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Politifact Rates Completely True Jeb Bush Statement ‘Mostly False’

The online fact-checker Politifact is rating a statement by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on affirmative action as “mostly false” even though it is completely true.

Politifact, which bills itself as “an independent fact-checking journalism website aimed at bringing you the truth in politics,” takes issue with Bush’s claim that when he abolished race-based affirmative action at Florida’s public colleges, minority enrollment ultimately increased rather than collapsing.

“I eliminated affirmative action by executive order — trust me, there were a lot of people upset about this,” Bush said in February at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “But through hard work we ended up having a system where there were more African-American and Hispanic kids attending our university system than prior to the system that was discriminatory.”

As even Politifact indirectly acknowledges, Bush’s statement is actually totally factual. In 1999, when Bush abolished affirmative action, there were about 33,000 black students and 33,000 Hispanic students in the state university system. In 2013, those numbers had grown to 44,000 black students and 80,000 Hispanic students. So far, so good.

Also growing was the ratio of black and Hispanic students to the total student population. In 1999, blacks and Hispanics were each about 14 percent of the student body at state colleges. In 2013, blacks have dropped slightly to 13 percent of the student body, but that small dip is more than made up for by the surge of Hispanics to 24 percent of students (a surge that helps explain the small dip for blacks).

So, why does this merit a “mostly false” label from Politifact? Well, the impartial fact-finder says it’s because “Bush said that eliminating affirmative action in admissions led to ‘more African American and Hispanic kids attending our university system’ universities than before,” and there’s no direct evidence that Bush’s executive order actually caused the surge in enrollment, rather than other factors such as demographic shifts, rising graduation rates and a growth in state scholarship money.

Well, that could be true, but Bush never actually said the elimination of affirmative action is what caused the rise in enrollment. What Bush said was that after “hard work” the state was able to create state college system that was even more diverse than before without having to rely on the blunt instrument of affirmative action.

This hard work came in several forms. Bush, for example, created the “Talented 20” program in Florida, which guarantees admission at a state university to the top 20 percent of a high school class. He also offered new tax credits for education and put millions of dollars towards expanding need-based scholarships. Florida launched a partnership with the College Board to increase minority participation in AP tests. Florida’s racial achievement gap narrowed substantially and achievement for blacks and Hispanics rose significantly.

Even Politifact notes that minority graduation rates have risen substantially in Florida, but the website never even considers that the “hard work” Bush mentioned may have played a roll in that. Instead, he’s branded as just another fibber.

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