to bend over for your criminal family that your daddy started. Not gonna happen. Your family is over. We must Make America Great Again! Vote for me in 2024
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