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NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush rolled out a broad education reform plan Monday that would shift power and money to states and local school districts — and away from the federal government.
The former Florida governor also wants to revamp how high school graduates and their parents finance college and other career training.
Bush released his education "blueprint" in observance of Martin Luther King Day, saying that "access to a quality education is the great civil rights challenge of our time."
In an interview with the Associated Press, Monday, Bush said he believes King, if he were alive today, would be fighting to "close the education gap between the haves and have-nots" to lift families out of poverty.
He posted an overview of his education reform plan on the blog publishing platform Medium.com.
As a two-term Florida governor, Bush built a national reputation for reforming the state's public school system. He pushed for high-stakes testing of students and the grading of schools based on their overall academic performance.
As he campaigns for the Republican nomination, Bush has repeatedly promoted his gubernatorial record in Florida as a means for billing himself as the most qualified candidate on issues relating to education and the economy. Still, he continues to lag in the polls behind other newcomer candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who are wooing voters with their anti-establishment pitches.
Conservatives, including most of Bush's GOP rivals, have blasted Bush for his support of Common Core education standards, which they view as the federal government's effort to dictate education policies at a state and local level. Bush says he favors raising school standards.
Bush is calling for a "complete overhaul" of the nation's education system "from one that serves bureaucracies to one that serves the needs of families and students."
He said the current education system is "failing to prepare the next generation of children for success," noting that only about one-third of high school graduates are prepared for college or the workplace.
If elected, Bush said he would reduce by half the size of the staff at the federal Department of Education and hand more power and money to state and local school district officials.
"We will empower states with the flexibility to improve their schools, while ensuring the federal government does not interfere in academic standards, curriculum or content," wrote Bush. "Right now, too many regulations drown the system in compliance costs, wasting valuable resources."