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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Rick Scott has in store for Florida

From the Miami Herald, by Tia Mitchell

The Herald/Times has exclusively obtained a draft copy of Gov. Rick Scott's K-12 education agenda, which will be made public Thursday. In the five-page document, Scott unveils his education plan and a list of proposals he will support in the coming year.

The governor will formally present his "College and Careers 1st" proposal at the Market Watch Education Summit in Ft. Myers. Most of the recommendations appear to be in line with what Scott has already said, whether it be opposing school funding cuts or supporting the expansion of charter schools. Still however, this white paper creates the clearest insight to date of his education priorities.

“I think the most important thing here is to get everybody focused on one goal and that is to get our kids ready, whether it’s a career when they finish high school or to get ready for college," Scott told the Herald/Times in a phone interview. "Every decision we make needs to say, 'Does this move us in that direction or move us away in that direction?'”

Goal #1 references the state's transition to new education standards and measurements. Under this heading, he recommends suspending any new testing changes or requirements that dont' directly correlate to the Common Core State Standards that will be implemented in 2014. It is not clear however, how that will impact schools since most have already started pivoting toward the new standards.

Goal #2 deals with holding teachers accountable and providing new resources for them and their students. Here, Scott reiterates his promise to keep education speading steady in the coming academic year. He later told the Herald/Times that he wants to ensure per-student funding does not decline and, if possible, would like to increase it.

Scott also proposes redirecting funding for "quality mentoring that can help Florida students prepare for college and a career." During the phone interview, Scott said he wants to review all mentoring programs that receive state dollars and reward the ones that have the highest success rate. A similar proposal was floated by the governor during his 2012-2013 budget proposal, but he retreated in the face of opposition from lawmakers and educators.

In Goal #3, Scott says he wants to increase competition by creating more options for schools and students. He is already working on one of his recommendations -- deregulating school districts -- through a committee of superintendents that is coming up with ways to reduce paperwork. Scott is also proposing to give schools increased flexibility when it comes to purchasing textbooks and other instructional materials.

Goal #3 is also where Scott outlines his proposals regarding charter schools. First, he wants to remove enrollment caps for charter schools "so that results and capacity can determine enrollment." He also wants to hold a "Choice and Competition Summit to discuss ways to remove barriers to choice options in low-performing areas." Lastly, Scott is also recommending that school districts be allowed to open and operate their own "district charter innovation schools."

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