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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott will seek $1.25 billion more for schools



Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday he will ask the Legislature to increase funding for public schools by $1.2 billion next year, or the equivalent of about $400 more per student.

A third of that amount would fund a $2,500 pay raise for teachers, and another $300 million would be a contribution to the state pension fund to reduce its unfunded liability. A total of $118 million would pay for normal growth in student enrollment.

Speaking to the annual AP news forum in Tallahassee, Scott presented a case that Florida's economy has steadily improved under his direction and that now is the time to "strategically invest" in public education.

Scott will make his full budget recommendations to the Legislature at the state Capitol Thursday. He declined to go into specifics on where the $1.2 billion would come from or to discuss how much of it would cover student enrollment growth next year. "The good news is, we're growing," Scott said.

The Republican governor reduced public school funding by $1.3 billion in his first year, and restored $1 billion of it last year. School districts are seeking up to $100 million more for security, and Scott did not say how much or that request he supports. 

Scott declined to directly say whether his budget will include money for the expansion of the Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Speaking from a prepared text, Scott defended his proposal to give all public school teachers a $2,500 across-the-board raise, which has come under fire from legislative leaders who say it should be tied to classroom performance.

"I have never met an educator who wants bad teachers to be rewarded," Scott said. "The educators that I know support accountability."

Scott also listed as a top priority the elimination of the sales tax on manufacturers' equipment purchases, which he said would save businesses $144 million in taxes.

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 9:44am]


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