The editors of the Sun Sentinel have a bullet list of suggestions for incoming education commissioner Tony Bennett:
Seek to end the polarization. Listen hard to local school administrators, teachers and parents. Where it makes sense, be their champion. Solve problems. Don’t position yourself as an ideologue. Find common ground where we can all agree that change makes sense. Start there.
Don’t make change for the sake of change. Like Indiana, Florida jumps from reform to reform almost every year, sometimes rolling out new initiatives days before the new school year starts. Lay stable groundwork for sustained success.
For-profit education companies are spending a lot of money in Tallahassee, trying to get a bigger share of the state pie. While school choice is a good thing, especially for students not thriving in public schools, make sure these schools are held to similar standards — which at present, they are not.
Teacher unions similarly spend a lot of money in Tallahassee, trying to ensure a future for public education — something enshrined in our state constitution and strongly supported by citizens. While the unions sometimes protect teachers who have no business teaching, the vast majority of teachers care passionately about what they do. Stoke their spirit. Too often in recent years, it’s been beaten down.
Be courageous in your dealings with Gov. Rick Scott, even though you’re our fourth commissioner in two years. The governor doesn’t know education like you do. Be a trusted adviser on whom he can count to lead.
Don’t cocoon yourself in Tallahassee. Know that Floridians will push back on top-down policies they don’t like. It’s why they passed a class-size amendment and recently rejected an amendment that would have let public funds flow to religious schools. And while Floridians want schools to be held accountable, don’t get them started on the problems with the FCAT.
Be an approachable leader who brings people together to make good things happen.
For the sake of our kids and our future, all of Florida is counting on you.
Is there really any reason to go beyond the first one? Bennett’s already positioned himself as an ideologue. He didn’t receive Eli Broad’s $50,000 contribution for his Indiana campaign because his was some sort of pragmatic consensus maker. Why would anyone even believe that an ideological state board would hire anyone who wasn’t a true believer. The board’s desperate Tony Bennett decision will even deliver a final victory for Jeb Bush’s education reforms or end up like the New York Jets’ Tim Tebow experiment as a spectacular failure.