The controversy over a state’s decision on whether to appoint or elect a State Commissioner of Education is nothing new. In 1998 voters in the state of Florida chose to change from an elected commissioner to a commissioner appointed by the State Board of Education, 17 years later many elected officials are reconsidering their position at the urging of involved parents and constituents. State Senator Joe Negron proposed a constitutional amendment in November of 2012 to change to an elected commissioner arguing that it does not make sense to have an elected agriculture commissioner but not an educational commissioner. The proposal failed to gain the required legislative support to make it to the ballot. However, the issue continues to be a topic of discussion with opponents becoming disenchanted with the current practice over concerns of accountability and responsiveness.
Many supporters of the current process argue that politics and education are a bad mix and that the commissioner of education needs to focus on students, not on elections. To gain the support of their constituents the candidate for education commissioner would need to align themselves with certain voters or party on educational issues and once elected would be obligated to their agenda, and not necessarily what is good for all students. School district employees responsible for the management of business operations need to be aware of the impact such a change and stay informed.
The latest report on state education governance by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) shows that 13 of 50 states elect a commissioner of education with the remaining states choosing to appoint the position either by the governor or the state board of education. The position of Commissioner of Education for the state of Florida has no specific qualifications and serves at the pleasure of the state board of education.