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- Subject: Horne resigns
- From: QCao009@aol.com
- Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 13:11:46 EDT
State Education Commissioner Jim Horne resigns
The Associated Press
August 10, 2004, 12:47 PM EDT
TALLAHASSEE -- Jim Horne, Gov. Jeb Bush's choice to overhaul Florida's
education system from kindergarten through college, resigned Tuesday after three
years on the job, citing family concerns.
In a brief note to Bush, the education commissioner wrote, "There is no
greater responsibility or higher priority than being a great dad and good
husband." He has been commuting between his home in the Jacksonville area to
Tallahassee the past three years. His resignation is effective Aug. 31.
Horne, 45, was tapped to head up the department after serving in the
Legislature from 1995 to 2001, including a stint as chairman of the Senate committee
that writes the state budget.
A top priority for Bush has been revamping the education system, including
added accountability through testing for school children and more choices for
parents in where their children can go to school.
One of the most controversial elements of the plan has been issuing vouchers
to children attending failing public schools so they can attend private
schools at state expense.
Horne's department has come under intense scrutiny in recent months over the
accountability of private schools that accept vouchers, after some of the
schools were accused of fraud and other wrongdoing.
But people close to Horne said it was not the scrutiny over the voucher
program but the pressure of being apart from his family that led Horne to quit
the job, which paid him $230,742 last year.
And under the measuring system that Bush has championed, Florida schools
have made improvements on Horne's watch.
In May, state officials announced that more than half of the students who
took the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test are reading at or above grade
level, for the first time since officials started measuring it.
The results were even better in math, with 56 percent of students at grade
level or better. Bush and Horne have also been able to tout a narrowing gap
between achievement by black students and white ones.
Still, Horne's public face was often defending Bush's education reforms.
He had to deal with embarrassments over the state's corporate voucher
program, in which corporations receive tax credits for providing private school
scholarships to poor children. Among those were the revelation in 2003 that
corporate vouchers were being used to pay tuition for students at an Islamic
school in Tampa co-founded by a professor accused of terrorist ties.
In June, seven people were arrested from a Polk County Christian school,
amid allegations it accepted state voucher money for disabled children who
didn't attend the school.
The Legislature this year took a look at the voucher program, considering
proposals to add accountability measures for the private schools that take the
money. But nothing passed, and Senate President Jim King called the program a
"disaster waiting to happen."
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