Things are probably pretty confusing right now for Jeb! Bush. His ineffective, occasionally hilarious performance as a Republican primary candidate helped boost the fortunes of one Donald Trump, who may yet become the United States’ first emperor-CEO; later, Trump received the endorsement of Jeb!’s very own son George P. Bush. So what’s an embarrassed Wall Street lackey to do in this moment of upheaval and uncertainty?
Harvard! Politico reports that Bush will be a visiting fellow at Harvard!’s Kennedy School this fall, serving as a guest instructor and presenter in the Program on Education Policy and Governance. He previously served as a visiting fellow at the Harvard! Institute of Politics in 2010. On Thursday, he will deliver the Edwin L. Godkin Lecture, discussing “the lack of economic and social mobility in the United States and his ideas for addressing those challenges,” according to a Kennedy School press release. The release notes:
Bush will also participate in the PEPG fall colloquia series on education policy and research, and in student study groups led by faculty members from HKS and elsewhere at Harvard University, sharing with them his experiences as both a two-term governor of Florida and as the head of a foundation dedicated to K-12 education reform.
As governor of Florida, Jeb! pioneered the concept of “school choice” and remains a strong backer of charter schools. Proponents see charter schools as an effective method for bridging the performance gap in a failing system—and studies have shown that they often can improve test scores. Opponents, on the other hand, see charter schools as leeching resources from public institutions and leaving students, often minorities, entirely vulnerable to whatever for-profit organization happens to be running the show.
According to a 2015 report by the Sun Sentinel, 56 of Florida’s charter schools closed in the past five years, five of which only survived for three months, resulting in the expulsion of thousands of students and what State Sen. Jeff Clemons called “a huge waste of resources.” The investigation found that “virtually anyone can open or run a charter school and spend public education money with near impunity,” including people with no relevant experience or a history of shaky financial dealings.
State law requires that furniture, computers and unspent money be returned to the districts, but when officials attempt to collect, charter operators sometimes cannot be found.
“We do know there have been a few [charter schools] … where hundreds of thousands of dollars were never spent on kids, and we don’t know where that money went,” said Pegg, who oversees charters in Palm Beach County. “As soon as we close the door on those schools, those people scatter … We can’t find them.”
This is not something Bush likes to talk about, which seems like quite a feat—Liberty Charter School, the first of its kind in Florida, was co-founded by Jeb! in 1996 and often mined for photo-ops; in 2008, after he left office, the school closed due to financial problems, and was described in the New York Times as “a ruin baking in the Miami sun.”
A county school superintendent in North Florida told the New Yorker in 2015 that Bush was interested in charter schools for distinctly political reasons: “He saw the teachers’ unions as one of the foundations of the Democratic Party, and he saw a great advantage—that anything he could do to undercut the teachers’ union would have a political return.”
Anyway, really looking forward to hearing Jeb!’s thoughts on education reform and economic mobility, another topic he seems very passionate about.