Chairing the Senate Education Committee, John Legg is well-positioned to shape education in Florida for years to come.
Legg certainly has the background for it. Before being elected to the Florida House in 2004, he was a teacher, now with more than 10 years of experience in the classroom and has also worked as a school administrator.
Despite serving four terms in the Florida House, rising to become House speaker pro tempore under Dean Cannon, Legg had a strange path to the Senate in 2012. He first was running against Wilton Simpson for the Republican nomination for an open seat representing Hernando and parts of Pasco and Sumter counties. Despite being a political novice, Simpson proved a strong candidate and effective fundraiser. Legg headed south to offer a primary challenge to incumbent Jim Norman, who was facing accusations about his ethics, in representing parts of Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Norman dropped out and Legg won the seat over weaker primary opponents.
While Legg didnt exactly impress with the way he entered the Senate, his first months there did raise some eyebrows on education. He was active on education issues in the House, looking to ensure newly hired teachers would not get automatic tenure and working on student assessment measures. Once in the Senate, he fought to expand Career and Professional Education (CAPE) academies, arguing these schools help prepare students for future jobs. Legg also managed to push a bill improving teacher quality standards in the 2013 session.
Conservatives might approve of his efforts to tie education to the private sector and future jobs, but some of them will frown on the senators support of Common Core standards. Legg ranks as one of the biggest boosters of Common Core in Tallahassee. Despite some conservatives continuing to attack the new education standards, Legg shows no signs of backing down and has argued that conservatives should support Common Core.
Having served in the Legislature for almost a decade now and having worked as an aide to Heather Fiorentino when she served in the House, Legg is a familiar face in Tallahassee. But hes only 38. There are certainly more than a few Republicans ahead of Legg in the pecking order but, with what appears to be a secure Senate seat, he will be a force, especially on education issues, in the years to come.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.