Putting Education Reform To The Test

Gov. Scott Avoids Question About House, Senate Private School Scholarship Dispute

Gov. Rick Scott at Tampa's Graham Elementary School.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Gov. Rick Scott at Tampa's Graham Elementary School.

House and Senate leaders are divided over whether students who receive a tax credit scholarship to attend a private school should have to take the state’s standardized test.

The dispute — the Senate wants the requirement, the House does not — has threatened to derail a bill which would expand eligibility for the private school scholarships.

At one point, Gov. Rick Scott agreed with Senate leadership about the testing. So we asked Scott if he still felt the same way at a visit to a Tampa school.

His answer was noncommittal.

“I think all of our education system likes measurement,” Scott said. “They want to get better. I have not met a teacher that doesn’t say ‘Look, I believe in measurement.’ We gotta have the right measurement for every school that we have. And I support what’s happening in our schools. We’re clearly doing the right thing when it comes to the results.

In 2012, Scott argued that students receiving tax credit scholarships and McKay Scholarships for students with disabilities should have to take the new Common Core-tied state test. Students are taking the final round of math, reading and writing FCAT exams this year.

Students in the tax credit scholarship program are required to take a nationally norm-referenced exam each year — most take the Stanford Achievement Test — and the results have been studied annually.

School choice groups quickly pushed back against Scott’s proposal. He’s up for reelection this year and it sounds like he not looking to pick a side in the disagreement between Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Scott’s comments came during a visit to Graham Elementary School in West Tampa. Scott was there to present $8.5 million of school recognition money to 10 Hillsborough County schools. Schools receive $100 per student for earning an A grade on the state report card or dramatically improving their school grade.

Faculty at the school decide how to spend the money, including one-time bonuses, purchasing equipment to aid students or hiring temporary staff to work with students.

The school recognition funds were first proposed by former Gov. Jeb Bush and are an annual part of the state budget.

Scott might have been there to tick off a few campaign talking points as well.

“We know that a good job starts with a great education,” Scott said. “And Florida continues to be a leader in education.”

Scott has made education a focus as reelection approaches. Scott once proposed cutting school budgets. Now he’s adding money and last year successfully pushed for teacher raises.


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