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  1. Opinion

PolitiFact Florida: Bill Nelson cherry-picks Rick Scott's education funding record

Florida Gov. Rick Scott greets, from left, Alejandra Martinez, 10, and Andrea Santos, 10, as he visits a fifth-grade class at the Southside Elementary School in Miami in 2014. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Florida Gov. Rick Scott greets, from left, Alejandra Martinez, 10, and Andrea Santos, 10, as he visits a fifth-grade class at the Southside Elementary School in Miami in 2014. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Published Oct. 1, 2018

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says that under Gov. Rick Scott's leadership, Florida has fallen short on education funding.

"Rick Scott subtracted $1.3 billion from public schools," Nelson's campaign said in a September Facebook post on the page Not for Florida.

A narrator in the accompanying video makes the timeframe a little more clear, saying "when Rick Scott became governor he subtracted more than $1 billion from local public schools." Beside the words "$1.3 billion" in Florida ink, there's a citation for a 2013 PolitiFact fact-check.

Scott, the Republican challenging Nelson in November, has defended his education funding record.

We found Nelson is cherry-picking Scott's record on education funding by zeroing in on his first year and ignoring the next several years.

The video cites our fact-check of former Gov. Charlie Crist, who unsuccessfully sought his old job against Scott in 2014. Crist said Scott "cut education by $1.3 billion" — in his first year — which we rated Mostly True.

Nelson's ad focused on Scott's budget but left out what happened with the next seven budgets Scott signed.

As Scott approached his first legislative session in 2011, he unveiled a budget proposal at a tea party rally that included billions of dollars in spending cuts, including to education. The Republican-led Legislature backed some of those cuts.

The $1.3 billion figure included the reduction in state money and the expiration of the federal stimulus funds, which was the largest chunk of the cut.

By the end of his first year, Scott changed his tune on education funding. He called for a $1 billion boost to education.

The K-12 budget has since risen every year of Scott's tenure, whether we count total K-12 funds or only the state share. Scott's spokesman pointed to the fact that the total state share of K-12 funds rose from $8.7 billion in his first year to $11.9 billion in 2018-19, an increase of $3.2 billion.e_SClB

Fiscal
year
K-12 state shareTotal K-12 fundsK-12 enrollmentPer-pupil spending
2007-08$9.7B$18.7B2.63M$7,126
2008-09$8.6B$17.9B2.62M$6,846
2009-10$8.1B$18B2.63M$6,846
2010-11$8.91B$18.2B2.64M$6,897
2011-12*$8.71B$16.6B2.67M$6,217
2012-13$9.5B$17.2B2.7M$6,376
2013-14$10.5B$18.3B2.705M$6,769
2014-15$10.7B$18.9B2.74M$6,915
2015-16$10.93B$19.7B2.77M$7,105
2016-17$11.3B$20.2B2.8M$7,196
2017-18$11.6B$20.6B2.82M$7,221
2018-19$11.9B$21.1B2.8M$7,407

* Scott's first budget

The $21.1 billion for K-12 schools approved earlier this year included an increase of about $485 million, including for school safety following the Parkland shooting.

While Scott has promoted the increases each year, his critics have said that the state's education budget is underfunded and pointed out that Florida ranks 41st in per student expenditures nationwide.

As we've concluded in similar fact-checks, the state's total K-12 education budget has increased in raw dollars every year for the last several years. However, adjusting for inflation, we found per-pupil spending is not as high as it was before the recession crippled state tax revenues.

Nelson is repeating a familiar attack line against Scott, but this attack has become increasingly inaccurate as we get further away from Scott's first year in office.

We rate it Mostly False.

Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com/florida.

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