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Putnam: Education Reform Results?

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam got an early start on his probable campaign for Governor in 2018, on the Republican ticket. On Wednesday, he addressed a Future of Florida Forum, sponsored by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. (Full disclosure, I am a former Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce).

Putnam brings an impressive portfolio of serving in office to the race for Governor as a former legislator, member of Congress and Cabinet Member. Accordingly to press accounts, Putnam's presentation suggested changes to current thinking about education and economic development. He also emphasized the importance of protecting water supplies and the need to diversify our businesses in the state.

Putnam seemed to feel that the vague goal of education "reform" has had little impact and that effective economic development required more than temporary financial incentives, both understood to be priorities of current Governor Rick Scott.

I have heard observers of Florida politics argue for years that the priorities for public education need to be national upper quartile funding for teachers' salaries and 1/15 class size maximums, both of which have been laughed out of the legislature. While the courts are reviewing public funds being used for private education, more monies are being diverted out of public schools. On economic development, rather than baiting prospects with one time incentives, it has been argued that businesses seek quality public education (as described above), an effective criminal justice system, a protected environment, elastic transportation funding, and a sense of community for their employees in the state. I cannot recall any of these goals and their required funding being seriously considered by the Scott Administration and the Legislature. Perhaps these goals would be a better and more measurable starting point for the Commissioner.

Most interesting is that Putnam seemed to largely pass over the Chamber's long established goals titled Six Pillars, highlighting the priority of talent; innovation; infastructure; regulations; government, and quality of life in the state. In fairness, some of his suggestions might have fallen within the definitions of Six Pillars.

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