During the first in-person debate between Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Democratic challenger Bill McBride, both candidates repeatedly sought to portray themselves as the best candidate to improve the poor condition of education in the state.
For the last several months, McBride, a parent of two children in public schools, has attacked Gov. Bush on his education record, pointing to the state’s 50th place ranking in high school graduation rates. McBride also promised to raise teacher salaries and reduce class size. For his part, Bush counterattacked by insisting taxes would have to be increased to pay for McBride’s proposals. He also took the opportunity to take credit for record increases in education spending-increases which, according to McBride, are meaningless because the governor’s figure does not account for inflation or student growth.
One issue at the heart of the debate is a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit school class size. McBride, along with other Democrats, is a huge supporter of an amendment that Bush says would cost too much and lead to higher taxes. According to a poll last week, McBride currently trails Bush by six points. If either candidate expects to draw more support, one can bet that the education issue will be a big factor.