Gov. Rick Scott lays out education message

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott unveiled his prescription for the future of education in Florida this week as he released details of an agenda that focused on national core standards and putting more faith in charter schools.

Following a listening tour that took him across the state, Scott released details of his legislative agenda for education, one of his few major forays outside economic development since taking office nearly two years ago.

Other than that, the looming elections in the politically deadlocked state overshadowed most issues this week.

After all, Florida played host to the presidential candidates who debated at Lynn University, the last of three debates before voters cast ballots in the Nov. 6 election. Other guests crisscrossing the state included family members and a string of party luminaries who are turning over every rock to find the elusive "undecided" voters who have yet to make up their minds.

There was, however, other news as well.

Echoing the concerns that almost got Scott sent packing from south Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce this week objected to legislation passed earlier this year that would block state and local governments from buying goods and services from companies that have business ties to Cuba.

The chamber's position had the not-so-surprising effect of angering south Florida Hispanic lawmakers.

Speaking of south Florida lawmakers, U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, added the Florida Commission on Ethics to a growing list of antagonists as he faces mounting investigations and tries to hold on to the seat he has held since 2010.

On the economic front, BP announced this week it was cancelling plans to build a $300-million ethanol plant in Highlands County, ending a four-year commitment to build its first production facility in the United States. The company said it would seek opportunities elsewhere.


Expanding his priority list from attracting jobs and boosting the economy, Scott this week consolidated a series of previous mini-announcements as he put forth a package of education priorities he says will move the state forward.

Arguably the most controversial element of Scott's plan is the increased role of charter schools, public schools that are usually run by third parties and are free of many of the regulations faced by typical schools. Scott's plan would remove enrollment caps on existing charter schools and allow school districts to operate their own charter schools.

Scott's agenda would also make other changes, junking some regulations and giving debit cards to teachers to pay for school supplies, with the hopes that businesses would help support the program.

The agenda would also require the state not to introduce any new testing that doesn't conform to the "Common Core Standards," a national set of curriculum guidelines set to take effect next school year.