Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush touted Tennessee today as "leading the country" in some recent education reform, while his present-day counterpart confirmed that "school vouchers" would be part of his legislative agenda.
The comments from Jeb Bush and Governor Bill Haslam came during a forum Monday in Nashville sponsored by the Tennessee education group SCORE.
"What you are doing right now is leading the country," Bush told Governor Haslam in the forum titled "Improving Student Achievement."
He cited Tennessee's legislation in the past few years that has loosened tenure-driven teacher pay, and moves toward tying it more to student achievement.
Many credit the former Florida governor and son of the first President Bush with raising student achievement in his state student choice programs such as vouchers and charters, along with teacher pay tied to student performance.
"Without the legislature, none of the things we did in Florida were possible, and it required a lot of courage for them to do this because I was all in already in," Bush said before the forum.
The former Florida governor minced no words about what to do with both good and bad teachers.
"Pay for successful transfer of teaching to learning, this is what it's all about," said Bush in his closing remarks. "I would argue for teachers who fail, who are not doing that, get them out of classroom as soon as possible after remediation hasn't worked."
"I think what we want to focus on is paying teachers more on outcomes rather than input, and I think we are trying to figure out how to do that," Haslam told reporters after the event.
He also confirmed indications that would introduce his own plan to create a school voucher program in Tennessee targeting low-income students, but offered few specifics.
"We have actually decided over the past several weeks that we will have a voucher bill," said Haslam.
Last year, he asked state lawmakers to "hold off" on any school voucher bills until a comprehensive study was done. It was completed this past fall.
The governor said having done that, "we had the responsibility to come with a proposal that made sense."
Haslam said it would be "means-tested focused on our lowest performing schools."
Both education proposals will likely be part of the Governor's State of the State address in two weeks on January 28.