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Flailing in the polls, Jeb Bush returns to his education policy roots to grab momentum
Former governor lays out ambitious school choice and college empowerment education plan in bid to get a new look from conservative GOP base. - photo by Eric Schulzke
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is still struggling to get traction in a weird year for GOP nominating politics, has laid out an ambitious education plan that includes some truly innovative proposals, especially as to how college is paid for.

The plan, he says on his website, would be a complete overhaul of a system from one that serves bureaucracies to one that serves the needs of families and students and is based on four conservative principles: 1) education decisions should be made as close to the student as possible; 2) choice of all kinds should be expanded, 3) transparency is essential to accountability; and 4) innovation requires flexibility."

The most truly innovative piece of Bush's proposal is a $50,000 line of credit that all graduating high school seniors would have access to and which they would repay based on how much of it they used and how much they earned over the next 25 years.

Writing in Forbes, Michael Horne calls this the "blockbuster element" of Bush's plan.

"This would not be in the form of debt," Horne writes. "Instead, students would repay this line of credit by contributing a percentage of their incomes proportional to the amount spent no more than 1 percent for every $10,000 through their federal income taxes for 25 years. No matter how successful, no student would repay more than 1.75 times the amount spent."

As usually is the case with candidate platforms, the value of Bush's proposal is not necessarily in whether he gets elected, which seems increasingly unlikely. Rather, the platform announcement provides a bully pulpit to inject ideas into the public discourse.

In Bush's case, education has long been his primary policy focus. As governor of Florida, he oversaw a massive and controversial educational transformation focused on school and teacher accountability, standardized testing and a broad expansion of school choice.

But Bush's education legacy has also been a liability in the GOP primary. He was an early and vocal supporter of the Common Core, which became something of a third rail for the Republican base in recent years. And his support to standardized testing also has generated pushback from both teachers and parents.

Its not the mom-and-pop, apple-pie agenda it was several years ago, Jeffrey Henig, a professor of political science and education at Columbia Universitys Teachers College, told Politico's Stephanie Simon. The appearance of consensus around an ed reform agenda has taken some shots and is bruising.

"Some of the bruising," Simon writes, "comes from the realization, among policy-makers and parents alike, that its tough to come up with truly objective measures of school and student performance, no matter how much Bush and other reformers talk about data-driven accountability."
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