revisitED – Jeb Bush: Information is power for low-income parents

David Hudson Tuthill

Editor’s note: Today, redefinED continues to review pieces published previously on school accountability. This post, which originally appeared in June 2016, features former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in an interview conducted by a student who attended school on a tax credit scholarship.

Jeb and Denisha screenshot

Denisha Merriweather interviews former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on school choice, education politics and more.

All parents should have access to “consumer reports” on schools in their area — public or private, magnet or charter — and be able to choose among them. Once their children are enrolled in a school, they should get meaningful updates on how well they’re doing.

It might seem simple, but for too many parents, that’s not how the school system works, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says in a new interview.

The former Florida governor has returned to his role as chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and has recently begun outlining a national education agenda.

He sat down recently in his Miami office with Denisha Merriweather, a former tax credit scholarship student, who is now seeking a master’s degree in social work at the University of South Florida. (Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer the scholarship program.)

Merriweather asked how schools could help low-income parents make better decisions about where to send their children.

“There ought to be a report card for any school that has any government money, directly or indirectly, going to it, and the report card ought to be easy to understand,” Bush said.

Parents, he said, should also receive detailed information on how well their children are doing, not just in subjects like reading and math, but on other skills like staying on task.

This might seem like an obvious prescription. But only a few school systems in the country have created the kind of system that really allows parents to make informed choices from the full range of potential options. In communities like New Orleans, which have created such systems, parents often take the opportunity to shop around, and many choose move their children to different schools.

“That information is not available for most parents, particularly for low-income parents. But if they had it, they’d make the right choice for their kids, all the time,” Bush said. “I trust a parent, irrespective of their level of income, over a massive school district. It’s not that the people inside the school systems are bad, but they’re not the parent. They’re not the mom.”

“We should already be doing this,” he added. “This is 2016, for crying out loud … We have the tools to do this. The system resists it, because there’s a lot of economic interests at stake.”

See Bush’s full answer in the clip below.

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