Education Funding

Eric J. Smith to Step Down as Florida Schools Chief

By Sean Cavanagh — March 21, 2011 1 min read

Eric J. Smith, Florida’s commissioner of education, has announced he will resign, a move that comes amid potentially major changes in the state’s schools.

Smith, a former math and science teacher in Florida and school district superintendent in other states, has held the post since 2007. During his tenure, the state won a $700 million award through the federal Race to the Top competition, and it has begun the tricky process of implementing that program.

Florida lawmakers also recently approved a contentious measure that will phase out teacher tenure, and create a system for evaluating and paying educators and school administrators on the basis of their performance, including growth in student test scores. Pieces of that measure, which Smith’s successor will be asked to oversee, were tied to the state’s Race to the Top plan.

Speculation about Smith’s status has abounded since the election last fall of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, with some questioning whether the new governor would want his own person in the schools post. Whoever takes over will be expected to work with a legislature that is dominated by Republicans, many of whom appear to have a great interest in challenging teachers’ unions and promoting school choice and charters in various forms.

Smith’s successor also is likely to step into office as Florida’s schools are going through major budget cuts—at least if Gov. Scott’s spending plan goes through.

For an overview of Smith’s work, pre-Florida, see EdWeek’s 2003 profile of him.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.