Is there an education leader in the House?
It's been two weeks since Trey Traviesa announced he won't seek reelection to the Florida House. His surprise decision threw speculation over who will head the Schools and Learning Council into overdrive.
Both incoming speaker Ray Sansom and outgoing Speaker Marco Rubio have done nothing to control the conversation. Sansom told the Gradebook in a brief e-mail that he'll make his choice known in the fall. A spokeswoman for Rubio said past tradition would put the transition off until November, when the speakership officially changes hands.
Seven Republican council members remain in play, four of whom have already won reelection without opposition, another three who are headed to the general election. Of that group, three names consistently rise to the top - Pasco County's John Legg, Marti Coley of Marianna and Anitere Flores of Miami (see above, L-R).
Legg told the Gradebook he expects some political calculus to come to bear - who lives where, who supported whom in key votes, and the like. One thing remains clear in his mind, though: Whoever runs the education agenda in the House will likely lead the debate in Tallahassee. With Gov. Charlie Crist and the Senate seemingly focused elsewhere, "It's going to have to come from the House," said Legg, who plans to meet with Sansom next month to discuss education priorities.
At least one member of the minority party has offered his view on what might happen.
Council member Rep. Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg, said Flores is a natural choice to be the next council chair, noting she chairs the Committee on K-12.
But Heller said if he had his way, he'd tap Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine. Proctor, who also sits on the council, is chancellor and former president of Flagler College and a former member of the State Board of Education. "I know he's a member of the other party, but he's very knowledgeable about education," Heller said. "I think he has respect on both sides of the aisle."
- Jeff Solochek and Ron Matus