Two lawmakers call for Florida to return to elected education commissioner
One day after Tony Bennett resigned as state education commissioner, two Democratic lawmakers called for the state's top education job to be an elected position.
Bennett, who stepped down amid a school-grade controversy, had been appointed to the post by the seven-member state Board of Education. He was the latest in a revolving door of appointed state education leaders; during Gov. Rick Scott's 31 months in office, there here have been three permanent education commissioners and two interim ones.
"Maybe it's time that Florida consider returning back to an elected commissioner of education," said Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami.
Florida had an elected education commissioner until 1998, when voters statewide decided to reduce the number of elected cabinet officials from six to three.
The last education commissioner to be voted into office: former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Republican state Sens. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, and Greg Evers, R-Baker, suggested the schools position be elected last year, but the idea got little traction.
On Friday, Bullard said Floridians had "become tired of individuals who are picked by kingmakers who have been in the educational process for a number of years, political appointees and politically driven commissioners who really don't understand the meat and potatoes of Florida education."
"What we are in essence dealing with is a lack of trust among Floridians of those who are putting these people in place," Bullard said.
State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, said having an elected commissioner would lend stability to the state education department.
"For us, it really comes down to accountability at the highest levels of education," Rodriguez said. "If you are going to have elected statewide cabinet officers as we do, why not a statewide education commissioner?"
As we noted yesterday, the state Board of Education might have a hard time filling the job under the current circumstances.