Teachers Union Sees Talks With Rick Scott Moving Beyond 'Second Date'
Around the State
This wasn’t exactly pizza and a movie, but negotiations have warmed up among the governor’s office and the state’s teachers’ union.
For the second time this month, Gov. Rick Scott and Andy Ford, the president of the Florida Education Association, have gotten together, with the governor promising to listen to the concerns of the union, which has been one of his most vocal opponents.
“We’re still in the beginning stages of trying to build a relationship, on how to communicate with one another,” Ford said after emerging Wednesday from Scott’s office in the Capitol. “And we do both come at this with the angle that we have to improve student achievement. As long as we keep that in our mind we’re going to at least keep the dialogue going. We may not agree on every detail, but talking helps.”
The two had dinner together 12 days earlier at the governor’s mansion as Scott traveled the state, talking to teachers, parents, administrators and students on his “education listening tour.”
Ford said no in-depth discussions have occurred on issues such as teacher evaluations and merit pay, charter schools or testing. But they have agreed to meet on a regular basis.
“This is like dating; it’s a second date, not much happens yet, you’re still trying to figure out where you’re going,” Ford said.
How the talks eventually progress won’t be known until the legislative session.
“The test will be during the session, on whether we have some success or not.”
Ford said the reaction from members to the meetings has been mixed, “but most people realize it’s better to hold a conversation.”
Interim education commissioner, Pam Stewart, the K-12 chancellor who was given the temporary assignment after Gerard Robinson resigned last month, was among those in attendance on Wednesday’s meeting.
Scott has spoken positively of Stewart on his ‘listening tour’ and referred to her as “commissioner,” but he has not recommended her for the post as the Florida State Board of Education has extended the deadline in its search to replace Robinson.
Ford said he wouldn’t be disappointed if Stewart, a former teacher and administrator, was named commissioner.
The governor’s office did not immediately release any post-meeting comment after Wednesday’s meeting.
After the Sept. 14 dinner, Scott announced he was developing an education agenda that “at a minimum sustains current state funding for education in the next budget and, depending on the state’s economic outlook, aims to increase education funding where we can improve student outcomes.”
“Our goal is to better prepare students for college and careers, and our policies in the next budget and the next legislative session will be designed around that."
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.