Jeb Bush urges expanded charters in Ark.

    8:19 PM, Jan 29, 2013   |    comments
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    • Jeb Bush addresses the A+ Education rally Tuesday. Photo: Pam Baccam, KTHV
    • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks to the media after being named Chairman of the National Constitution Center's Board of Trustees December 6, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He will succeed President William J. Clinton, who has served as Chairman since January 2009. Governor Bush's father President George H.W. Bush served as Chairman prior to Clinton. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
    • Jeb Bush addresses the A+ Education rally Tuesday. Photo: Pam Baccam, KTHV

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- He's not an Arkansas politician, but his presence at the state capitol Tuesday caused quite a stir. Former Florida Rep. Governor Jeb Bush is in Little Rock urging lawmakers for education reform.

    "We promoted kids never empowered to read and passed them along with not much debate," said Jeb Bush.

    Bush said it's time for change in the form of school choice like more charter schools.
    "Access to education is called the civil rights issue of our time," said Bush.

    For years, the state and school districts have used data showing the correlation between a student's ethnicity and test scores. Bush said all those factors are just excuses for not succeeding. KIPP Delta charter school, for example, is made up of mostly low-income minorities and in the 2011 class, 90 percent went onto college or a university.

    Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said his administration is in favor of charter schools.

    "We have charter schools in place. We have opportunity for students to go to virtual schools", said Dr. Kimbrell.

    All this talk of school choice and attending any school you want, Dr. Kimbrell explained, is actually more complicated than you may think.

    "It could lead to some geographic locations having desegregated schools again," said Dr. Kimbrell.

    Hindering school choice boils down to how it affects families. That's why among the big crowd are parents and reality star Josh Duggar who is now a father.

    "As a product of school choice, my parents chose to home school me. I feel it's essential parents make the choice for their children," said Duggar.

    Supporters hope bringing in another big name like Jeb Bush will sway public opinion in their favor.

    Arkansas' education ranking is up for debate. The Quality Counts 2012 report gave Arkansas a B- compared to Florida's C+. If you look closer, Arkansas is actually lower when it comes to achievement and chance for success. That's why some at Tuesday's A+ campaign said we need to look at what Florida is doing in education reform.

    Jeb Bush said he is in favor of legislation that could take away the State Board of Education's power to approve charters. The other option would create an independent state commission that would approve charter schools.

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