Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gov. Rick Scott's veto threatens Pinellas school math program

ST. PETERSBURG — A $2 million snub from the governor's office could threaten a program helping more than 2,500 Pinellas County middle school students learn algebra.

SunBay Digital Mathematics, a technology-based education program at 11 Pinellas County schools, will remain intact for now, thanks to grant money and outside funding.

But Gov. Rick Scott's veto of money aimed at expanding the program and building a hub for science, math and technology projects has left organizers scrambling.

"We're trying to put Band-Aids on the situation," said Dennis Beatrice, a vice president for Silicon Valley-based research institute SRI International, which has a marine technology division in St. Petersburg. "We're trying to keep it on life support."

That might mean pulling their efforts out of Florida and growing a center in another state such as Texas, where a math effort akin to SunBay also was launched. That could doom the Florida math program unless it found alternate means of support and funding.

Middle school students enrolled in the SunBay program use computer programs and games that teach math concepts in real-world terms.

Students who participated in the program showed marked improvement in their understanding of math and performed better on diagnostic tests than nonparticipants, according to a USF St. Petersburg study that tracked participants since the program's 2009 launch.

But SunBay is still a pilot. It was always meant to grow. The veto makes this difficult, if not impossible, Beatrice said.

"There'll be no expansion, and what's there now — it's just not complete," he said. "I don't know how free-standing and permanent it is. I don't know what the school district will do. It puts the whole program in jeopardy."

Originally, the program was to be implemented in all Pinellas County middle schools by 2015. After that, organizers had planned to take it to other school districts throughout Florida, using Pinellas County as a model.

The Center for Digital Learning, the proposed hub for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) research which originally requested $10 million from the state, would have facilitated that growth. It also would have pursued projects and grants from around the country, officials said.

"The fact that we have evidence that this is having an impact on students and that it's changing how teachers teach mathematics — it's really extraordinarily powerful," said education professor Vivian Fueyo, the former founding dean of USF St. Petersburg's College of Education.

State legislators this year ultimately granted the program $2 million to continue its work and expand SunBay throughout Pinellas County.

But the governor wasn't sold.

"This is taxpayer money, this isn't his money," said spokesman Lane Wright. "We never received enough information on how this would provide a good return on investment for taxpayers."

Scott also had reservations about the project because it was not vetted by the state's Department of Education, Wright said.

In a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner outlining this year's vetoes, Scott said he supports projects that are "student focused and have measurable results."

Center organizers were disappointed by the veto, saying it deviates from the governor's stated commitment to STEM education.

"I honestly have a hard time imagining how the governor could not see the benefit of this program," Beatrice said. "It works."

SunBay has sought help in a grant from the National Science Foundation, but grants are temporary and difficult to count on, program officials said.

"If that grant does not go through, there will be an absolute issue," said Laurel Rotter, Pinellas County Schools mathematics supervisor for kindergarten through eighth grades. "The funding just won't be there."

Private funding options have been all but exhausted and significant grant money is not easy to obtain for such a local program, officials said. The hope is that the state will reconsider and find ways to support the program in the future.

If it doesn't, Beatrice said, SRI International may look to move the center elsewhere.

"Florida was our first choice," he said. "But frankly, we have to decide whether we want to keep taking swings in Florida or accept this verdict and move on."

Marissa Lang can be reached at or (813) 226-3386.

Gov. Rick Scott's veto threatens Pinellas school math program 04/27/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 27, 2012 11:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. White House signals acceptance of Russia sanctions bill


    WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to …

    President Donald Trump’s ability to lift sanctions against Russia would be blocked.
  2. Senator: American student arrested in China has been freed


    BILLINGS, Mont. — Chinese authorities have dropped charges against an American college student who was arrested and detained in the a week ago after reportedly injuring a taxi driver who was roughing up his mother in a fare dispute, a U.S. lawmaker said Sunday.

    Guthrie McLean was detained for reportedly injuring a taxi driver after the driver physically attacked McLean’s mother.
  3. Tampa-based makeup artist disqualified from contest over pro-Trump post


    WICHITA, Kan. — A makeup artist who splits her time between Tampa and Kansas says she won a national contest sponsored by Kat Von D Beauty but was later disqualified because of an Instagram post supporting Donald Trump's presidential candidacy.

    Gypsy Freeman won the contest with this image posted to Instagram. [@facesofgypsy on Instagram]
  4. Flesh-eating bacteria nearly kills Florida man who thought he just had blisters from a hike


    Wayne Atkins thought little of the blisters he had gotten while hiking. He was trekking up and down the 4,500-foot-high Mount Garfield in New Hampshire - a 10-mile round trip - and blisters were no surprise.

    Wayne Atkins thought his blisters were from hiking, but the flesh eating bacteria nearly killed him. [YouTube]
  5. Yes, again: Rays blow late two-run lead, get swept by Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As weekends go, this was a bad one for the Rays. In a word: brutal.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger, foreground, reacts after giving up a home run to Texas Rangers' Carlos Gomez during the eighth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 23, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) FLMC116