NEWS: New Florida Education Commissioner is Strong School Choice Supporter

From The Palm Beach Post:

TALLAHASSEE — The state Board of Education took little time during a meeting today to name Gerard Robinson, secretary of education in Virginia, to be Florida’s next education commissioner.

Robinson, who was picked from a group of 26 applicants, was appointed to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Cabinet last year.

He previously served as president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to “increase quality educational options for black children” and advocates for school choices outside of traditional public schools.

Robinson, 44, has spent much of his career advocating for education reform, including broader access to charter schools, school vouchers and virtual schools, things that Florida Gov. Rick Scott also supports.

He and former Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith were among the founding members of Chiefs for Change, an effort led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush aimed at promoting new approaches to evaluating teachers and principals and improving standards and testing.

The board had expressed interest in finding an education commissioner that would work well with Scott.

Florida Board of Education member John R. Padget nominated Robinson, who was one of five finalists interviewed Monday afternoon. There was no discussion of other candidates, and the board voted unanimously to approve Robinson.

“Florida was able to attract a very qualified, very impressive group of finalists for this extremely important position,” state Board of Education Chair Kathleen Shanahan said in a statement. “Mr. Robinson was able to showcase his passion for education and his desire to lift the achievement of all students in a very effective way.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott sent out a statement this morning commending the Board of Education on its decision, calling Gerard “a nationally recognized leader in school choice.”

“His leadership as an experienced education reformer and advocate for school choice and closing the achievement gap is exactly what Florida needs,” Scott said.

Previous Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith resigned June 10 under pressure from Gov. Rick Scott, who took office in January.

John Winn, who served as education commissioner under former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has been filling in as interim commissioner.

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