Jeffrey S. Solochek, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, reports, “Florida’s next education commissioner needs to have room to do the job without political interference, state Board of Education members said Friday as they set requirements for the vacancy.”
But do the Commissioners really want to stop political interference?
The Florida Board of Education (BOE) is itself political. Outgoing Chairwoman Kathleen M. Shanahan has held federal and state public policy positions of chief of staff for Florida Governor Jeb Bush, chief of staff to Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, deputy secretary of the California Trade and Commerce Agency, special assistant to then Vice President George Bush, and staff assistant on President Reagan’s National Security Council.
Vice Chairman Roberto Martinez, a lawyer, served as Chairman of the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission; Special Counsel to Attorney General Charlie Crist; and as Chairman of the District Board of Trustees of Miami Dade College; Chair of Attorney-Elect Charlie Crist’s transition; General Counsel to Governor Jeb Bush during the gubernatorial transition.
Solochek quotes Martinez as saying, “The person has to be able to deal with the political process. But I think all of us … need to understand we need to give that person a lot of autonomy so they can function professionally with minimal interference from the political folks.”
On September 7, 2012 the State Board of Education moved forward with the search for the next Commissioner of Education approving the candidate profile developed by Ray and Associates. The search firm is conducting a nationwide search for Florida’s chief education officer who will be responsible for all aspects of the state’s Pre-K-20 education system. The deadline for applications is Sept. 27, 2012.
The Florida Legislature and Board of Education have come under fire from citizens with two actions that have disenfranchised students, parents and citizens.
The first action was removing citizen participation in the selection of text books used in Florida’s public schools. More recently the BOE unanimously voted to lower school passing scores after 2011 FCAT scores plummeted. This lowering of school passing scores occurred after political pressure from teachers unions, the superintendents association and school boards across Florida.
The Florida based Textbook Action Team (TAT) in May, 2011 became outraged with a provision in SB 2120 lines 118-120, which was passed by the Republican led legislature. The provision cuts out lay people from the State Instructional Materials Committee.
“Today all of Florida’s public school textbooks will be selected by bureaucrats, not citizens and parents” notes Sheri Krass, State Chairperson for TAT. Krass stated in a letter to Governor Scott, “Now, in a boldfaced attempt to avoid having to seat some of these individuals on the Committee, your State Legislature has passed SB 2120 which employs ‘three state or national experts in the content areas submitted for adoption’ to review the instructional materials and evaluate the content for alignment with the applicable Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. This move allows them to continue to deprive our students of the quality education they deserve.”
The second action was lowing the passing scores of public schools statewide.Cara Fitzpatrick, Shelly Rossetter and Jefferry S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times in their article “After FCAT scores plunge, state quickly lowers the passing grade” reported, “After conceding that poor communication with teachers could have contributed to the unprecedented plunge in Florida students’ writing scores this year, the state Board of Education voted Tuesday to lower the passing mark for the test.”
Teachers and administrators have known about the new testing standards for over a year. Teachers and school administrations actually write the Sunshine State Standards, the test questions and administer the tests. Many parents and citizens do not accept the premise that there was a communication gap. The new standards require that a student use proper sentence structure, punctuation and spelling. Each of these are fundamental to learning how to write.
All members of the Florida Board of Education are political appointees. How can politics be taken out of the classroom and replaced by empowered parents, students and citizens?
How do you take politics out of education? Perhaps this video from the Reason Foundation titled “The Machine” will help explain: