Floridians began learning all they needed to know about Rick Scott’s education policy before he took office. He named three charter school executives to his education transition team which only included one person from a traditional public school setting. He named controversial DC superintendent Michelle Rhee as co-chair along Jeb Bush’s education enforcer Patricia Levesque. For good measure, Scott screened Rhee’s propaganda film Waiting for Superman for legislators before he took office. He made manifest his bona fides as an education reformer when he placed his signature on SB 736, the tragically named Student Success Act at the for-profit charter school belonging to a political cronie. That cronie was Gary Chartrand who now chairs the Florida Board of Education. That school, part of the KIPP charter school network, soon learned after Scott’s visit that it was a failing school and received an F.
Much political hay has been made by Scott’s handlers that he cleaned up a financial mess he inherited from his predecessor, Charlie Crist. If so he did it on the backs of the states public servants by making them make hefty contributions to what was an already solvent fund. Scott slashed education spending by $1.3 billion in his first year. Subsequent increases have given Scott the ability to fool Floridians with rhetoric that he raised education funding.
So here we are after six years. The editors of the Tampa Bay Times are having none of it.
As he campaigns for re-election, Gov. Rick Scott portrays himself as a champion of public education who has increased spending, befriended teachers and ensured Florida’s schoolchildren will be better prepared for to enter college or the job market. His record is at odds with his rhetoric. In 16 years since Republicans took over the Governor’s Mansion and began pushing major education policy changes, no governor has been so coldly calculating and cynical about what happens to Florida’s traditional public schools.
From his first year backing steep budget cuts and nonsensical teacher assessments to his repeated favoring of private interests, Scott has all but ignored the state’s constitutional duty to provide uniform, high-quality and free public schools…..
While the editors of the Times put way too much emphasis on Florida Tea Party groups for opposing Common Core Standards and “forcing” him to tweak them – many apolitical and leftward-leaning educators hate them, too – they get it right on testing.
Scott has approved changes to Florida’s accountability system that have managed to breed further distrust and loathing from parents and educators. Months into his job, he approved a deeply flawed and unfair teacher evaluation system that Crist had vetoed a year earlier because it relied too heavily on standardized tests and ultimately judged many teachers on the performance of students they had never taught. Lawmakers have tweaked the law — which also eliminated school districts’ ability to grant tenure to new hires — but the districts are still grappling with implementing “value-added models” in any meaningful way even as these assessments play a huge role in whether new teachers are retained or veterans receive merit pay. That’s on top of the continuous changes in how the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test figures in school grades, making the ratings nearly meaningless.
When the furor erupted a year ago over the state’s years-old transition to Common Core State Standards, Scott rashly abandoned the state’s investment in a multistate, nonprofit testing concern that was writing Common Core assessments to replace the FCAT. Then the state Department of Education — whose administration of standardized testing has been highly problematic throughout Scott’s tenure — handed the test-writing over to a firm that won’t do extensive field testing in Florida before students take the exams this spring. Transitions are always tough, but Scott has only made it harder by irresponsibly pushing forward without regard to the consequences
Public servants are sure to be galvanized against Scott when they go to the voting booth in 26 days. This number will include many teachers who are independent voters and voted for Scott in 2010 after being suckered by his statement that he didn’t like FCAT. Florida’s teachers, even ones in charter schools, will remember that Crist vetoed a bill identical to SB 736 when governor.
Scott’s problem may be from the right as many votes he got in 2010 are going elsewhere because of his Common Core advocacy. Crist’s support for Common Core won’t be hurting him as it will Scott because his positions on accountability, funding and choice policies are clearly different.