More praise for outgoing Florida education commissioner Eric J. Smith -- from Jeb Bush
Eric J. Smith's decision to vacate the Florida education commissioner's chair to allow Gov. Rick Scott the opportunity to choose someone else left many people scratching their heads.
Smith won friends in the conservative Florida Legislature, helping to win a competitive federal Race to the Top grant and steer through groundbreaking legislation to change teacher evaluations and contract terms. He helped create and lead a new association of state education leaders, called Chiefs for Change, aimed at bringing such ideas to the national forum.
The move prompted State Board of Education members to push back, calling for an immediate search even before Scott can make appointments to three open seats, all the while praising Smith. UPDATE: The meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Former governor Jeb Bush, who's been pushing Florida-style education changes in several other states, also rose to Smith's side.
"Eric always puts students first — ahead of politics and above the potential consequences to him personally and professionally. Last year, he was unwavering in his support for legislation to modernize the teaching profession. He stuck to his principles even in the face of unrelenting pressure from special interests," Bush wrote in a column for the Orlando Sentinel. "In fact, legislation is on its way to Gov. Rick Scott that contains the core components he fought for last year — to evaluate teachers on student learning, reward excellence and end tenure."
What's next for Smith? He's still not talking. And for the Florida education commissioner's position? Scott's staff has not responded to questions either.