New Florida ed commish: Don’t pigeonhole school choice

The St. Petersburg Times’ education blog, The Gradebook, just landed what looks to be the first interview with Florida’s newly appointed education chief, Gerard Robinson, the former president of the Black Alliance for Education Options and secretary of education in Virginia. The Gradebook noted that Robinson’s support of charter schools and school vouchers has created some early buzz, but Robinson urged his critics to look at the issue of school choice more broadly:

When we think about it, we only think about it in terms of charters and vouchers. We don’t accept the fact that the largest school choice programs in the country are parents that put their children in good public schools that work. Magnet schools have been in place a long time before charters and that. So I don’t want to allow the school choice issue to be pigeonholed into just one issue, vouchers and charters. What I am for is quality education.

The work in Virginia expanded beyond charters. The work in other areas expanded beyond vouchers. For me, I am interested in making sure that parents, or taxpayers and others, have access to great public school systems. Florida has a great private school sector. It also has a great virtual school perspective. Guess what? Those are all aspects of school choice. But when we talk about the issue, we try to focus on what someone said about a contentious aspect of it, as surely there are. But there are contentious aspects of the traditional system that long preceded vouchers and charters.

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit