Jeb Bush’s Waterloo

Be careful what you set your heart upon–for it will surely be yours.

When he wrote the above line the great James Baldwin, who’s A Talk to Teachers should be required reading in every school of education, was doing a riff on the age-old warning to be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.

Jeb Bush has dreamed his whole political life of plunging a dagger in the heart of public education. His fond hopes were probably best confessed in his second inaugural address as Florida’s governor in 2003. Bush told the rapt crowd gathered to hail him, “There will be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society than if we can make these buildings around us empty of workers; as silent monuments to the time when government played a larger role than it deserved or could adequately fill.” Bush could already see it in his mind’s eye. Yes, school buildings empty of teachers, monuments to an abandoned American crusade for universal public education.

On August 9, 2010 at 2:26 a.m., the Florida House of Representatives voted Jeb Bush closer to his life’s dream than he has ever been. At the very same moment they destroyed it. Jeb Bush, like Icarus, has finally flown too close to the sun. A sleeping giant has been roused.

Jeb Bush’s Waterloo comes at the end of a long road.

First give the man his due. He is brilliant. As a youth he sensed how important US relations with Latin America would become and he made the region the focus of his studies in college. He foresaw how important Spanish-speaking immigrant voters would someday be and he made himself fluent in the language and took a Mexican woman as his bride. Early in the movement he sensed the political power of Christian fundamentalism and so he began pretending to be a man of faith.

He would have been President of the United States before his brother George but the first time Jeb Bush ran for governor in 1994 he lost. During the campaign Bush was asked by reporters what his administration might do for Black Floridians. He made a tactical blunder. He gave an honest answer. He said, “Probably nothing”. Jeb Bush got 4% of the African-American vote and Lawton Chiles beat him in a close race.

Nothing if not politically astute, during his second run for governor in 1998 Bush teamed up with the conservative African-American Director of the Urban League of Greater Miami, T. Willard Fair, to establish Florida’s first ever charter school in Miami’s iconic Black community Liberty City. The Liberty Charter School served as an effective campaign prop for Bush and he received 17% of the Black vote this time around. Soon after taking office Bush severed his ties with Liberty Charter and appointed T. Willard Fair to the Florida Board of Education where he remains to this day giving slavish devotion to a man who he once told, “In my judgment, there is no greater person on this Earth than you. I love you.”

Ultimately when historic Liberty Charter School failed and closed its doors due to a lack of ,The Miami Herald sought reaction from Bush. He wrote back, “I am not aware of what this is about.”

Jeb Bush’s political modus operandi has always been to divide the people in the service of his only true constituency—wealthy business interests. That sliver of Florida’s population has always found the public school system to be little more than a boondoggle where billions of dollars escape their clutches. So throughout his first term as governor Jeb Bush relentlessly pounded on public schools with voucher programs, charter school promotion, merit pay plans, standardized testing schemes, larger classes and less money for schools struggling with poverty and deprivation.

In 2002 Florida voters were asked to consider the re-election of Jeb Bush and the Class-Size Amendment to the state Constitution on the same ballot. Both Bush and class-size reduction won. Jeb Bush graciously accepted the will of the voters that he serve a second term as governor but never stopped scheming to reverse the class-size mandate.

Florida Today reported, “Gov. Jeb Bush rolled out of bed the morning after his re-election party with a class-size headache.” The pain had been delivered by now U.S. Representative Kendrick Meek. As the most prominent public face of Florida’s Coalition to Reduce Class Size, Rep. Meek had won the first in a series of epic political battles to genuinely improve public schools. It became a series of battles after Gov. Bush refused to accept the will of Florida’s voters. Commenting on that, Rep. Meek has said, “Floridians expect their governor to be up at night thinking of ways to improve the lives of their children – not hatching ‘devious’ plans to keep them trapped in overcrowded classes.” Meek’s reference to devious plans came from another occasion when Bush was caught telling the truth. He was unaware of a tape recorder in the room.

During the 2005 session of the Florida Legislature Bush hatched his plan to gut the Class-Size Amendment. It deviously pit rural school districts and teachers against the larger urban school districts. The idea never got out of the Legislature thanks to a principled Republican State Senator named Alex Villalobos. Bush’s retribution against him was swift and vindictive. Sen. Villalobos had been a champion of spinal cord research at the University of Miami and assistance to Miami Children’s Hospital. Funding for both of those projects was among $27 million in cuts directed at South Florida counties in Bush’s state budget that year. Apparently unsatisfied that the vetoes had chastened Villalobos, Bush engineered his political humiliation. The man who once was in line to become the first Cuban-born President of the Florida Senate was stripped of the majority leaders post and shown to his new office in the Capitol Building—a broom closet.

The same year, as the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments in yet another attempt to win private school vouchers, proto-typical Bush-backer, Tampa millionaire venture capitalist John Kirtley bused hundreds of school skipping children and their parents to Tallahassee to rally for the governor’s program. Many of the same parents and their children were recalled to the Capitol on February 15, 2006 to hear Gov. Bush announce that he would lead a drive to resurrect his thrice declared unconstitutional school voucher program by way of amending the Florida Constitution. With a sense of neither irony nor shame Jeb Bush told his predominantly African-American audience, “In Florida and the United States today, if you’ve got money you can make a choice. What about the children whose parents don’t have the ability based on income to make that choice? Don’t they have the same dreams? God gives every child the ability to learn. God does that!”

Although term limits forced Jeb Bush to give up his Tallahassee office at the end of 2006, it did not thwart his determination to keep the apparatus of state government under his control. To this day Gov. Charlie Crist can only dream of having as much influence over education policy in the state as Jeb Bush. Bush loyalists were left on the Florida Board of Education and throughout the Florida Department of Education bureaucracy. In 2007 his minions were shot through the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission which meets every twenty years and has the extraordinary power to go directly to the voters with amendments to the State Constitution. When his former chief of staff as governor, Patricia Levesque, got Bush’s anti-public schools wish list through the Commission, the two traded celebratory text messages.

Funny when State Senator John Thrasher from Jacksonville won passage of Senate Bill 6 he called Jeb Bush immediately too!

Public school teachers in Florida, 168,000 of them, have been frightened and confused by Jeb Bush’s success in the Legislature. They have had to ponder over how ideas so clearly absurd and destructive could win the votes of legislators. They have asked why rationality seems to hold no sway in this matter. The short answer is, of course, that money trumps reason in the Legislature. In fact, money trumps all! What Jeb Bush and the Chamber of Commerce and the builders and the developers want they get in the Florida Legislature.

But the teacher’s initial fear is giving way to something else. They are calling in sick in Miami-Dade. Their student allies are walking out of classrooms and into the streets in protest. Their parent allies have conducted a hunger strike and marched up and down the state on their behalf. Even if Gov. Crist fails to muster the courage to veto the teachers will stop whatever legislation Bush wins in the implementation phase. I know from a quarter century of teaching experience that we run the schools in practice and while we are deferential to authority we’re not suicidal. We will see to our survival and feed our families.

A sleeping giant has been roused.

Paul A. Moore is a teacher at Miami Carol City Senior High School. He can be contacted at: Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. MichaelKenny said on April 12th, 2010 at 10:17am #

    Something of an aside. If Jeb “sensed the political power of Christian fundamentalism”, why didn’t he become a Christian fundamentalist? In fact, he became a Catholic to marry his Mexican wife. Whether “love converts” like Jeb every really understand the Church’s teaching is open to doubt. I was taught in Catholic school, for example, that access to good education is part of the right to life (it’s one of the means of life). I doubt if Jeb ever learned that.

  2. kalidas said on April 12th, 2010 at 1:14pm #

    I remember an old adage, or two.
    One of them goes something like this… “when poverty knocks on the door, love flies out the window.”

  3. Case Wagenvoord said on April 13th, 2010 at 10:17am #

    Fundamentalism is not a purely Protestant phenomenum. It’s probably more ecumenical than a belief in Christian love.

    Another reason public education is under attack is that in many states the teacher unions are strong and viable. Unlike manufacturing, teaching can be shipped overseas, yet, so these unions have been able to hold on to their power, a power that in anathema to our oligarchs and their political lackeys.

  4. Don Hawkins said on April 13th, 2010 at 12:20pm #

    Someone on TV used Tree police let’s just use an example of the system. Much talk about how this last little downturn happened and in very simple terms it’s taking until there is no more to take. We are doing the same thing to the planet Earth that dot far away. It appears that human’s with that little bit bigger brain it didn’t help much as we move into old number six. Can I make that more simple hay has anybody seen any noise generators being warehoused in New York City does that ever come up at a cocktail party I wonder? Can’t happen it already did kind of a practice run on the dot. Oh remember the system tell’s us to take and then take some more I think they named it Capitalism this one lady wrote a book about it once and the reason John didn’t build the motor was? Sorry that’s not to bright oh it’s all a hoax is it well the people who say that should give us a little clue that it isn’t. Shocking and the Sun revolves around the Earth it’s just better that way nice cup of coffee game of checkers no new tax’s what about our kid’s how will they ever pay that back and my first thought is always’ the same, pathetic and not to bright. How those Yankees doing. We will not build the motor we will show you and off to the mountain in Colorado that’s not bright. So who is going to build the motor so to speak. The average person my grandson we kind of got ourselves in a little conundrum here the very system that got us here is now telling us to do what? Cup of coffee nice game of checkers. It just might be called stepping into the light. Maybe Jeb will run and win in 2012 check and mate mates.

  5. Don Hawkins said on April 13th, 2010 at 12:50pm #


    7,500 due for alternate climate conference in Bolivia
    (AFP) – 1 day ago

    LA PAZ — The alternative “people’s conference” on climate change called by socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales is expecting 7,500 delegates from more than 100 countries, officials said Monday.

    Among those set to attend the gathering in Cochabamba April 20-22 include Presidents Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, according to Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca.

    Named the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights, the gathering is intended to “give a voice to the people” on climate change after the perceived failure of the United Nations-sponsored Copenhagen summit on the same issue, organizers say.

    In addition to government leaders, those attending will include delegates from social movements and nongovernmental organizations.

    Organizers say they expect in attendance anti-globalization activists Naomi Klein of Canada and Jose Bove of France, and James Hansen, a US researcher who was among the first to warn about climate change. Also invited to the event was James Cameron, the Canadian-born director of the blockbuster film “Avatar.”

    Government delegations who attendance has been confirmed are from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Dominica, Antigua and Barbudas as well as St Vincent and the Grenadines, officials say.

    The conference will seek to refine proposals by Morales in Copenhagen including the creation of a world tribunal for climate issue and a global referendum on environmental choices.

    Chavez and Morales were among the harshest critics of the December 2009 Copenhagen conference, arguing that developing countries were largely ignored in the UN climate debate that set an objective for limiting global warming.

    Bolivia’s Environment Minister Juan Pablo Ramos said the Cochabamba conference may be “a major mobilization to fundamentally influence the next climate summit in Mexico in December.”

    Other delegates said the conference may be constructive.

    “The notion of more input from civil society is welcome,” said Luis Alfonso de Alba, who will be Mexico’s delegate to the Bolivia conference. “I believe that the meeting can produce positive results.”

    Brice Lalonde, the French delegate to the climate conference, added that “we have to talk with everyone.” afp

    We got Palin or Newt and can hardly wait for the commercials as we all go down the drain in not such slow motion. The truth the knowledge calm at peace.

  6. Don Hawkins said on April 14th, 2010 at 6:58am #

    The who’s who that makes the World go around at least for a few more years

  7. Don Hawkins said on April 14th, 2010 at 7:11am #

    You would think another way might be better.

  8. bozh said on April 14th, 2010 at 9:14am #

    Let’s tell evo, chavez, et al that during talkings they wash own clothes; in cold water; using a liter of water per item. They shld also bring their own food.
    When discussing things, they shld sit in a circle on rocks or grass.
    They cld cook own meals or selves make coffee or tea. And i hope they invite a whip like me to make sure they behave like any sane peasant wld!
    U knew, didn’t u, that peasants are the sanest and most honest people among us!? I am one those sane paesanos! Devil wld strike me death if i tried to teach his disciples in washing town washing own crimes with the help of the diavolo!
    Natch, evo and chavez need to learn to make own beds. I have done that. I make my own bed, but not everyday.
    I also bade in a ltr of water. So, once this is done, what more do we demand from them? Glory be to peasants! tnx

  9. Don Hawkins said on April 14th, 2010 at 11:16am #

    True Bozh but it looks like we have to work with what we got sort of.

  10. bozh said on April 14th, 2010 at 4:14pm #

    i had been deliberately too idyllic or angelic or droll. But, but, wait a minute!; if they did what i suggest, it wld have tremendous symbolic value.
    But both being married to small heads, their smal heads wld be awfully mad at them; peace starting at one’s home.
    In any case, i can’t stand being serious all day long; so, i release the dynmaic pressure in me by being deliberately stupid.

    I lernt ab deliberate stupidity from people like clinton, kissinger, BHO, truman, nixon, et al.
    Well, why not? When u have WMD and the opponent old tanks, rifles, delapidating planes, u can talk to him in a stupid way. tnx

  11. Don Hawkins said on April 14th, 2010 at 5:50pm #

    Will then it appears in just a few years in the developed World some awfully mad people at home it’s already started. The change over will not be boring. Still time if we start now and so far get those tickets for the circus and take in a few side show’s before going to see the big show and the greatest show on Earth you will not need a ticket a blink of an eye in human term’s and does look like the greatest human’s will have ever seen.

  12. Don Hawkins said on April 15th, 2010 at 4:14am #

    There are some good minds out there as what they did right there is it true the truth of course and Fox New’s or Beck the rebels and Icons the policy makers who get that free flow of money do they send there messages out to the best minds we have people human’s who still have a mind I think not how about the messages we see in those commercials on the TV like we are in the business of teaching kid’s about new World’s business just who is it they are trying to get the message to. It’s just better this way say’s who?