Jeb Bush Invokes Baltimore Protests In Presidential Campaign Kickoff

06/15/2015 05:22 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2015

WASHINGTON -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) brought up the recent protests in Baltimore during his presidential campaign kickoff speech Monday, using them as a call for education reform around the country.

“In government, if we get a few big things right, we can make life better for millions of people, especially for kids in public schools," said Bush during his rally at Miami-Dade College. "Think of what we all watched not long ago in Baltimore, where so many young adults are walking around with no vision of a life beyond the life they know. It’s a tragedy played out over and over and over again."

Bush then touted his own record in Florida, saying "low-income student achievement improved here more than any other state" after his reforms.

“We stopped processing kids along as if we didn’t care -- because we do care, and you don’t show that by counting out anyone’s child. You give them all a chance," he added.

Baltimore was shaken by riots and protests after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man who died after sustaining injuries in police custody in April.

"Here's what I believe," Bush said Monday. "When a school is just another dead end, every parent should have the right to send their child to a better school -- public, private or charter. Every school should have high standards, and the federal government should have nothing to do with setting them. Nationwide, if I'm president, we will take the power of choice away from the unions and bureaucrats and give it back to parents."

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton did not mention Baltimore in her kickoff rally on Saturday in New York City, although she has done so in the past in the context of criminal justice reform -- a topic that didn't come up in Bush's speech.

"From Ferguson, to Staten Island, to Baltimore, the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable," Clinton said in April, referring to incidents where African-American men -- and a child -- have died at the hands of police. "Walter Scott shot in the back in Charleston, South Carolina -- unarmed, in debt, terrified of spending more time in jail for child support payments he couldn't afford. Tamir Rice shot in a park in Cleveland, Ohio, unarmed and just 12 years old. Eric Garner, choked to death after being stopped for selling cigarettes on the streets of our city. And now Freddie Gray, his spine nearly severed while in police custody."

Bush has been less vocal on the issue of criminal justice reform than many other presidential candidates, although he has signed on to a conservative group's campaign for cost-effective alternatives to prisons.

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