It is always a good thing for governors to take time to hear from constituents. But as Florida Gov. Rick Scott tours the state on an education "listening tour," he and the state's schools would be better served with open meetings, not invitation-only events. Scott, who is due to visit Madeira Beach Fundamental School in Pinellas County today, should open his meetings with parents, teachers, school officials and students to the general public and media. These are public schools, funded with public dollars, and the public has a right to see how an elected public servant addresses education concerns.
There is much for Scott to listen to. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — the backbone of the state's accountability efforts — has come increasingly under fire for repeated problems with the vendor and frequent recaliberations. Nonetheless, it and other standardized tests are the backbone of a new teacher assessment scheme Scott signed into law last year. Scott, in television ads financed by the Republican Party of Florida, is now saying he wants to stop "teaching to the test," but he has provided few details. And the claim is curious considering that current state law passed by the Republican-led Legislature will introduce more tests — end-of-course exams — not fewer, in coming years. Scott also brags in the ad that the state put $1 billion more into school funding this year, wholly ignoring the $1.3 billion in cuts to K-12 funding Scott approved the previous year.
Scott can persist in orchestrating whom he hears from, or the governor can offer the people he serves the opportunity to engage in an open and wide-ranging discussion of the future of Florida's public education. He might just learn something.