It's understandable why there is a sad little list of uninspiring candidates seeking to be Florida's next education commissioner. Attracting top-flight talent to a high-profile job is difficult when the departing occupant was well regarded and driven away. The application deadline has been extended until today, and the Board of Education should not panic and pick the first person with a credible resume.
It remains unclear why Eric Smith is leaving. He was respected by members of both political parties, and he has been a calm voice of reason amid the turmoil of rapid change. Smith felt ignored by Gov. Rick Scott and got the message he was no longer wanted, but neither Smith nor the governor has elaborated.
Florida faces difficult challenges in education, from declining funding to a new teacher evaluation system. Combine that with the governor's lack of interest in public schools and support for a radical voucher plan. Mix in the shadow of Michelle Rhee, the controversial former chancellor of Washington's public schools and an informal Scott adviser. No wonder the biggest names in public education are not interested in coming to Florida.
The Board of Education will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss the situation. At the moment, the best available player appears to be the one who is being forced out.