Friday, November 24, 2017
Politics

Gov. Rick Scott rolls out plan to increase per-student spending

RECOMMENDED READING


TALLAHASSEE — The governor's race on Thursday turned into a contest to see who would spend more on education.

Days after Democratic frontrunner Charlie Crist pledged to boost the education budget while touring the state in a yellow school bus, Republican Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a plan to raise school spending to a record high next year.

Scott called upon the state to spend $7,176 for each student in the public school system — a $232 increase over the current level and a $50 increase over the high-water mark set in 2007-08.

The proposal was driven by the rebounding economy, Scott told the Times/Herald.

"If you look at what's happening in our state, we're continuing to see good job growth," he said. "With job growth, our state revenues are continuing to grow."

But critics were quick to paint the announcement as an election-year gimmick, in part because of the unusual timing.

In previous years, Scott has released his budget proposals weeks before the legislative session begins. Lawmakers aren't scheduled to return to Tallahassee for six months.

"We believe he can read the polls as well as we can, and he thinks this will give him a leg up with parents and teachers," said Joanne McCall, vice president of the statewide teachers union, which has endorsed Crist. "But we have a long memory."

Scott released similar plans to increase state spending on transportation and the environment earlier this summer.

During his three-day bus tour last week, Crist reminded Floridians that Scott cut $1.3 billion in education spending during his first year in office in 2011.

Crist promised to restore the cuts, but did not provide specifics. He is expected to defeat former Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, in Tuesday's Democratic primary.

Under Scott's plan, the education budget would grow from $18.9 billion to $19.6 billion.

The numbers are based on revenue estimates from Aug. 7 that project $1.1 billion in growth above the previous forecast, the governor's office said.

House Education Budget Chairman Erik Fresen, R-Miami, said he believes the plan is feasible. Sen. David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican on the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, agreed.

Some Democrats, however, were skeptical.

Scott "said he wanted to expand Medicaid, too," said Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale. "He doesn't have a good record of following through with these things."

Crist was Florida's new Republican governor when school spending reached an all-time high in 2007. But he cut the education budget by about $800 million when the economy collapsed the following year. He kept funding levels relatively consistent through 2010 with the help of federal stimulus dollars.

Scott came into office in 2011 proposing to slash $3.3 billion from the education budget. The Legislature approved a $1.3 billion cut — more than $1 billion of which was restored in 2013 when the economy improved.

Scott has continued to take heat from critics. Democrats say that even his latest proposal for per-pupil spending would lag behind the 2007-08 level, which equates to $8,191 in 2014 dollars.

"No right-minded parent or teacher in this state believes Rick Scott, the same guy who cut K-12 education by $1.3 billion, cares about anything but holding onto power so he can keep giving away our tax dollars to corporations," Crist campaign spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said.

Pasco School Board Chairwoman Alison Crumbley said any boost in funding would help.

"I'm not saying that money solves all the problems," she said. "But our teachers' salaries have not kept up, and there are a lot of student resources that our kids could benefit from."

Hillsborough school superintendent MaryEllen Elia agreed.

"We have demands on our students for new assessments and new standards, and on our teachers," she said. "All of those things are just huge. We also have technology demands we clearly are working on."

Elia declined to comment on the politics of the move.

"Whatever the reason, it's an important thing to understand (that) education is important to our children and families," she said.

Herald/Times staff writers Steve Bousquet and Jeffrey S. Solochek contributed to this report. Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected]

Comments
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Published: 11/23/17
As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

Lys Isma was born in Haiti, but she’s used to driving in Miami with a license, going to college and living without fear of being deported.The Florida International University biology student has lived in Florida since she was 9 months old. Undocument...
Published: 11/22/17

Top Trump staffers failed to file financial reports on their way out the door

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff Reince Priebus and foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka — failed to file legally required financial reports after they were dismissed this summer, according to government re...
Published: 11/22/17
William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

It’s an old joke that Florida’s lieutenant governor, with no duties specified in the state Constitution except to fill in if the governor is disabled or dies, has little to do except monitor the governor’s health. State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, ...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Associated PressPALM BEACH — President Donald Trump started off his first day of Thanksgiving vacation by resuming his taunts of the father of a UCLA basketball player detained for shoplifting in China, saying Wednesday that he was an "ungrateful foo...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

WASHINGTON — Silent for more than a week, President Donald Trump all but endorsed embattled Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, discounting the sexual assault allegations against him and insisting repeatedly that voters must not support Moor...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Published: 11/21/17
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17