Gov. Rick Scott talks education with Pasco GOP
Florida Gov. Rick Scott spent much of Friday in Pasco and Pinellas counties touring the aftermath of Tropical Storm Debby and signing bills. (Times photo, Erin Sullivan) He also took time to rally the Republican Party faithful at Pasco's annual Ronald Reagan Day Dinner. Scott left immediately after speaking to the crowd, so there was no time for a Q&A. So instead we share some of his message on education that he shared with the Pasco GOP.
Scott opened his remarks by praising Pasco Republicans for helping to elect conservatives like Will Weatherford, the incoming speaker of the Florida House. He urged them to continue their grassroots efforts to put more conservatives in office to help enact laws that families care about.
"What do you think families care about?" he said. "They want their children to get a great education. … They want to make sure they can get a job. And they don't want government to raise the cost of living."
He segued into the issue of teacher tenure.
"We love our teachers," Scott said. "But no one should be guaranteed a job. Our principals should be able to … pick the best teachers."
Choice in the form of charters, vouchers and other options also help to improve education, the governor continued.
"Parents want choice," he said. "All parents should have a choice. … Choice makes everyone better."
He gave a nod to those who say the state needs to put more money into the school system.
"We need more more money for education," he said.
But in his first session as governor, Scott continued, the state faced a multi-billion deficit. Even then, he contended, the state kept education funding flat — it was the federal government that pulled back its support, money that the state could not replenish. That led to a $1 billion reduction in overall education funding for the state.
"We kept it flat and the federal government cut it," he said.
He did not mention how the state took funding away the previous years when the federal government provided its stimulus funding.
This year, Scott said, "We increased it by $1.06 billion."
He slammed the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, saying its costs will only hurt the state's efforts to continue adding money to education and other important services.
"Medicaid is growing 3.5 times faster than the general revenues of the state," Scott said. "How do you put more money into K-12 if you have a health care system we can't afford? … There's no other money."
Scott also mocked universities that are seeking to increase tuition by 15 percent each year, and spoke enthusiastically about continuing the state's testing and accountability system. There has to be a way to measure results in the schools, he said. He related that he called a teacher who complained about the over-reliance on FCAT, a big issue these days. But when he asked the teacher for an alternative, the teacher had nothing to offer, Scott said with a smirk, as the audience tittered.
Scott made comments about making the state more friendly for business by reducing red tape, cutting taxes and easing the path to permits. He ended by reminding the crowd to get out and vote for conservatives.
"This is our country," Scott said. "We want each of us to be able to live our American dream. It's the pursuit of happiness, not the guarantee of happiness. … That's what they said."
He thanked everyone for their support and headed out for an interview on Fox News.