Putting Education Reform To The Test

What They’re Saying About Gov. Rick Scott’s Budget

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Gov. Rick Scott proposed adding $1 billion to K-12 budgets Wednesday.

Here’s a sampling of coverage of the budget proposal Gov. Rick Scott unveiled Wednesday. Scott wants to add $1 billion to K-12 education, but it could come at the expense of Medicaid and other state programs.

Scott vowed to veto any budget that did not increase K-12 funding.

From the Palm Beach Post:

“Floridians are concerned about two things more than any other,” Scott said. “Education and jobs. And those two things, as we all know, are inseparable.”

Scott’s proposal would bring average per-pupil spending in Florida to $6,372, still well below the $7,126 high in 2008, which crashed with the recession. But next year’s level would top current classroom spending by $142 per student.

Mike Burke, Palm Beach County’s chief financial officer, welcomed Scott’s new approach, saying it diverged sharply from earlier this year when the new governor sought a $3.3 billion cut in education.

“That was a turnaround from his past track record,” Burke said.

Scott didn’t visit a traditional public school until August, but Southwest Florida leaders believe a recent visit may have influenced his budget. From the Naples Daily News:

At some point between this February and Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott decided to make education spending a priority in Florida.

His daylong stint teaching students in Immokalee — viewed by some as a press stunt — might have been the turning point.

Earlier this year, Scott proposed $3.3 billion in cuts to education, an antagonizing blow for educators across the state. And before Wednesday, when Scott unveiled a slimmer state budget that nonetheless found space for a $1 billion education investment, many teachers and school officials were still Scott skeptics.

But recent visits to several Collier schools appear to have doused the Republican governor with cold realities of education and its importance for the state’s workforce, Southwest Florida educators said.

The St. Petersburg Times calls the plan a “shell game” in an editorial. Scott takes the easy step of adding money, they wrote, but does not address tougher issues such as retooling state universities to meet future job demand.

Yet the proposal Scott unveiled Wednesday still looked far more like a short-term shell game designed to appease conservatives determined to starve government than a serious examination of the state’s needs, priorities and ambitions.

For example, even as Scott claimed to have a newfound commitment to education, for the second year he would provide no maintenance or construction funds for school districts, state universities or community colleges.

Yet charter schools — which serve just a fraction of the students and are often run by for-profit enterprises — could vie for a share of $55 million in state construction money.

And despite spending the past several months extolling the economic development virtues of increasing instruction in science, technology and math-related fields in higher education, Scott suggests no additional state investment in higher education and no tuition increase.

What’s your reaction? What effect have budget cuts had on your schools since 2008?


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