Last week was my first time at Jebfest. That’s how some insiders have started referring to the annual education-reform summit Jeb Bush organizes. For five years now, Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education has been gathering current and former governors, superintendents and policymakers, business leaders and educational vendors, nonprofit executives and think-tank types who may disagree on many things but are united in their desire to reform education.
The meeting last week in Washington attracted people from both sides of the aisle, ranging from hard-core adherents of Bush’s education ideas to reform-minded analysts like me who support some of what his foundation is doing but are skeptical of other aspects. (One area we agree on is the promise of the new Common Core state standards; I’m a partner at a nonprofit that was hired to analyze Common Core implementation for Chiefs for Change, a network of state schools chiefs sponsored by Bush’s foundation.) The conference organizers asked me to moderate a session at the summit with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, where we discussed plans for President Obama’s second term, the challenges facing Hispanic students, and education politics. And I also sat down for a private interview with Bush to talk about his views on education and the current political landscape. Here are some of the highlights from the interview, which includes his thoughts on education and poverty, his discomfort with being called a centrist and a key policy issue where he parts ways with his brother George.