Common Core and Other Challenges Face Rick Scott in Forming New Education Team
Around the State
With only 15 months to go until he faces voters for re-election, Rick Scott is forced to confront where he wants to direct education in Florida and who he wants to lead Florida’s schools and universities.
During his time as governor, Scott has tried to build on Jeb Bush’s education reforms, working to build ties between Florida schools and the private sector to prepare students for future jobs. He’s also urged Florida colleges to offer degrees that cost less than $10,000. But in the past year he has looked to appeal to public school teachers, traditionally supporters of Democrats, by vigorously promoting a $2,500-a-year pay raise for each of them.
Former Gov. Bush, chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Foundation for Florida’s Future, had angry words for those who forced Bennett's demise. "Florida’s students will feel the loss of his leadership the most," Bush wrote in a Miami Herald oped. "Those who stooped to nasty political tactics to undermine Tony should be ashamed. They protect their self-interest at the expense of our next generation."
Besides a new education commissioner, Scott will have to find someone to lead on higher education, too. State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan, 59 and near the end of his contract, resigned Wednesday to do the same job in Pennsylvania. On Thursday, John Delaney, president of the University of North Florida and a former interim chancellor, said he had no interest in filling Brogan’s shoes.
Time is not on Scott’s side on either appointment, though filling the education commissioner position is more pressing. Scott has already put off naming a new lieutenant governor after five months, but he doesn’t have the luxury of waiting on selecting a new education team. Making the timing even worse, many schools and universities across the state are set to open in the coming weeks. Fates have conspired to make education a leading talking point at a time when Scott no doubt had hoped to move on.
Apart from personnel, Scott has to face implementing the new Common Core State Standards, a bone of contention among some conservatives. Many continue to question and oppose them, even though they are backed by many prominent Republicans. Just like Bush, Scott has been a supporter of Common Core. During his time in Indiana and his brief tenure in Florida, Bennett was a strong supporter of the new standards. Whoever Scott names to replace Bennett will have to deal with implementing -- perhaps even reaffirming -- Common Core.
With the governor expected to face a tough race in 2014, whomever he names to replace Bennett will be under pressure to set the table for Common Core while keeping conservatives in line. It’s a tough assignment, to be sure -- with Scott himself watching, all the while falling deeper into the pressure cooker.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.