House Speaker Will Weatherford met with reporters at the Capitol late Thursday.
He answered a variety of questions, including one that has been plaguing him about proposed teacher raises.
Weatherford told reporters Thursday that most of the billion or so dollars being added to the House education budget next year will go toward teacher salaries.
But he said the law doesn’t allow state government to dictate how local school districts spend money.
“We basically write a lump sum to each school district, and then that money is collectively bargained between the union and the school board and the superintendent,” Weatherford said. “So we can’t really micromanage that process.”
Gov. Rick Scott took a dig at the draft House budget earlier this week, saying “I find it interesting that the Speaker’s against the pay raise for classroom teachers, but he’s okay with an across the board pay raise for state workers.”
Weatherford responded with a tweet: “His staff should reread our budget!”
There’s also the issue of funding for the newly created Florida Polytechnic University.
The Senate education budget committee’s first look at proposed education funding for next year doesn’t include money for what has been billed as Florida’s 12th state university.
The reason, according to the committee chairman, is that school leaders never responded to his request for information about how they plan to spend the money.
Weatherford expects that when the Senate rolls out the entire budget, Polytechnic will be included.
“We’re $100 million into it,” Weatherford said. “To just defund it I don’t think is the answer.”
But Weatherford said he’s open to the possibility that Polytechnic won’t be the state’s 12th university and instead will be connected to an existing institution.
“The Board of Governors and Board of Trustees should get creative about what that institution could be,” Weatherford said, “whether it’s linked up with another existing university in Florida or talking to people outside of Florida like MIT or Caltech…and see if we can’t bring some of that talent to Florida.”
We’ll have more next week about Weatherford’s own schooling and his hopes for non-traditional education in Florida.