Hillsborough schools lobbyist Connie Milito finds a ‘duty to say yes’ to DeSantis transition team nod

It's important to have a seat at the table, Milito says.
Connie Milito, chief government relations officer in Hillsborough, described an "us and them" battle but assured School Board members that public schools will survive. [HCPS]
Connie Milito, chief government relations officer in Hillsborough, described an "us and them" battle but assured School Board members that public schools will survive. [HCPS]
Published December 7

Connie Milito still isn't sure who gave the Ron DeSantis transition team her name.

But when she got the invitation to serve on his 41-member education advisory group, Milito found she couldn't say no.

"Our school district will have a voice if I say yes," Milito said. "So it's almost a duty to say yes."

It could have been easy in some ways to turn down the request, noting the decided skew of the committee.

Many critics quickly noted it includes no current classroom teachers or parents without other titles, and that it's filled with a who's who of Florida charter school,  voucher and home school operators and advocates — not to mention people who have fought public schools on textbooks, curriculum and other matters.

The representation of the K-12 district school system and its backers is not proportionate to the percentage of students who use it every day, though it is greater than Gov. Rick Scott's initial education transition team. The public higher education system fares much better.

But that's what makes the presence of Milito, along with a Miami-Dade School Board member, the Walton County superintendent and a former Brevard County superintendent that much more important, she suggested.

They will be there to speak on behalf of the thousands upon thousands of public school students and employees, standing up for the biggest system as the multitude of choices expands under a GOP-led government that shows no signs of scaling back — as the transition team membership seems to signal.

"I'm not a partisan person, because the kids aren't partisan," said Milito, a one-time kindergarten teacher who's been lobbying in Tallahassee for two decades. "I'm happy to have a seat at the table, and hopefully have some input."

Related coverage: DeSantis names wide-ranging education transition committee 

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