Gov. Rick Scott may have signed a $1.3 billion cut to K-12 education in his first year, but he's now touting "record" funding for public schools and teacher pay raises later in his term.
Scott unveiled his education budget proposal at a Delray Beach elementary school on Jan. 27. In an accompanying press release, he said, "The $18.8 billion in funding for K-12 education funding is the highest in Florida history and includes a record $10.6 billion in state funds."
We wondered: If the state Legislature goes along with Scott's request, would $18.8 billion in total — including the state's portion of $10.6 — be the highest in Florida history? Let's pull out our calculators and budget documents from past years and find out.
Total dollars: Scott made similar claims about proposing record K-12 education spending last year.
To determine whether a budget proposal is a "record," we have to examine the total size of the pot, the state portion and the per-pupil spending.
The Florida Education Finance Program, the main source of dollars for K-12 education, is by law a combination of state and local funding. Each school district must contribute property tax dollars called the "required local effort," with an amount dictated by the state. In some recent years, the state has also received federal stimulus dollars.
In 2013, Scott signed a budget that included $18.3 billion for K-12 education, including the state's contribution of $10.5 billion for 2013-14.
Scott's $18.8 billion proposal for 2014-15 — including $10.6 billion in state dollars — would be an increase by about $542 million in raw dollars. (Of course, we'll have to wait to see if the Legislature goes along with that plan when it convenes in March.)
But that doesn't fully answer the question about whether Scott is on track for record K-12 education spending.
Per-pupil spending: That's because another way to compare education funding over time is to look at per-pupil spending. Scott's budget request equals $6,949 per student, compared with $6,780 this year. That means Scott requested a per-pupil increase of about $169. (That's an estimate, since we don't know yet how many more or fewer students the state will have next year.)
The problem for Scott is that $6,949 per student is not a record for per pupil spending.
A chart comparing state spending over a decade through Scott's recommendation last year show that per-pupil funding peaked in 2007-08 — before the recession — at $7,126. At the time, Charlie Crist was governor; he was then a Republican and is now running as a Democrat against Scott to win his old job back. In 2007-08, Florida had about 67,000 fewer students than it does today, and the state spent more money per student.
Inflation: Another way to measure whether Scott is proposing a record amount of spending is to use an inflation calculator, in order to fairly compare amounts spent during different years.
If we take the $9.7 billion in state spending for 2007-08 and adjust for inflation, it would equal about $10.5 billion in 2013 — so Scott would still be correct that his proposed $10.6 billion in state spending is higher. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index inflation calculator doesn't show 2014 yet.)
But if we take the total spending for 2007-08 — $18.75 billion — and adjust for inflation, that would equal $20.29 billion in 2013, which is still higher than Scott's recommendation for total spending of $18.8 billion.
Scott said of his budget proposal that "the $18.8 billion in funding for K-12 education funding is the highest in Florida history and includes a record $10.6 billion in state funds."
He is correct that both the sheer dollar total and the state's portion are larger than in past years. However, per-pupil spending was higher under Crist. Also, factoring in inflation for the total amount for 2007-08 would make it larger than Scott's current proposal.
On balance, we rate Scott's claim Half True.