Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush criticized the state of education in the United States during a speech Tuesday morning on education reform.
Bush called on the United States to adopt global benchmarks for students at the Fifth Annual National Summit on Education Reform in Washington, D.C.
"We have a huge problem," he said of the current education system.
Bush serves as chairman of the board of The Foundation for Excellence in Education, the organization sponsoring the event, which is attended by hundreds of lawmakers, teachers and education nonprofit workers. The event continues through Wednesday, and breakout sessions include everything from how to get and keep good teachers to digital education.
Education gaps yield income gaps, Bush said, which are perpetuated by a lack of knowledge, particularly among socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
Those who are born in the middle class tend to stay there, Bush pointed out, but those who are born poor also tend to stay poor, so upward mobility is limited.
"This idyllic notion of who we are as a nation is going away," he said.
The United States spends more money on its students than other countries, yet many students are not qualified for jobs. Even in this tough economy, there is a dearth of qualified candidates for many jobs in science and engineering fields. Conversely, countries such as India graduate an increasing number of qualified jobseekers.
"Where is the outrage?" Bush said, adding, "Digital learning is ultimately going to be commonplace."
The former governor called on lawmakers and teachers to adopt the same set of global standards for all students in the country.
"Benchmark it to the world," he said, noting that the world is increasingly global and digital, and that America's students need to compete with students across the globe, not just in the United States.
He recognized that the process of adopting more stringent standards will not be popular with everyone but said students will "rise to the challenge."
"All children are not above average," especially when rated against a global benchmark, he said, but "we continually underestimate children" and their ability to learn.
To succeed though, Bush said, teachers should not be promoted or receive higher salaries simply because they have been in the classroom for many years. Instead, he argued, good teachers should be rewarded.
"Longevity is not the determining factor in success in the classroom," he said.