Kurt S. Browning

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Kurt S. Browning
Portrait of Florida Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning.jpg
Superintendent of Schools
of Pasco County, Florida
Assumed office
2012
Preceded by Heather Fiorentino
27th Secretary of State of Florida
In office
January 15, 2011 – February 17, 2012
Governor Rick Scott
Preceded by Jennifer Kennedy (acting)
Succeeded by Ken Detzner
In office
January 2, 2007 – April 30, 2010
Governor Charlie Crist
Preceded by Sue M. Cobb
Succeeded by Dawn K. Roberts (interim)
Supervisor of Elections
of Pasco County, Florida
In office
1980–2007
Preceded by Mary Morgan
Succeeded by Brian Corley
Personal details
Political party Democratic (before 2002)
Republican (after 2002)
Alma mater University of South Florida

Kurt S. Browning is a Republican politician and former Secretary of State of Florida. He currently serves as Superintendent of Schools for Pasco County, Florida.

Career[edit]

Browning's political career began in 1975 when he started working in the Pasco County Supervisor of Elections office. In 1980, he was elected as the Pasco Supervisor himself, as a Democrat. At 22 year old, he was the youngest county elections official in Florida history.[1][2][3] He served in that position for 26 years, until his appointment as Secretary of State. During that time, Browning also served as the President of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, as a member of Governor Jeb Bush's Task Force on Election Procedures, Standards and Technology, and as a member of the State Planning Committee for the Help America Vote Act. Browning changed his party affiliation to Republican in 2002.[2]

Secretary of State[edit]

Governor-elect Charlie Crist announced his appointment of Browning as Secretary of State in December 2006. Browning served in that position until April 2010, when he resigned to comply with state retirement pension compensation laws.[4] While out of office, he was honorary chairman of the failed campaign opposing two anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendments on the 2010 ballot, the "Fair Districts" Amendments 5 and 6. He was re-appointed Secretary of State by Governor Rick Scott in January 2011.[5]

During his two stints as secretary, Browning oversaw the state's defense of several lawsuits challenging Florida's voting laws. He also oversaw the transition from using touchscreen voting machines to paper optical scan machines, even though as Supervisor of Elections he was a strong advocate of touchscreen technology. Responsible for the Division of Corporations, which manages corporate filings, Browning eliminated paper records and instituted electronic filing for businesses, including a searchable public website.[3]

Superintendent of Schools[edit]

Browning announced his resignation as Secretary of State on January 11, 2012, effective February 17, 2012. Several weeks later he announced that he would run for Pasco County Superintendent of Schools. He was elected to that position on November 6, 2012, after defeating two-term incumbent Heather Fiorentino in the Republican primary.[6]

First Term[edit]

During his first term, the school district saw a dramatic decrease in school performance. Performance grades assigned by the state showed that:

  • only three schools out of 79 raised their grade one letter, while 40 schools decreased one letter and 11 schools decreased by two letter-grades,
  • there were 50 C or D rated schools in 2016, as compared to only 27 in 2012, and[7]
  • there was a near quadrupling of elementary schools on the state's low-300 list.[8]

Browning made many questionable decisions during his first term, admitting that he tried to do too much, but often not well. One of which was to eliminate school literacy, media center and technology specialists, which he was later forced to rescind admitting he had removed too much expertise from the schools. A union president representing school district employees directly related this decision to the declining test scores evidenced during his first term. A school board member also charged him with removing too much institutional knowledge from the district offices, creating unneeded new levels of bureaucracy, and taking away creativity from teachers by mandating when they should teach curriculum standards and the need for quarterly tests.[8]

Second Term[edit]

Despite poor school performance statistics and questionable business decisions, Browning was reelected for a second term, running unopposed in 2016. Almost immediately, both school performance and his business decisions were again called into question. Preliminary graduation rates that were released in December 2016 showed that only four of 13 high schools in the district increased their graduation rate over the previous year.[9] Also, while presiding over a contentious rezoning issue within two different areas in the school district, Browning suggested different boundaries to the school board than committees of principals and parents that were setup to study the issue of overcrowded schools recommended. Residents from both sides of the issue alleged bias during the process.[10] Those arguments were given more credence when Browning himself admitted that he did not intend to alter the committee proposals, but then did so anyway, explaining that he made his comment thinking the committees would act differently.[11] And once again, Browning had to walk back previous business decisions that he made, this time reversing the changes he made to his own administrative team in his first term, instead reverting to the more traditional model that he upended with his previous decision.[12]

Background[edit]

Browning is a native Floridian. He received a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in public administration from the University of South Florida. He has been involved in the Pasco County community for much of his career, including service as President of Downtown Dade City Main Street, Inc., and involvement with organizations including the Boy Scouts of America and the Pasco County United Way.[13][14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bousquet, Steve; Decamp, David (December 15, 2006). "Pasco's Kurt Browning new secretary of state". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved June 18, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Bousquet, Steve; Solochek, Jeffrey (January 11, 2012). "Kurt Browning resigns as Florida's secretary of state". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved June 18, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Governor Rick Scott Returns Experienced Hand Kurt Browning to Department of State". www.flgov.com. Retrieved 2016-06-19. 
  4. ^ Bousquet, Steve (April 30, 2010). "Secretary of State Kurt Browning resigns". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved June 18, 2016. 
  5. ^ Bender, Michael (January 6, 2011). "Land developer Billy Buzzett to oversee Florida's growth management agency". Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved June 18, 2016 – via South Florida Sun Sentinel. 
  6. ^ Solochek, Jeffrey (August 14, 2012). "Browning rolls to victory in Pasco school superintendent race". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved June 18, 2016. 
  7. ^ MacLemale, Richard. "Pasco County Schools". www.pasco.k12.fl.us. Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  8. ^ a b "Amid mixed reviews, Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning aims higher for his second term". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  9. ^ "Decision awaits on rules for students who finish state tests early". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  10. ^ "Pasco superintendent alters committee school boundary proposals in recommendations to board". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  11. ^ "Pasco parents offer alternative ideas to district's existing school boundary process". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  12. ^ "Pasco schools superintendent revamps district-level administration". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  13. ^ Florida Department of State biographical page
  14. ^ "Superintendent". Pasco County Schools. Retrieved June 18, 2016.