Florida Senate panel moves bill to return to an elected education commissioner
With limited discussion, the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Tuesday unanimously moved a resolution aimed at returning an elected education commissioner to the state Cabinet, which would again serve as the State Board of Education.
Florida voters moved to an appointed commissioner and board in 1998, under the premise that politics would be reduced from education decision making. Since then, supporters have contended, the opposite has occurred.
The time has come, sponsor Sen. Rene Garcia said, to let voters reconsider.
"We always stress up here that education is important," said Garcia, R-Miami. If the education commissioner is the highest ranking education official in Florida, he said, "It's important to have that member ... to have a seat in the Cabinet."
Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, asked if the change would provide more stability in the commissioner's seat. She noted that Florida has gone through five commissioners since Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011.
"It will be elected through the (4-year) term of office," Garcia responded.
Two conservative groups, the Tea Party Network and the Liberty First Network, supported the measure, which no one opposed. The bill next heads to the Education Committee. A House version has not yet moved.