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In op-ed, Jeb Bush says raising education standards is the key to improving Baltimore

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Jeb Bush says the key to lifting Baltimore from its decades-long torpor is the type of education reform that he practiced here in Florida when he was governor from 1998-2006.

In an op-ed in today’s Chicago Tribune, he starts out by using the same language other conservatives have said over the past two weeks, and longer — that the War on Poverty has been a failure, representing a “broken promise.”

In terms of solutions, the ex-governor says that the best anti-poverty program “is a strong family,  led by two parents. The evidence on this is incontrovertible. And conservatives should not be afraid to say that, as the family breaks down, so does opportunity. Our goal should be to build up families.”

But the meat of the essay is about reforming the school system, and this is where Bush lays it all out in his familiar style that he set out to do in Florida.

“If we raise standards, demand accountability, reward great teachers and provide meaningful choices, we can create the tools that parents and kids need to rise up from poverty.”

Read it in its entirety below:

“The tragedy that took place on the streets of Baltimore starts with a young man whose life ended far too soon. We will hopefully learn the full truth surrounding that death, and the initial reports are disturbing. For the family now bereaved, for the community in which he lived, there is only loss, and no amount of anger can close the hole in their hearts.

We also must recognize the tragedy of a community ripped apart by those who live in it. We saw stores getting looted. We saw a senior center set afire. We saw cars smashed and windows shattered. Those who permitted this to happen must be held accountable because public safety is the first responsibility for those who lead our cities.

These events inevitably generate extensive discussion and analysis of how this could come to be in a country as great as ours. It shouldn’t be surprising that, in response, voices on the left tick off tired explanations for urban violence and anger, explanations that too often revolve around spending more on government programs or weakening criminal laws that make communities safer.

Now is the time for solutions — new approaches that reflect what we’ve learned by fighting poverty and hopelessness elsewhere. These solutions should be based on ensuring that every person has the ability to rise up the income ladder if we create an environment that gives each of them the opportunity to do so.

Then we must take aim at our deeply failed education system. The schools in our cities are not underfunded. But they nevertheless fail to prepare their students for the demands of life — college, a job and the responsibilities of citizenship.

It is shameful that we have allowed the teachers unions and the economic interest of adults to leave school systems in cities like Baltimore in shambles with no plan for fixing them. Low-income kids have the God-given ability to learn and to succeed just like anyone else does. It is incumbent upon us to give them that chance.

To do so requires policies that encourage people in the toughest neighborhoods to start up businesses. Reducing regulations, removing expensive licensing requirements for startups and cutting occupational fees would make a substantial difference and give self-starters a chance to create high-paying jobs and hope where they live.

It can get better. I know it because I’ve seen it as governor, where a combination of education reforms and pro-growth policies helped raise household incomes up and down the income ladder — and gave a generation of children a real chance to rise up.

Those who are struggling the most are the ones who will be most transformed by conservative solutions that give everyone the right to rise. Because with economic opportunity, education and support from family and community, anyone can share in the promise that is America, achieve earned success and realize their dreams.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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