Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says Missouri’s public education system could use some upgrades, and he suggested Thursday that lawmakers look to the Sunshine State for examples.

The former presidential candidate met with Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and lawmakers to discuss a slew of school choice measures moving through the state Legislature.

A longtime school choice advocate, Bush promoted charter and online school expansion under his leadership. Florida also adopted the first statewide voucher program in the country.

Missouri Republican lawmakers hope to follow in his footsteps with proposals to expand charter schools and online education and to create education savings accounts, which transfer public dollars to parents through bank accounts. That money can then be used for private or charter school tuition, textbooks, online classes or tutoring.

Greitens said he and Bush spoke about expanding access to online courses. Greitens said offering more online classes will enable students in rural districts to take Advanced Placement classes that might not be offered in smaller schools.

Last week, the Missouri House passed a bill allowing students to take online courses paid for by the school district or charter district in which they are enrolled. The district will pay for classes only if the course isn’t offered at the school or if there is a scheduling conflict that would prevent a student from taking it during the school day.

Critics of school choice say there’s little accountability for student performance when money is spent on independently run charter districts or online operators.

Bush admitted that implementing more choice measures like charter school expansion won’t be a perfect process, but said the benefits outweigh the costs.

“There are bad actors out there,” he said. “But you can’t regulate everything to the point where you have no innovation at all. There’s a balance between giving charter schools the freedom to innovate while making sure that taxpayer dollars are protected.”

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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