Elect the commissioner?
Most of the coverage of Senate president pro tem Lisa Carlton's bill (SJR 2308) to overhaul governance of the state's education system focuses on proposed changes to the Board of Governors. (See the Times story here for an example. There are plenty more in other papers, too.)
What gets lost in the heated battle, which Carlton (left) acknowledged mostly has to do with who sets tuition, is the fact that the bill actually is called "Commissioner of Education" and it's co-sponsored by Democrat Frederica Wilson of Miami.
Wilson (right), perhaps best known for her fights to end school grading and remove the FCAT as a high school graduation requirement, pushed last year to return the education commissioner to an elected position. The bill made it through all the necessary committees but didn't reach the floor amid wrangling with the House.
Her goal has not changed this year. Wilson argues that Floridians deserves a passionate advocate for children in the Cabinet, one who is directly accountable to the people. Right now, she said, Florida doesn't have that person.
Representatives from the Florida School Boards Association, the Florida Association of District Schools Superintendents and the Florida Association of School Administrators simply rose in support (perhaps knowing what fireworks lay ahead for universities chancellor Mark Rosenberg). It was Patricia Levesque, who runs Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future, who opposed the measure.
Yes, Levesque told senators, the state needs that education advocate in Tallahassee. "We just think that advocate should be the governor," she said, suggesting that if lawmakers want to change state governance, they might invest more power in the governor by abolishing the elected agriculture commissioner position instead. Bush shares that view, the Miami Herald reports.
The bill still has another committee stop ahead before heading to the Senate floor. Its fate in the House is questionable, as a similar bill there (HB 55) was withdrawn before being heard by a single committee. (CLARIFICATION: The House has a separate proposed committee bill on this item coming before the Schools and Learning Council Friday morning.)