JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott is again signalling he'll make improvement in education a major focus as he starts a "listening tour" Monday aimed at getting input from teachers, students and parents on what the schools can do better.
Scott's first stop will be Monday afternoon at Jacksonville's Pinedale Elementary School. He'll participate in a teacher roundtable just after school, then a parent roundtable at 5:30 p.m.
Many of Florida's tens of thousands of public school teachers have been skeptical in recent years of Republican motives on education, with support by three GOP governors and the Legislature over the last decade going to moving students out of the traditional public school system and into independent charter schools or into the private schools.
That's been seen by some as an abandoning of the public school ideal.
While Scott ran on a platform mainly of creating jobs, education improvement, both in K-12 and higher ed, have joined economic development at the top of Scott's talking point list. Earlier this year, he made a video, for example, making it clear he agrees with the many parents who have said for years that high stakes testing shouldn't be the full focus of the education system. Scott may have been behind the curve in talking about the state's main test, the FCAT, which is already being phased out, but he joined in the video in a popular criticism of the system – that teachers teach to the test, denying a students an opportunity for a broader education.
Scott has also since the spring legislative session heavily touted the Legislature's appropriation of about $1 billion more for K-12 education than the previous year, though critics noted the boost merely restored a cut from the previous year.
The state's teachers' union has continued to criticize Scott, saying his increasing talk of education reform is a thinly-veiled public relations move, coming as the governor starts to think about his re-election campaign.
But Scott said he is open to suggestions.
"By listening to teachers, parents and children, we will gather ideas to strengthen our education system to better prepare students for college and careers," Scott said in a release sent out over the weekend.
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