Rick Scott Proposes Record Education Spending
Around the State
Gov. Rick Scott called for more spending on education in Florida on Monday as he readies for the 2014 legislative session to begin in early March.
Continuing a series of announcements on his proposed budget, Scott focused on education on Monday, announcing his plan would send $18.84 billion for K-12 public schools, $2 billion for state colleges and $3.59 billion for Florida’s state universities. All of these are the highest levels in state history.
“Building on the record K-12 education funding and teacher pay raises and classroom debit cards of last year, I am committing an historic $18.8 billion in total funding K-12 education,” Scott said. “We need to provide the tools, training and funding to give our students the best chance for success.
“And our commitment to education doesn’t stop at the K-12 level,” Scott added. “We expect our students to get the best education at our state institutions of higher education that leads to a great job and career. That’s why I’m also investing record total funding for state colleges of $2 billion and $3.59 billion for Florida public universities. Our students deserve the best quality education, and this funding will help to ensure that every degree achieved is followed by a great career.”
Scott’s proposals are more than $540 million more than last year’s levels of K-12 funding and $40 million more for state colleges. The new proposal adds $40 million more to state universities.
Members of the administration insisted additional funding would help Florida’s schools.
“Our students and teachers have led the nation in preparing for success in college, in career and in life,” said Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. “This historic commitment to our schools will only improve our state’s reputation as the national leader as the ideal location to learn, work and live.”
Scott’s proposal also won the applause of some of the leadership of the business community.
“Governor Scott’s investment in the future of our children will help ensure students are better prepared for successful careers. Employers across the nation will view Florida as a state with a strong, competitive talent pipeline,” said Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “The governor’s recommendations will have a lasting impact on Florida’s classrooms and our economy for years to come.”
“Florida TaxWatch applauds Governor Scott for wisely investing in Florida students and our state’s public education system,” said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “I am pleased to see his support for increased professional development for principals, a priority illustrated in our new Florida TaxWatch Elite Principal Initiative, and his emphasis on performance-based funding for the Florida College System, which will help lead Florida universities to academic pre-eminence and fuel a diversified and healthy economy.”
The proposed budget quickly garnered the backing of some of the Republican leadership in both chambers of the Florida Legislature.
“Governor Scott recognizes that our economic future is tied to education, and he is proposing a very wise investment in the future of our state,” said Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee. “It is important to support our teachers and students, from kindergarten through higher education, and I applaud the governor on today’s historic announcement.”
“I applaud the governor for helping to improve Florida’s economy by bringing new jobs to the state, which, in turn, has increased tax revenues and allowed this level of investment in education,” said Rep. Marlene O’Toole, R-The Villages, who leads the House Education Committee. “An investment that produces higher graduation rates and better-prepared students is a smart one for the people of Florida.”
Democrats pushed back against the governor’s proposal on Monday. Allison Tant, the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, wrote off Scott’s proposal as an election year gimmick and pointed toward earlier cuts to higher education made during his time in Tallahassee. Tant also insisted the Scott administration wanted to gut $3.3 billion from the education budget.
“Rick Scott thinks he needs to begin this election year by rewriting his record,” Tant said. “But Floridians remember Rick Scott’s record. Scott has consistently put corporate tax giveaways first and put the needs of Florida’s kids last. When they go to the polls this November, Floridians won’t remember this governor’s politically motivated education budget. They’ll remember that when they needed this governor’s help most, he ignored them.”
The Florida Democrats went to work bashing Scott’s proposal. “Governor Scott’s budget does not protect athletics, art, and music, or keep class sizes small," the Florida Democrats posted on Twitter. “Our kids deserve better.”
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.