Rick Scott’s Not Fooling Florida Educators


Tampa Bay Times columnist Steve Bousquet was in the audience when Governor Rick Scott addressed a group of school administrators and he recognized the scent of skepticism:

“Education changed my life,” Gov. Rick Scott said Monday.

His young life, yes. His political life? Not yet.

Two years in junior college led Scott to the Navy, then a four-year degree on the GI Bill and a law degree led to success in business.

“Education was the ticket,” Scott told 200 members of the Florida Association of School Administrators at their annual legislative conference.

They included principals, assistant principals, curriculum directors and deputy school superintendents.

After the tragedy in Connecticut last month, they want safer schools.

They also want teachers to be evaluated fairly and they want more money for schools.

“Look, I support education,” Scott said.

But these middle-aged educators from all over the state are not easily impressed.

“I love measurement,” Scott said, and you could see his listeners taking the measure of a man trying to prove how committed he is to a better public education system.

They are waiting for Scott to put our money where his mouth is.

But he gave too few specifics, some said.

He agreed that a flawed teacher evaluation system needs to be reviewed “to make sure that it’s done right.”

Grady Cannon, assistant principal of Pace High near Pensacola, asked if the state will find the money to put resource officers in every school. Scott said it’s a local decision because each school district is different and flexibility is important.

“I didn’t really hear what I wanted to hear, but it wasn’t a no,” said Cannon, who wrote the governor a letter pleading that he reinstitute resource officers in all schools and add security cameras and two-way radios for support staff.

“We’ve got to have a legitimate conversation about school safety. What’s the right way of doing it?” Scott told the group without offering his vision of what that means.

Scott’s evasions’ via vague generalities did not earn him trust. The day took a turn for the worse when he brought up his idea to help teachers  with classroom costs.

Scott also touted his plan to give $250 debit cards to teachers so they don’t have to buy classroom items, and one educator asked if this were new money or would “supplant” existing funds.

Scott deferred to his education adviser, Kim McDougal, who said it’s a rebranding of a program called Teacher Lead that gives teachers on average $180 for those expenses.

“Unfortunately the Legislature and governors have gotten no credit for it,” McDougal said, “so we’re going to rebrand to call it the Teacher Award Supply Fund.”

A long, slow murmur swept through the crowd, and it didn’t sound like approval.

“Look,” Scott said as the murmuring subsided. “The way I look at it is, whatever we do, it’s not going to be enough.”

Principal Susan Keller of Tarpon Springs Middle School was not very impressed.

“It’s just being called something different,” Keller said of the classroom supply program. “It’s not anything different. They’ve been getting that money for a long time.”

His aide’s gaffe revealed the contempt his administration has for the state’s educators. Whatever good his listening tour accomplished unraveled with McDougal’s swipe at the people in the room. Scott’s lip service to the problems his teacher evaluation law caused for everyone with “it needs to be reviewed to make sure that it’s done right,” without a proposal signaled he doesn’t want to do anything. He’ll just hide behind Tony Bennett’s bloviating about accountability and the need for scoreboards.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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3 Responses to Rick Scott’s Not Fooling Florida Educators

  1. We did a very unofficial poll one time and many teachers spend over $1000 of their own money each year on supplies for their classrooms. Someone should do some valid polling on the topic!

  2. Diane Kepus says:

    Well I could smell his obvious disinterest for educators and what they need just by reading his remarks about education since he took office. I think he thinks he has an Education Commissioner and I wil let him take the heat and if it is hot enough I might give you some money.

    I want to know how much of the state’s coffers are being poured into Enterprise Florida and all the trips Scott and the various legislators are taking around the world. Is that money for the trips coming out of Enterprise Florida or are they traveling on the tax payers dimes?

    .Florida unfortunately has become a mini DC. As I was taking a closer look at The Florida Council of 100 it looked to me like a mini ALEC. The people are being deceived from every point.

    How many of you have called your sheriff’s office to see if he or she is going to support the Constitution and the people in regard to the 2nd Amendment? I think you are going to be sadly disappointed.

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