Florida Bill Would Make Commissioner of Ed Elected Office


Republican lawmakers in Florida are looking to make the position of Commissioner of Education an elected office, a move that would reverse the adoption of the Common Core standards in the state.

Republican Rep. Debbie Mayfield said she introduced the bill in response to complaints from parents concerning the Florida Standards Assessment tests currently tied to Common Core principles.  She said that the complaints have been ignored by the the Florida Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor, as well as Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, writes Arek Sarkissian for TCPalm.

The proposal would create a constitutional amendment that would include the position of Commissioner of Education in the Florida Cabinet and would have members of the Cabinet serve on the State Board of Education rather than have board members be chosen by the governor.

There are currently seven members on the Board of Education, each of whom is appointed by the governor.  The board is responsible for choosing the Commissioner of Education.

Mayfield said the goal of the bill was to place more power into the hands of the citizens of Florida who are concerned about the education system.

“Public education is a top priority for many Floridians and one of the most important functions of government,” she said. “By allowing voters to choose their Commissioner of Education, we assure that this priority receives the sole attention and focus of the office-holder and voters will be able to directly hold that person accountable for the decisions he or she makes affecting our public schools.”

She went on to discuss the increasing “opt-out” movement of parents in the state who are frustrated by what they consider to be too much high-stakes testing for their children, in addition to issues they have with the Common Core curriculum.

In order to pass, the proposal would need the approval of three-fifths of both chambers within the Florida legislature.

The proposed changes would take affect on January 8, 2019.

Mayfield said she may consider asking the next Constitutional Review Commission to consider the bill next year if it fails this time around.  The state constitution allows the commission to meet once every 20 years to consider revisions.  It is set to convene in 2017-18.

There have been nine commissioners in Florida since 1998, with Commissioner Pam Stewart’s term being the longest of any of the four appointed since Governor Rick Scott took office.  She was appointed in August 2013 when former Commissioner Tony Bennett abruptly resigned after it was suggested that he had changed the grading system to benefit a charter school in Indiana during his term there as Superintendent of Schools.

Stewart’s term has been met with a great deal of controversy, beginning with a rocky introduction of the new Common Core-based Florida Standards, which drew criticism from parents, teachers, and citizens across the state.  That opposition has increased in recent months after a poor rollout of a new assessment test, the Florida Standards Assessment, which saw a number of technical difficulties during its first administration this spring.