This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Welcome back to a special edition of "Hannity." Six Ideas to Save America. Now since leaving office, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has gone on to devote his time and energy to education reform. I recently sat down with the governor with his first interview since leaving office.
HANNITY: And Governor Bush, thanks for being with us.
JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Thank you, Sean, for allowing me to be with you.
HANNITY: Let me ask you this. Because I know your passion is education, and I have often said that if we don't fix the educational problem — well, we're going to have — we're going to increase the crime problem, the drug dependency problem in society, and have a whole host of other problems, drugs and others. This is fundamental for America to be on the cutting edge in the future. Explain what your principles are.
BUSH: Well, I think we're in an education arms race with the rest of the world because knowledge will drive job creation, high wage jobs are only going to be created by people that can acquire knowledge, and our education system is not up to the standards that it needs to be, so the debate shouldn't be about whether the current system is good or bad and whether the alternatives that I think are better are good or bad, it ought to be where do we need to be? We need to be a lot better.
And so I think the principles that — the reform principles that could be applied start with accountability, that we need to measure things so that we know when we're doing right, when we're doing wrong, that we should have more school choice to put pressure on the current system, but more importantly to empower parents and get them actively involved in their children's education, we should pay teachers for performance, and we should have a customized learning system for the student, not focused on the system, but focused on kids that uses more technology, that allows for more options for them, that doesn't — isn't driven by seat time, it's driven by what you learn and when you learn what you need to learn you must on to the next level, and there is intervention early to make sure that kids don't lag behind.
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That system can work, and it's...
HANNITY: Well, we know it can work because it works for some kids and it doesn't work for other kids. Let me just put out some alarming statistics for our audience just to know how bad the educational system as gotten. And we've thrown a lot of money at the problem, and money isn't the answer.
For example, there's been studies that show only 31 percent of eighth graders are proficient in science, only 26 percent are proficient in math, and Hungary and Estonia are among the nations that outperform the U.S. In a survey of 30 industrialized nations, Americans, 15 year olds, rank 21st in science and 25th in math.
Now, I think that's very telling about if you say this is connected to job creation, where the country is going to be in the next generation.
BUSH: Absolutely, and if you look at emerging nations like China and India, there's a command focus on education, and so our long-term threat is directly related to our ability to make sure that more and more of our children can learn, to acquire knowledge, and then create a new means by which this happens at an accelerated rate. So not only do conservatives need to adhere to principle as you stated in the preface of our conversation, but I think conservatives need to be on the cutting edge of reform. The world has changed. The 21st century is dramatically different than the 19th century, but we still apply a 19th century system of organization on education. It's 180 days. It's that way so that kids can get out into the farms in the summertime.
It should be — it's driven by seat time which makes no sense. It does not harness technology to the extent it could. So my hope is that, yes, let's adhere to conservative principles but let's have a passion for reform so that we can transform the things that we need government to do right. It doesn't have to be a government system, but it can be a government financed application so that no child is denied an opportunity to pursue their dreams.
HANNITY: Let me give some other statistics to show people what will happen should we not act and if we don't have educational reform which is the key idea to help save America. We know 40 percent of dropouts under the age of 24, they don't even have a job. We know that more than two-thirds of inmates in the American prison system are high school dropouts, two-thirds, we know that individuals graduating from high school literally save the government $14,000 a year in health care costs. High school dropouts earn about $250,000 or less a year than those that graduate high school, and so we will pay a price financially as a country by creating dependency and the higher proclivity toward crime and drugs if we don't fix it, and the statistics bear this out.
BUSH: These statistics are so compelling, you would think that we would all pause, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans and say if we weren't doing it this way, how would we do it? And the answer is we would have a totally different system that's focused on the students rather than on the adults. Right now the fight in Washington and most state capitals is focused on which adult is going to have to change their lifestyle, and the focus needs to be on a customized learning for kids.
So my hope is that there could actually be common ground between people of differing ideologies to focus on systemic change. In Florida we've started along that path and we're one of the few states that has actually closed the achievement gap. We've gone from the near bottom results in terms of academic achievement as measured by the NATE (ph) which is the only standard I know of comparing state by states to being above the median, and our graduation rates have been going up every year, but there's so much more that we need to do.
HANNITY: Well, let me ask you this. Because this is now where we meet resistance, and there's a lot of resistance with teachers' unions. I've gone through the seven principles that you believe we should follow for education. Number one, we should have high academic standards. We should have measurement standardized testing. I agree with you on that. Data-driven accountability. In other words, we'll be able to tell how well you're doing. Teacher quality, school choice, which I've always been a fan of. Out-come based funding, and, for example, innovation, technology, and all this. As I look at all these things, most of them have been resisted by the left in this country and by teachers' unions, and there's this unholy alliance between Democrats and teachers' unions, so politically how do you convince people that that unholy alliance needs to be broken and we need to create new paradigms? We can talk about it all day but if it doesn't get passed politically, it's not going to happen.
BUSH: First, I think we need to be constantly reaching out to reform- minded Democrats so that they cannot embrace the dogma that you described very accurately, and I think there's some hope in that regard. I've visited with Secretary Duncan on several occasions. I've talked to him. He was a superintendent of schools. He's seen the frustration of parents and teachers in a system that hasn't worked, and he's made changes in Chicago that have helped kids, and so my hope is from that platform he can do a lot more, and when he does Republicans and conservatives should applaud him, and when he doesn't, we should have alternatives, but we shouldn't be engaged in a 1950s discussion about this. This ought to be about the here and now because it is a pressing national issue for our long term survival and our prosperity.
HANNITY: Tomorrow night we have more of my exclusive interview with Jeb Bush. We talked to him about his political future, his family history and Barack Obama.
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