Pruitt wants elected education commishby Dara Kam | February 19th, 2008
Senate President Ken Pruitt said Tuesday that he plans to push for a constitutional amendment that would return the state education commissioner to an elected position.
Voters eliminated the Cabinet position was eliminated more than seven years ago as part of a sweeping education reorganization package proposed by Republican lawmakers and pushed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.
The secretary of education is now appointed by the governor.
Pruitt, a Port St. Lucie Republican, said he is backing the proposal, which would go before voters on the November ballot if passed by the House and the Senate, to give voters the opportunity to weigh in on the state’s school system.
“Accountability. You’re going to have an elected official who is accountable to the people and they will best determine whether or not they feel our education system is going in the right direction,” he said. “For most parts of it, it is.”
Since the reorganization in 2000, Democrats, led by Sen. Frederica Wilson of Miami, have tried in vain to pass similar resolutions.
Pruitt also wants the same package to limit the powers of the Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system.
Lawmakers and the board are currently wrangling in court over who has the authority to set tuition rates.
“We’re going to define the roles of what it is that they do and what we do,” said Pruitt. “Setting tuition is a legislative role. They need to be at the 40,000 foot level to where they can truly plan for the future in terms of what Florida’s university system needs to look like…I think they need to be making a much broader view of it. In terms of tuition and the funding of it, that’s the role of the legislature.”