March 4th, 2011
10:57 AM ET
MIAMI (CNN) - The old adage that politics makes strange bedfellows will be alive and well Friday when President Obama and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush make a joint appearance in the sunshine state. The two are joining forces to discuss education as the president begins a month-long public push for the country to "out-educate" the world.
Both men will appear at Central High School in Miami to tout the school’s turnaround in performance. For Bush it’s an opportunity to highlight an issue he championed in office, and continues to do so in private life. For Obama, he gets a picture of bi-partisan support for an issue he has repeatedly stressed is in desperate need of reform if the country wants to lead the 21st century.
The image of the two together may seem somewhat unlikely with Bush once assailing Obama's stance toward business as "a way to attack capitalism," and for Obama who spent his presidential campaign verbally excoriating the record of Bush's brother, and is in the midst of attempting a re-write of "No Child Left Behind," the centerpiece of the Bush administrations education agenda.
Political differences aside, both camps maintain the appearance is a natural fit. Bush "has a record of being engaged in and committed to education reform. Obviously, this is a high priority for the President and he believes very strongly that education reform is neither a Democratic, nor a Republican issue. And I think his pursuit of reform has demonstrated that," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a recent briefing announcing the appearance. "His reforms already have generated a great deal of bipartisan support, and I think that's reflective of the fact that Americans believe it ought to be a priority," Carney went on to say.
Central, a chronically failing school, implemented a turnaround model for the school that included firing its principal, and over half its teaching staff, while adding after-school instruction in reading and math, as well as introducing other innovative teaching models for technology and financial literacy. The school has improved its graduation rate over the past 5 years from 36 percent to 63 percent.
The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded Central $784,700 in School Improvement Grant funds for its turnaround efforts. The money came from a $3.5 billion program at the Education Department that distributes the funds to states to give to schools that work to turn around a failing model of operation. Central was one of the lowest 19 persistently under achieving schools in the Miami-Dade school district.
Before his remarks to the school, Obama, along with Bush and Education Secretary Duncan paid a visit to one of the school's technology labs where students had created computer programs, as well as a robot that could pick up and transport donuts. "I could not be prouder," Obama said as he posed for photos with the students.
This will not be the first time Bush and Obama have met. Obama met with Bush, and his father, former President George H.W. Bush in the Oval Office in early 2009, and hosted the two again at the White House last month when Obama awarded the elder Bush the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
The image of bi-partisanship will end as the Obama's motorcade leaves the school. He is set to attend two fundraisers in Miami this evening for Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee before flying back to Washington.