Policy: Former Florida governor says governments must demand greater accountability from schools


MONCTON – Former Florida governor Jeb Bush says New Brunswick could attract investors and create high-paying jobs by focusing on an educated workforce.


Bush, viewed as a leading advocate for educational reform and improving student success in his home state, said a focus on education will also sustain traditional professions.

“Creating communities with really talented young people that have gained the power of knowledge through a rigorous education is probably the single most important thing over the long haul to create wealth on a sustained basis,” Bush said in an interview with the Telegraph-Journal. “I think it’s wise for the provinces to focus on this as a high priority.”

Bush added: “I would just urge bolder thinking about it, not to be tied to a 1950s business model for education since we are living in 2010 with the innovation that is taking place.”

The two-term governor of Florida, son of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush, and the younger brother of former president George W. Bush, was in Moncton Tuesday evening as the guest speaker at the 15th anniversary dinner of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

The regional think-tank is also pushing for greater accountability for Atlantic schools and annually issues a high school report card to grade the success of regional institutions.

After leaving office in 2007, Bush started the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a not-for-profit education think-tank headquartered in Tallahassee, Fla.

The foundation’s view is that when they are provided a high-quality education, students will receive the skills to succeed in a global marketplace.

Its mission affirms that an educated workforce would attract investors and in turn create a more prosperous state.

“The stereotype about the knowledge-based industry is that everyone has to be in the knowledge-based sector,” Bush said.

“And that’s not a bad place to be, but every sector has a knowledge-based component to it.

“If you’re the world leader in fisheries, there are ways to enhance productivity that are taking place here and you need skilled workers to be able to do that.

“The potential for applying technologies that require skilled workers is enormous.”

In Miramichi on Tuesday, Premier Shawn Graham delivered a speech on education in celebration of an area school’s designation as a SMART showcase community – one that uses new technologies as teaching tools.

“Harnessing technology is vital to our success because technology enables us to be innovative,” Graham said.

“And being innovative is the way to adapt to the changes caused by globalization.

“I believe adapting to change is a hallmark of the most successful businesses, communities, provinces, states, and even countries.”

While New Brunswick has one of the lowest literacy rates in Canada, Bush said Florida was in a similar position south of the border but jumped from third-last place in the U.S. to within the top 10 for elementary school literacy during his administration.

The success was garnered in spite of a budget below the average of state spending on education.

Bush credits the implementation of bold moves, including a system that rewards teachers financially for the improvement and success of their students.

Schools also receive greater funding in relation to student success levels compared to results of standardized testing.

In his evening speech, Bush said a higher standard of education can be achieved through more rigorous standards of learning, a robust accountability system, a healthy injection of competition from neighbouring schools, rewarding teacher effectiveness and an embrace of technology.

“This is about the survival of the standard of living that we take for granted,” Bush said.

“If we want to maintain the entitled programs that we have and if we want to have any chance of living the comfortable life that we have, we have to transform our education system.”