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Some of Jeb Bush's strongest allies on education are Democrats

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has an enviable track record on education, and during his time as governor he pushed through a host reforms that remain widely embraced.

The catch is that some of Bush's strongest allies on education are Democrats, including President Barack Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Obama described Bush in 2011 as “someone who championed reform when he was in office, someone who is now championing reform as a private citizen,” Politico reported at the time.

“I believe the status quo is unacceptable, it’s time to change,” Obama said. “It is time for us to work together, just like Jeb and I are doing — coming from different parties, but we came together not as Democrats and Republicans but as Americans.”

It's an arena rife with strange bedfellows. The Democrats themselves are torn, as the Deseret News noted last fall, with the Obama administration often at odds with teacher unions.

The Tampa Bay Times noted last week that Bush may struggle with a GOP base that is suspicious of any connection to the Obama administration, including the Common Core standards.

Bush, through his Foundation for Excellence in Education, played a key role in advancing the Common Core standards, Newsweek notes. This included a detailed email from FEE sent to legislators in Oklahoma attempting to shore up the Common Core there against conservative reaction.

"He's long had a proud tradition of being a gutsy school reformer, but because of these larger changes pushed by the Obama administration, things he has fought for play differently," Rick Hess told the Tampa Bay Times. Hess is an education policy fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

The real dispute with the Common Core held by the GOP base, Hess said, is not with the details or standards themselves, but rather with the "constitutional issues" of whether education standards should by centralized to such a degree.

It may be small comfort for Bush, but it's not just Republicans that look askance at this unusual alliance. At The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss, a reliable and vocal defender of teacher unions, wrote in 2012 that "Jeb Bush and Arne Duncan don’t agree on every aspect of school reform — Duncan opposes vouchers and Bush can’t get enough of them, for example — but there appear to be more points of convergence than disagreement."

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com