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Jeb Bush says education decline ‘harming competitive posture,’ tells Trump ‘bless his heart’

Former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, a longtime education policy advocate, called on Americans to take seriously the decline in competency among recent grade school graduates.

The former 2016 presidential candidate also responded to political rival Donald Trump’s criticisms of his father, which the real estate mogul lodged amid the appointment of a special master to pore over potentially classified materials from the Mar-a-Lago raid.

Bush noted the National Assessment of Educational Progress is due out, and that it will likely show “a horrible situation of decreases in learning,” particularly among students from low-income families.

“With a month left [before] the election, education is not one of the top national policy issues, but it’s hugely important for our long-term success as a country,” Bush said.

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“Years of efforts to try to improve rising student achievement actually could be blown up. We’ll find that out Monday morning, but I think rather than do the typical thing in politics where people will blame the pandemic or say, ‘The dog ate my homework’… we need to refocus on serious policymaking and engagement with parents so that we can deal with these big learning losses.”

In response to the rise in Chinese institutions gleaning spots in the top 100 secondary education models worldwide, Bush said the lack of effective education policies in the United States puts the nation at a global disadvantage.

“We’ve lowered standards. We’ve lowered expectations. We blame all sorts of reasons why students aren’t learning rather than redoubling our efforts as a dynamic nation should to make sure that they do,” he said. “And it is a danger — it is harming our competitive posture.”

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Bush praised his successor Gov. Ron DeSantis for his focus on Florida’s education system, which was a hallmark of his own time in Tallahassee, adding that there has long been fear among states to take on powerful interests like teachers’ unions, to institute reforms including better access to school choice.

Bush was also asked about Trump — whom he sparred with throughout the 2016 campaign on a range of subjects.

Trump recently invoked Bush’s father, former President George H. W. Bush, in responding to criticism of his transportation of potentially classified materials to Mar-a-Lago after the FBI raided the Palm Beach, Fla., estate.

At a Nevada rally, Trump claimed the elder Bush “took millions and millions of documents to a former bowling alley pieced together with what was then an old and broken Chinese restaurant — they put them together.”

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“[The building] had a broken front door and broken windows,” Trump riffed. “Other than that it was quite secure.”

Bush responded by laughing at the barb and replying with the southern contemptuous compliment, “Bless his heart.”

Bush said the National Archives uses otherwise unaffiliated facilities at times when warehousing paraphernalia for presidential libraries and the like in the immediate aftermath of a presidency.

He said Trump was correct in that a former bowling alley was used in that regard, but claimed it had indeed been “secured and… protected.”

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Bush also suggested Trump injected the “Chinese restaurant” reference as a way for people to become “conspiratorial” about foreign influence within his family.

“My dad didn’t go to the bowling alley and didn’t go to the Chinese restaurant to look at millions of papers and pick which ones he wanted. That was the process that every president, once they leave office, goes through,” Bush said. “And it’s very different than taking documents that may or may not have been appropriate to take.”

“Storing them in an unsecure place in the basement of Mar-a-Lago — bless his heart, you know.”

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