Crist, Scott Push Education Changes in Fight for Florida Governor Job

With the November election coming up fast, Florida Governor Rick Scott, looking for parent votes and courting the Tea Party, called for a review of the state’s new education benchmarks, which have sparked much controversy, and an investigation of all standardized tests.

Kathleen McGrory, writing for the Tampa Bay Times, says the governor has also promised more per-student spending, more money for classroom technology, increased school-safety initiatives, and increased cash rewards for the best teachers.

“We are going to continue to invest more money because our economy has turned around and we have the dollars to invest,” said Scott. “It’s my highest priority, along with jobs.”

As for higher education, Scott pledged to pursue “additional strategies to keep the cost of college low” and require colleges and universities to notify the public about proposed tuition increases.

Scott’s Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race,  Charlie Crist, has also been planning his education platform in the last few weeks. A look at the highlights of August for both men and what they are promising voters.

Crist:

• Toured state in school bus

• Will restore education budget to pre-recession levels

• Supports Common Core standards

• Believes that Florida students take too many high-stakes tests

• Doubts Scott’s education plan will garner more votes

Scott:

• Has education as his highest priority, along with jobs

• Will pursue strategies to keep the cost of higher-ed low

• Will require colleges to notify the public about tuition increases

• Has plans to raise student spending to $7,176, about $50 more than the highest set in 2007-2008

• Plans to add $10 million to school-safety funding

The Common Core standards have have caused disagreements since they were instituted in 2010.  Some parents, and the Tea Party, think the standards represent an overreach by the federal government. After several months of discussion the benchmarks’ name was changed to the Florida Standards.  Chris Quackenbush of the grassroots organization Stop Common Core Florida said:

“Obviously, we are suspicious because we’ve seen this sleight of hand before,” Quackenbush said. “We don’t need to examine the standards again. We know exactly what’s going on. Our children are being hurt.”

Kevin Cate, campaign spokesman for Crist said:

“There isn’t an election-eve promise big enough to make parents and teachers forget that Rick Scott cut K-12 education funding by $1.3 billion after a failed attempt to cut $4.8 billion.”

The Republican incumbent governor is against the use of standardized tests being linked to the state’s grading of schools, A-to-F, which also included sanctions and rewards, according to the Associated Press.  This is a break from initiatives put into place during the administration of Gov. Jeb Bush.  Crist said that he agrees with Bush’ opinion that “this represents, I think, an issue where we can put politics aside and do what’s right for our kids and have appropriate testing and not over-testing”.

In one of the closest races in the country to date, Scott presently leads Crist by 1 point in the latest polls.