Republicans rediscover education

The GOP in Washington might
not yet have its ducks in a row
when it comes to education policy,
Republicans at the state level are a whole different story. These
renegade reformers—Tony Bennett and Chris
Christie immediately spring to mind—all have something in common: the
man who serves as their education mentor. We
refer, of course, to Jeb Bush—who has stepped into the fore of the
national education-reform
movement with his Foundation for Excellence in Education. While the
governor of
Florida, Bush brought a rigorous accountability system to the state,
charter schools and school-choice options, launched a far-reaching
virtual-school program, and fostered early experiments with performance
pay. Now, Bush
has emerged as a thought leader on issues ranging from school choice to
education, and has been acting as a sounding board for policymakers
across the
country, offering counsel on the nitty-gritty of policy and pointers on
how to
sell controversial proposals to elected officials and the public. And
his soap-box
audience is growing, as more and more state Republicans see education
reform as
a necessary means to a right-sized budget. From Maine
to Minnesota,
newly elected officials are taking to the podium to limit union power, rethink
Cadillac benefits, and restructure teacher-tenure legislation. With their increased
power and influence following the recent November elections—at least six
states, Ohio among them, boast a Republican governor, Senate, and House—don’t
be surprised to see major reforms pushed through on the coattails of the budget
crisis. And don’t be surprised if many of those reforms look as if they were
born in Florida.

States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions
,” by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, January 3, 2011.