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Grand Rapids Power Structure is bringing Jeb Bush to town for bi-annual policy conference in September

July 22, 2018

The West Michigan Policy Forum is one of the key groups in the area that makes up the Grand Rapids Power Structure, as we documented in Part IV in our recent series. 

The West Michigan Policy Forum (WMPF) is an outgrowth of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. Founded in 2008, the WMPF has had a tremendous influence on state policy in Michigan. Several of the key members are part of the Grand Rapids Power Structure and have advocated numerous policies that have been adopted at the state level, such as cuts to business taxes, making Michigan a Right to Work state and eliminating public sector pensions.

For their bi-annual conference this coming September, it would appear that the focus of the conference and the policies they want to see adopted in the state are directed at undermining public education and creating a larger “talent” pool. To assist them in crafting policies that would help the WMPF achieve their goals, they are bringing former Florida Governor Jeb Bush as one of the keynote speakers in September. Here is how the WMPF announced Bush’s visit as a speaker in September:

Florida is one of the few states that has actually shown student improvement in K-12 education in recent years. Last year more than 86,000 Florida students graduated with job-ready-industry certifications, preparing them for work in high demand fields. The West Michigan Policy Forum (WMPF) today announced that former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush will speak at the biennial West Michigan Policy Forum Conference on Monday, September 24 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

During his eight years as governor, Bush introduced a suite of education reforms called “The Florida A+ Plan for Education.” The reforms included bringing transparency and accountability through specific school measurements that parents could understand. Schools in Florida are now graded A-F tied to student performance.

Bush will help headline a series of discussions and policy initiatives during the WMPF tied to improving Michigan’s ability to grow, attract and retain talent.

There has been plenty of documentation on how Bush undermined public education in Florida and adopted the very “education reform” policies that Betsy DeVos and the national organizations she has been involved in, have been promoting for the past two decades.

In 2015, an article on Alternet reflected the Bush war on Education and the ACLU chapter of Florida in 2015, also provided a substantial critique of Bush’s education policy. 

A reporter for the Miami Herald noted in 2015, that Jeb Bush “dumbed down Florida’s schools and even the Jeff Bezos’-owned Washington Post has acknowledged just this year that the Trump administration’s education platform is essentially the same as what Jeb Bush adopted in Florida. 

In addition, to the general undermining of public education policy that Jeb Bush will discuss while at the West Michigan Policy Forum in September, he will address, “improving Michigan’s ability to grow, attract and retain talent.”

This push for students to be developed as “talent” has been the focus of numerous groups in Grand Rapids, such as Believe 2 Become, which produced a major report on the theme in 2017, entitled, Workforce Opportunity in West Michigan:Connecting a Qualified Workforce to High-Growth Opportunities.

The group Talent 2025, has also been promoting the general idea of students as talent, with an emphasis on the collaboration between the business community and educators. In fact, Talent 2025, has developed a short list of next steps in order to reduced the gap between school completion and career readiness, as you can see here on the right.

As we have done in previous years, GRIID plans to attending the 2018 West Michigan Policy Forum conference and reporting on what the organization will make as their focus for the coming year.

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