If there appears to be one thing that Gov. Rick Scott did during his first 18 months in office that he probably wishes he could take back it is his decision to recommend a major cut to education funding shortly after he was sworn into office.
Scott this week will embark on a "listening tour" where he will hear from teachers, parents and students on how to improve the education system. Scott will even have a student video crew follow him around and plans to have a blog where he documents what he is doing.
The announcement of the "listening tour" is the latest in a series of steps taken this year where Scott has tried to emphasize he cares about education. Others of course include his recent comments that he wants to make sure that teachers don't teach to the state's high-stakes test (even though there is a state law that prohibits just that) as well as his decision this past spring to push a budget that increased funding to public schools by roughly $1 billion.
The commencement of the listening tour comes when the Scott administration is now moving into what can arguably be called its third phase. He's now on his third chief-of-staff and the departures of communications director Brian Burgess and legislative affairs director Jon Costello mean that for the most part those who played a role in Scott's campaign are no longer left on the inside of the administration.
Burgess's move to the Republican Party of Florida should be seen clearly as the first step in preparing for the re-election battle that lies ahead in 2014. The party has already shown a willingness under Lenny Curry's chairmanship to spend money to bolster Scott's image. The placement of Burgess with the RPOF should be seen as a sign that this effort will continue and likely accelerate once the crucial fall elections are over with.
But in order to position himself for the next election Scott needs to connect with the Florida voters - and families - that care about education. Hence the need to show that this is an issue that he is deeply engaged with (and undo the damage caused by the budget cuts along the way.)
The only complication with all of this is that a lot of other prominent figures in Florida - notably former Gov. Jeb Bush - but also incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford and incoming Senate President Don Gaetz have their own education agendas.
When he was running for governor initially, Scott went all-in on the school choice front.
He pledged support to universal vouchers despite murky legal questions surrounding the concept. The governor, however, backed off when it became apparent that even his GOP allies were reluctant to embrace the idea given both the financial and legal consequences. (An amendment placed on this year's ballot would end the legal hurdles if 60 percent of voters say yes.)
Scott's team has already clashed with some in the Bush universe when the governor's people refused to back then-Education Commissioner Eric Smith. Smith resigned which led to a bumpy search for a successor and the decision to choose Gerard Robinson.
Now Robinson is gone as is the chairman for the State Board of Education who once was Bush's chief of staff. Word is that Robinson's decision to leave was completely voluntary, but problems with administration of changes to Florida's test-based grading system helped whip up considerable opposition to the continued reliance of high-stakes test such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
The question for Scott is where does he goes next after his "listening tour."
The governor this past year supported the controversial parental trigger bill (which is a priority for former Gov. Bush) and there are signs it will be brought back again in the spring after its narrow defeat in the Florida Senate. (The governor's office this summer had a meeting to discuss it according to Project Sunburst emails.)
The trigger bill is the one that would give parents the ability to change the structure of a school if it remains low-performing. Critics contend that the bill is a back-door way for charter school management companies to gain control of public schools.
Scott could also likely have the opportunity to set aside more funding to both K-12 and higher education in 2013 if the current fiscal outlook remains positive. (The initial positive forecast even contemplates that legislators will restore the $300 million cut from state universities this past year.)
But the governor will also have to decide how he will work with both Gaetz and Weatherford.
Weatherford - a big proponent of providing vouchers to low-income children - would be reluctant to do anything that moves Florida away from the path that has been on the last decade.
And both Weatherford and Gaetz has voiced support for extensive reforms to higher education although we have not yet seen anything specific yet.
Scott, however, has decided he can't afford to wait when it comes to start talking about education.
His decision comes at time when speculation is mounting that Gov. Charlie Crist could challenge him in 2014.
Crist, who was on the campaign trail with President Barack Obama this week, has already been featured in ads for his law firm Morgan & Morgan where he stresses the importance of teachers and urges people "to thank a teacher today."
Crist himself once backed many of the school reforms put in place by Bush but during his final year in office he vetoed the teacher tenure bill that Scott signed into law the following year.
If Crist does run he will do so with the likely backing of the teachers union. What Scott has to learn in the next few weeks and months is whether or not he can come up with (yet another) lesson plan that will allow him to contend that he cares about education just as much as other governors.