podcastED: Senator Jeff Brandes on the future of public education

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R- St. Petersburg)

If you ask Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) what he thinks the education world will look like in the year 2040, he’ll tell you it will be going back to the past.

“I see us moving back to the one-room schoolhouse where we have students of different capabilities working with each other to help everyone rise,” Brandes says.

The Pinellas County lawmaker pushes innovative education policies every year in the Florida Legislature, but new leadership more focused on education choice appear to be giving his ideas more traction.

His signature education bill this session, SB 226, would expand a mastery-based education pilot program from the three Florida counties currently testing the concept to any district in the state that wishes to participate. The bill wasn’t heard in committee last session but is on track to pass this year with wide bipartisan support. A similar bill is currently awaiting passage in the House.

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Brandes firmly believes that the flexibility of mastery-based education and the wide array of options it provides will expand opportunities for students.

“Our goalposts cannot simply be you got an education or degree,” Brandes said. “A job is the goalpost. How do we focus everything that we’re doing to line up to professions that are out there for people who complete their education?”

SB 226 is not a mandate. Districts would have to opt in to participate, and there are unanswered questions about implementation, funding and state-mandated testing. But testing certainly would change under a mastery-based education system.

Brandes says this is a good thing.

“The upside is that we get to take the temperature of each individual student in real time … Why do we need to take the temperature once a year if we’re taking it every day?”

Listen to the full interview below or on iTunes.

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BY David Hudson

David Hudson is SUFS’ Safe and Healthy Schools Coordinator and a member of the Policy and Public Affairs (PAPA) team. He is a product of 13 years of education choice in the magnet programs of Pinellas County Schools. He has been with SUFS since May 2017 and lives in St. Petersburg, FL. You can reach him at [email protected] or 727-451-9835.

One Comment

Senator Brandes is an impressive and innovative thinker. Few legislators have thought as deeply about how best to improve education. We need more like him.

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