CCSSO Honors Govs. Jeb Bush and Bob Wise with 2023 Distinguished Service Award

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Washington, D.C. (March 20, 2023) --The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) today presented its 2023 Distinguished Service Award to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise for their success in building bipartisan support for innovative education initiatives in their states and for continuing to advance learning opportunities after leaving public office.

The Distinguished Service Award, which was presented at CCSSO’s Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., is the Council’s highest honor. The award recognizes individuals whose contributions have given strength to pre-K-12 public education in the United States through extensive, long-term service and commitment to improving education.

“In their respective states, Governor Bush and Governor Wise worked to bring together diverse, bipartisan coalitions to improve educational outcomes for the students of Florida and West Virginia and have continued that work on behalf of children across the country since leaving office,” said CCSSO Chief Executive Officer Carissa Moffat Miller. “As the nonpartisan organization representing state education leaders across the country, we are grateful for their example and service to students.”

“Governors Bush and Wise have been stalwart champions of education during their public service careers, both in and out of office,” said North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction and CCSSO Board of Directors President Kirsten Baesler. “They know that sound policy and a laser focus on student outcomes is necessary to give our students the best chance to succeed, both in school and life. They provide examples of the educational excellence that can be achieved with bipartisan cooperation and not caring who gets the credit.”

Bush served as the 43rd governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. As governor, he successfully pushed for his A+ Plan for Education, which increased accountability for schools, rewarded them for rising student achievement and created unprecedented education options for students. To expand on that work, Bush launched ExcelinEd, a nonprofit national organization that supports state leaders in transforming education to unlock opportunity and lifelong success for every child, and now chairs its board of directors. For more than a decade, ExcelinEd has been advancing student-centered policy solutions that are improving student learning, increasing opportunity, eliminating inequities and readying graduates for college and higher-quality, in-demand jobs.

“This distinguished recognition belongs to all the courageous policymakers, parents and educators who share a relentless commitment to students and their success,” Bush said. “Our children are America’s future. We owe them our finest work to transform education so that every child, in every community, has access to a quality education. Until then, success is never final, and reform is never finished.”

Wise served as the 33rd governor of West Virginia from 2001 to 2005, after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 2001. As governor, he successfully pushed for the full funding of of PROMISE (Providing Real Opportunities for Maximizing In-state Student Excellence) scholarships that providing college tuition for West Virginia students with good grades and test scores. After leaving office, Wise served for 14 years as president of the All4Ed a national nonprofit organization committed to expanding equitable educational opportunities for students from vulnerable populations. The alliance advocates for federal, state and local policies and practices that ensure all students graduate high school prepared for college, work and life. Wise currently serves as a speaker and advisor on education, including for the Global Science of Learning Education Network and initiatives to improve early literacy and dyslexia outcomes.   

“At this epic period in education, the only way great things can happen is when we put aside partisan differences to focus on improving student outcomes,” Wise said. “It is an honor to accept this award from CCSSO and state chiefs who advance this important work on behalf of students every day.”

The Distinguished Service Award, the premier honor of the Council, has been presented for more than 60 years. Last year’s recipient was entertainer and Imagination Library founder Dolly Parton. Previous winners include the bipartisan authors of the Every Student Succeeds Act, Sens. Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander and Reps. John Kline and Bobby Scott; Sesame Street co-creators Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett; federal and state leaders of both political parties; and education researchers and advocates.


The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, Bureau of Indian Education, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

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