Go big or go home. That was the message Wednesday from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to Texas lawmakers. Bush testified before a senate education committee about how reforms he brought to Florida could be done here in Texas.
The Texas Senate chamber became the main stage Wednesday morning for what's becoming a high stakes school reform debate.
Jeb Bush, the former Republican Governor of Florida and brother of former Texas Governor George Bush talked about the lessons he learned while leading an education overhaul in the Sunshine State.
"If you're going to create tough love policies then you need to fund them. And you need to put the priorities there, I mean to me that is essential you want to create strategies of success you don't want to create continued failure," Bush testified during the hearing.
Bush, who was Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, was invited to testify by Senate Education Committee chairman Dan Patrick. The Houston Republican is pushing his own school reform package. The two conservative leaders say the Florida model can work in Texas beginning with expanding charter schools and allowing school choice, which is the new label for vouchers.
"It has been the catalytic convertor if you will of the kind of learning games that we've experienced. It has really created a sense of urgency that if parents are given other choices other than the failed they're forced to have that those failed options get better pretty quick," said Bush.
According to Bush, who now leads The Foundation for Excellence in Education, claims graduation rates and test scores improved in his state? Some conservatives called it the Florida miracle but officials with the Texas State Teachers Association say that miracle is based more on hype than reality.
"It just shows that you can experiment with a lot of these privatization schemes but they're all unproven, they continue to drain money away from the traditional public schools where the vast majority of children in Texas and Florida will continue to be educated," said TSTA Spokesperson Clay Robison.
The idea of improving classroom conditions by introducing competition to the education funding process is endorsed by business leaders like Bill Hammond.
"For 100 years or more, the man stood in the door and said you can't come in, now the man is standing in the door saying you can't get out, of a failed school, and that's wrong and unfortunate, the dollars should follow the kids," said Hammond.
With Republicans in control of both chambers under the state capitol dome there is a good chance all or part of the Florida model will come up for a floor debate.
In sidebar issues Bush didn't have much to say when asked if he'd like to comment about the decision in Florida to expand Medicaid.
"No. I just don't want to get in trouble back home," said Bush who has been mentioned once again as a possible contender for the GOP Presidential nomination. When asked about a run for the White House in 2016, Bush did not dismiss it, but said it was too soon to make a decision about launching a Presidential Bid.