Gov. Rick Scott sees a brighter future for Floridians through higher education. In a letter to newspaper editorial boards around the state, Scott said education pays off through “higher earnings and lower unemployment rates.” Then he addressed the money issue.
For the school year beginning next fall, he wrote that Florida’s student population is expected to climb by at least 30,000. If funding levels stay the same, Scott says that’s an automatic increase in education spending of $191 million. But local revenues continue to slide, leaving districts with $200 million less than they currently have to spend. Then there’s the loss of $780 million in federal funding. It’s ugly, and the result, says Scott, is an expected budget hole of $1.2 billion dollars just for the state’s schools.
Scott took office in January and quickly called for a 10 percent cut in K-12 student spending. Lawmakers gave him an 8 percent cut. Since then, the governor has turned his focus to job creation and economy boosting measures that he now says include investing in education. He especially likes to tout the importance of higher education in the STEM areas: science, technology, engineering and math. Scott wrote, “Through 2018, Florida will need 120,000 new workers in STEM fields… For students to be successful in these subjects, we must help them gain the essential building blocks of knowledge and understanding in our elementary, middle and high schools.”
Scott acknowledged the difficult choices ahead as the Florida Legislature faces a nearly $2 billion shortfall in the overall budget for the coming fiscal year. Which agencies will take deep cuts so education will be spared? The governor will unveil his proposed budget for 2012-2013 this week.
Scott is optimistic that lawmakers will find a way to increase “Florida’s investment in the education of our young people.” To come up with the best ways to do that, Scott said he is meeting with teachers around the state. He’s asking for your ideas, too. Drop him an email at Rick.Scott@eog.myflorida.com.