Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a vocal advocate for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, reportedly accused the program’s critics of prioritizing children’s self-esteem over learning.

Jeb Bush Thinks He Knows What Common Core Critics Are Really Worried About

This Jan. 14, 2014 file photo shows former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talking about education reform during a forum in Nashville, Tenn. More than five years after governors from both major parties began a mostly quiet effort to set new standards in American schools, the so-called Common Core initiative has morphed into a political tempest that fuels division among Republicans. Bush hails Common Core as a way to improve student performance and, over the long term, competitiveness of American workers. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

Bush’s staunch support for Common Core comes as many of the 45 states that adopted the K-12 math and English standards have either rejected them or are looking at making changes to implementation.

The Miami Herald reported that Bush, considered a potential contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, said those who support the “status quo” and oppose testing are, as paraphrased by the Herald, “worried too much about children’s self-esteem.”

The paper went on to directly quote the former governor.

“Let me tell you something. In Asia today, they don’t care about children’s self esteem,” Bush said at the Broward Workshop business breakfast. “They care about math, whether they can read – in English – whether they understand why science is important, whether they have the grit and determination to be successful.”

Much of the opposition to Common Core is based on concerns that tying federal Department of Education grants to implementing Common Core would lead to a de facto national curriculum.

Bush said that Florida has become a model for the nation.

“You tell me which society is going to be the winner in this 21st century: The one that worries about how they feel, or the one that worries about making sure the next generation has the capacity to eat everybody’s lunch?” Bush said. “The minute you kind of pull back and say ‘We can rest on our laurels’ is the first day of your decline.”

The Herald was unable to get a clear answer from Bush, the brother and son of former presidents, about his plans for 2016. But, the paper cited a University of Virginia Center for Politics analsysis that predicted Bush would be the party nominee.

Bush also touched on another issue that puts him at odds with much of the Republican Party’s conservative base – immigration reform, or offering legal status on some 11 million illegal immigrants.

“People who come here legally and illegally are the risk takers,” Bush said. “If you’re living in a rural area of Guatemala and you come, you’re a bigger risk taker than those who stay.”

(H/T: Washington Post)