LANSING (WWJ-TV) – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is blazing a trail across the nation as he talks of education reform and believes the future is digital with states that embrace technology leading the way.
“Those states that get out front and utilize technology will see the biggest gains,” Bush during an exclusive interview as part of a “Michigan Matters” special airing this Sunday.
He appeared on the show along with Gov. Rick Snyder, Grand Rapids business woman Betsy DeVos, Michigan Education Association President Iris Salters, Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson and others.
Bush, who served as governor of the Sunshine State from 1999 to 2007, founded The Foundation for Excellence in Education.
He has been a much-in-demand speaker in states searching for ideas on reform.
The 58-year-old younger brother of former President George W. Bush and son of President George H. W, Bush, was invited to Lansing by legislators. He also met with Gov. Rick Snyder who is trying to revamp public education.
Snyder laid out a plan in April that included changes involving merit pay, teacher tenure, charter schools, online learning and more. And more change lies ahead with things like early childhood development getting greater attention.
“I’m very impressed,” Bush said of Snyder’s dashboard of educational plans. “It’s a comprehensive sweep of reforms rather than just one thing.”
Digital learning is paramount to Snyder as well.
Bush, who also enacted major education reform during his time as governor, will unveil a national report card in October with a breakout of states on using digital.
Others agree the future of education is online.
“We can reinvent education to personalize learning, offer opportunities in and out of school, prepare kids for the hyper-competitive global economy and opportunities for international collaborations,” said Glen Taylor, co-executive director of WAY — Widening Advancement for Youth which is based in Belleville, Michigan.
Taylor and Beth Baker, who co-founded the program, are expanding in Florida.
Tom Watkins, former state school superintendent and global consultant, has been talking of reform in things like early education and online learning for years.
He wrote a comprehensive report on e-learning The New Education (R)evolution.
“Digital/e-learning will change everything including the need for the classroom,” Watkins said.
“With technology, learning is no longer confined to the six hour school day, the four walls of a classroom or covers of a book,” he added.
He worked with Bush in creating Florida’s first charter school. And he also helped create the first charter school in Michigan in the 1990s.
Betsy DeVos, Grand Rapids businesswoman and longtime advocate for vouchers and school choice, is involved with several education foundations such as American Federation For Children interested in advancing those ideas.
“We have an opportunity to do something unique here,” she said. “Michigan is behind other states but with some bold moves we can not only catch up but leapfrog them.”
Bush also talked about unions and in his view they impede progress on reform.
“They are there to protect their members and the status quo,” he said.
But Keith Johnson, president of the DFT, said much of the so-called reforms including legislation in Lansing is about “breaking the union” and has nothing to do with improving the classroom.
Speaking of moves, Bush also talked of the 2012 presidential race where some are hoping he might have a change of heart and toss his hat into the ring on the GOP side.
“I intend to support whoever the party decides should be the nominee,” he said, adding it would not be him.
Bush dodged questions about 2016, saying he hoped the GOP candidate prevails and that “man or woman would then be seeking re-election in 2016.”
Watch the “Michigan Matters: Education” special 11 a.m. Sunday on WWJ-TV CBS Detroit.
You can reach Carol Cain at 248-355-7126 or via email. Read her columns on business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press.