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SHERWOOD, Ark. (AP) — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush praised education proposals from gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas Tuesday despite differences between the Republicans on key school reforms, as the potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate stepped up campaigning for Republicans in tight races ahead of the midterm elections.
Bush singled out Hutchinson's proposal to expand computer science classes in Arkansas schools after the two toured a Sherwood charter school and viewed students' science projects. He also planned to headline a fundraiser for Hutchinson, who is running against Democratic nominee and fellow ex-congressman Mike Ross.
"Your whole education plan is right on target, and I think the state and children of Arkansas will do well with your leadership," Bush said at a news conference.
Bush, the brother and son of the last two Republican presidents, is mulling whether to run for the White House in 2016. Unlike several other possible GOP contenders, he kept a relatively low public profile earlier in the year. But he has actively campaigned for GOP candidates of late. He is the latest of a series of possible 2016 White House hopefuls to appear in Arkansas, including U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
A day earlier, Bush campaigned for Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas. Last week, he was in North Carolina to boost Senate candidate Thom Tillis, and he appeared at a fundraiser in Chicago recently for another GOP governor candidate, Illinois businessman Bruce Rauner.
Bush has been an advocate of the Common Core academic standards, which were developed by a bipartisan group of governors and state school officials and later promoted by the Obama administration. The standards have faced a backlash from conservatives in Arkansas and other states, and Hutchinson has said he'll review them next year.
When asked if he had any advice for Hutchinson on the issue, Bush said higher standards are needed — even if it's not Common Core.
"For the United States to succeed and for states to succeed, we need high standards," Bush said. "Whether they're called Common Core or best Arkansas standards, whatever we have today need to be higher and they need to be assessed faithfully and we need to assure that more than a third of our kids are college and/or career ready."
Hutchinson said he believed the two were in agreement.
"I've consistently said whatever standards we resolve that we need to make sure they're high standards and have high expectations for our students and that's critically important and that they're measurable," he said.
Bush has also been a vocal supporter of private school vouchers, an idea that Hutchinson said he doesn't support in Arkansas.
Ross and Hutchinson are running to succeed Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. Republicans, who already have a majority among the nation's governors, hope to win a seat in Arkansas from the Democrats.
Ross' campaign accused Hutchinson of relying on "Washington and Wall Street allies" with Bush's visit.
"This should concern voters because while my focus will be on Arkansas and growing the middle class, Congressman Hutchinson's focus will be on returning the favors from his out-of-state partisan allies," he said in a statement.
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