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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Scott: I'm committed to investing in Fla. students



Less than a week before the governor is scheduled to release his proposed 2012-13 state budget, Gov. Rick Scott's press office late Thursday afternoon offered up a column to Florida editoral boards from the governor that commits to investing more in education. But exactly what more means in a year of growing enrollment and declining revenues isn't clear: Is he just seeking to stem cuts to per-pupil funding that is otherwise inevitable in the no-new-taxes Legislature? Or is he committing to using his political muscle to find more money per pupil to make a real difference? Stay tuned. Full column below the jump.

Investing in Education Means Investing in Florida’s Economic Future
By Governor Rick Scott
Words: 504
Education pays. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, education pays two ways:  higher earnings and lower unemployment rates. The best way to ensure the next generation of Floridians and Americans finds success and continues to grow our economy is to invest in their education, even when our state is facing challenging economic times.
As Governor, I am committed to making sure every student gets a good education and the opportunity to get a job. By making sure Florida has the best educated workforce, companies will recognize our state as the best place to tap into the talent that will allow business to grow and succeed.
Part of making sure Florida has the best educated workforce is improving education in the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and math. Through 2018, Florida will need 120,000 new workers in STEM fields.  In spite of this need, fewer than 20 percent of the State University System’s graduates are expected to obtain a STEM degree.  For students to be successful in these subjects, we must help them gain the essential building blocks of knowledge and understanding in our elementary, middle and high schools. 
While education is essential to Florida’s economy, our state is facing a “perfect storm” of unique challenges when it comes to funding education. Let me quickly summarize the budget situation Florida’s schools are facing next school year:
·         For the 2012-13 school year, we anticipate an increase of more than 30,000 students. At the current funding level of about $6,262 per student, Florida will need to spend about $191 million more on education than we are this school year.
·         Florida’s growing student population comes at a time when we also estimate a three percent loss of local revenue, meaning Florida school districts will have over $200 million less to spend.
·         Add to this deficit the discontinuation of $554.8 million in federal funds to Florida school districts this year.
·         In addition, we will have to overcome the challenge of losing $224 million in one-time funding from the State of Florida.
When you take these four factors into consideration, we anticipate a total budget gap of about $1.2 billion for Florida schools. In spite of this bleak budget picture, I am committed to increasing Florida’s investment in the education of our young people.  As I see it, investing in education provides a return on investment we simply cannot ignore.
To gain a better understanding of how Florida needs to invest in education, I am meeting with teachers across our state to hear their ideas about to improve our schools and encourage student achievement. Teachers are essential to the success of our schools and our students, and I am confident that those who daily work to inspire children and young people to learn and achieve their dreams can show us the best way to invest Florida’s education dollars.
Education pays, and we clearly must find a way to increase our investment in Florida’s students. Please share your ideas with me by emailing [email protected].  

[Last modified: Thursday, December 1, 2011 6:47pm]


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