Rick Scott’s Week of Shaking Hands, Kissing Babies and Picking the Pockets of Public Education

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

Florida’s Department of Education has a blog. Even Commissioner Gerard Robinson posts occasionally in the curiously named Finding Common Ground. My colleagues in public education probably find my use of “curiously” to be a bit lacking. Perhaps “disingenuous” would be better. Especially if the time frame we consider begins with the run-up to the battle over SB6 during the spring of 2010. No suggestions for amendments were accepted by republican legislators for that bill. There’s little difference between SB6 and the recently passed SB736 aside from the 7 and the 3.

After Charlie Crist’s veto, Florida’s bitter and shrill republicans said they’d be back with SB6. They just assumed at the time it would be with milquetoast Bill McCollum as governor. Instead they got someone whom opponents have frequently referred to as Lord Voldemort. The depilated Scott might be the sort of ideologue the state’s republican’s wouldn’t have gotten in a more thoughtful and politically experienced McCollum. Whether or not Scott’s been too ideological has yet to be determined in the place it matters most at the ballot box. Next fall’s national elections will provide a clue. Any combination of a state victory by President Obama or the reelection of Democrat Senator Bill Nelson will be considered as a rebuke of Scott’s governorship.

So Scott’s second legislative session is upon us. This week’s news that he would be advancing parent trigger legislation should be considered alongside the op-ed piece he circulated among the state’s newspapers. There couldn’t be more of a disconnect between the two. In the later, he’s reaching out to the state’s professional educators. In the former he’s making yet another attempt to usurp their role and influence in teaching the state’s children. Scott wants you to believe otherwise.

Scott and his handlers have learned to play the PR game. Like any shrewd politician, he looks to have it both ways. Grouping his widely reported meeting this week with teachers in Osceola county with his op-ed and an easily corrupted parent trigger law provides the perfect opportunity to apply a political metaphor. Scott’s shaking hands, kissing babies and picking pockets.

Scott provided his e-mail address at the end of his faux outreach op-ed in which he was clever enough not to include any of education reform’s big C’s: charters, choice or computers. He’s done nothing more thus far than to impose his narrow vision on the way Florida educates its children. Florida’s governor will have to do better than an email address and a few PR stunts to show he’s really interested in finding common ground with the state’s public education professionals.

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