PALM HARBOR — Student performers, scientists and mathematicians at Carwise Middle School on Monday gave Gov. Rick Scott a firsthand look at how an additional $1 billion in education funding could help them achieve their dreams.
Carwise was the last stop on Scott's daylong tour of three Florida schools, which doubled as a celebration of the Florida Legislature's recent decision to answer his call for the funding.
"Every family has their dream, their version of what they want for their family, but it always comes down to an education for their child," Scott said. "Everybody wants a job, they want to be able to build their families and everybody wants the cost of living as low as possible."
The governor said the visit was a continuation of visits in which he listened to parents, teachers and students who prompted him to push lawmakers to approve injecting the additional K-12 education dollars into the 2012-13 budget.
As early as this week, Scott is expected to sign the final state budget, which would steer an additional $47.3 million toward enhanced reading programs, $405 million toward per-student funding and $663 million to plug budget gaps and pay for new students expected to enroll next school year.
The extra money only partially offsets $1.3 billion in K-12 education cuts approved by Scott and the Legislature last year.
"We need to continue raising the bar for our education system," he said in a statement.
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Scott, who also visited schools Monday in Jacksonville and Orlando, said he likes to visit schools himself to get a feel for what and how kids are learning.
At Carwise, he observed a sixth-grade gifted class, slid on goggles and an apron alongside eighth-grade students conducting a chemistry experiment, and participated in a fingerprinting forensics lesson in another eighth-grade science class.
He later watched students decked out in poodle skirts, pedal pushers, cat-eyed glasses and other 1950s gear rehearse for a late April dinner theater performance of the musical Bye Bye Birdie.
Scott wisecracked that the young cast members have a much better stage presence than himself, whose mother long ago cautioned him that singing is not his strong suit.
Carwise chorus director Barbara Nelson and band-orchestra director Jason Obara said they felt honored that Scott stopped in to show his support of the arts.
It was especially timely, Obara said, given that Pinellas County voters this fall will be asked whether to renew a property tax referendum that helps public schools. The measure, approved in 2004 and 2008, is credited with bringing in vital dollars for arts.
"The population voted for this referendum, which shows the community found it (the arts) important. To see him here shows he's hopefully on the same page as us," Obara said. "It shows that we have a place in education."
Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153.