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Posted at 5:16 PM ET, 03/ 4/2011

In Miami, Obama gets a Bush brother to help push education reform

By Nia-Malika Henderson

President Obama took the stage at a Miami high school on Friday, after an unlikely politician introduced him -- former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Paired up at the administration's suggestion, Obama and Bush urged school reform and investment in education, central themes in Obama's budget proposal and a platform that Bush pushed as governor and his brother pushed as president.

"Mr. President, as you have said, educational achievement is not a Republican or Democrat issue," Bush said in his introduction. "It is an issue of national priority."

Obama has emphasized teacher accountability, improved standardized testing, and rewards for schools and teachers based on student achievement and innovation -- ideas that haven't always found support among teachers unions.

Yet he made a special point of heaping praise on teachers, whose jobs are in the spotlight now as union supporters battle the Wisconsin governor's budget plan to cut bargaining rights for public employees.

He touted the success of Miami Central Senior High School, which faced a shutdown in 2005 but has mounted a turnaround backed by about $800,000 in federal funding and a new staff and principal.

"Graduation rates were at 36 percent. Now they are at 63 percent. And I expect them to be at 100 percent," Obama said, leaning into the microphone for emphasis.

The stimulus package proved to be a windfall for schools around the country, pumping in billions for infrastructure and staving off teacher layoffs. And Obama's 2012 budget proposal calls for an 11 percent increase in education spending.

The president linked Friday's national unemployment report --192,000 were created last month, and the jobless rate dipped to 8.9 percent -- to spending on education.

"If we want more good news on the jobs front, then we gotta make more investments in education. As a nation, making these investments in education and innovation and infrastructure, all of them are essential," he said. "What makes it tough is that we are in a difficult fiscal situation as well. "

The Miami visit comes as Obama seeks bipartisan agreement for spending on education and for revamping No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush's signature domestic effort. Obama emphasized that cuts in spending are necessary, but not at the expense of education.

For Jeb Bush, who left office in 2006, standing next to the president underscores his role as one of the leaders of his party. It also stokes the "draft Bush for 2012" chatter among some Republicans.

The joint public appearance also suggests a thaw in Obama's relationship with the Bush family. Last month, Obama honored President George H. W. Bush with the Medal of Freedom. And Obama has dropped his rhetoric that blamed the policies and decisions of George W. Bush for the recession. In Miami, he also singled out another Bush brother.

"Jeb is best known as the brother of Marvin Bush," he said, as Jeb Bush laughed. "Apparently the rest of the family also did some work in Washington back in the day."

Friday evening, Obama will attend a fund-raiser for the DCCC and Sen. Ben Nelson, and will bring in $1 million for 2012 campaign efforts.

By Nia-Malika Henderson  | March 4, 2011; 5:16 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency, Barack Obama, Education  
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At least one of the Bush boys understands that education is important.

Posted by: bastet1 | March 8, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Jeb Bush was an excellent Governor when I lived in Florida, though I do not think he has a chance at becoming President. He has too many issues in his personal life. His opponents in the primaries would bring all those skeletons back out of the closet, and the sheeple of the Republican Party will eat that stuff up and it will be the end for Jeb. It is unfortunate, because I think he would have been an excellent President, and I say that as a slightly left-leaning Independent voter.

Posted by: jgmann | March 7, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Jeb Bush was an outstanding Governor, a champion of effective education, and would make an outstanding POTUS. That said, the media would castigate him and cut him asunder merely for having the last name, Bush.

Posted by: jay_thompson | March 7, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

As I watched this on TV, it appeared that Obama was recognizing and honoring one of Jeb Bush's accomplishments as Governor. Nothing happened at this school that could be remotely attributed to Obama or Duncan.

Posted by: amazd | March 4, 2011 8:00 PM | Report abuse

I think the writer means Senator Bill Nelson....Ben Nelson is the Senator from Nebraska who consistently votes against Obama. Bill Nelson is a two-term Florida senator.

Posted by: thupp | March 4, 2011 7:49 PM | Report abuse

I watched this on teevee and Jeb made sure not to get close enough for an Obama hug! no hugging Repugs in Florida

Posted by: bayroad22 | March 4, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

There's a one party government standing behind you while you read this and they're using your shoulder as a junk rest. Have a nice day.

Posted by: coogene | March 4, 2011 6:18 PM | Report abuse

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