Hi, I’m Scott Kent, the new Strategic Communications Manager for Step Up for Students, a non-profit in St. Petersburg that administers four different state scholarships and promotes school choice.
I’m also a recovering journalist.
When I accepted this newly created position at SUFS, I left behind a 30-year career in newspapers, the last 25 as an editorial writer and opinion page editor, most recently at the Daytona Beach News-Journal. There’s an old saying that “all newspaper editorial writers ever do is come down from the hills after the battle is over and shoot the wounded.” Now I’m going to be in the middle of the fray, advocating for increasing educational opportunities for Florida families as part of an organization that is at the forefront of the movement.
It’s an issue I was passionate about throughout my newspaper career, and I’ve lost count of the number of editorials I’ve written on the subject. Although my perspective is changing from that of an outside observer to a participant, my positions remain fixed:
- Empower students and parents with the resources to secure the learning options that best suit their needs.
- The concept of publicly funded education applies first and foremost to individuals, not institutions. Money should follow students to where they are best served.
- Non-traditional ways of providing education need not compete with traditional methods — they should complement each other. The pursuit of a diverse education system is not a zero-sum proposition.
- Success is measured by outputs, not inputs. The focus should be on what works. The bottom line should be whether students are learning.
My views are also informed by personal experience. My wife has taught for 26 years in public elementary schools. Most were traditional schools populated largely by low-income, minority children; she also taught six years in a well-established, high-performing charter school. Through her I have seen both sides, and I can appreciate the challenges she and her colleagues – and her students — have faced.
We’re also the parents of two sons, a 23-year-old recent graduate of Florida State University and a 19-year-old rising sophomore at the University of Florida. (A house divided!) Both attended public schools their entire careers, and each completed a specialized high school curriculum – the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) for the Seminole, and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program for the Gator. Those experiences also taught me a lot about the value of tailoring education to meet specific student needs.
My family is fortunate to have had access to those opportunities. My goal at SUFS, through this blog and other avenues, is to make the same available to every family.