Florida Gubernatorial Race Takes on Educational Issues

The Florida gubernatorial race is heating up as incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and former governor Charlie Crist go head to head over Florida’s education and defending their own education records.

Kathleen McCrory, writing for The Miami Herald, reports that Crist has won the backing of the Florida teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association.  Scott, on the other hand, is counting on the votes of Floridian parents who have school-aged children.

“It’s smart politics,” said Florida State University political science professor Carol Weissert. “He’s certainly been trying to soften his image by campaigning with his wife and family, and [boost] his popularity among women.”

Although the state’s economy will take center stage in this year’s race, education is always considered important to voters.  Half of the voters who took a recent Quinnipiac poll said that Crist would do a better job at handling public schools, while only 35% gave Scott the advantage.

Crist, a former Democrat, says he will focus on education in his campaign.

“What this campaign is going to be about, first and foremost, is making sure we have someone in the governor’s mansion [who] understands how precious education is and how important it is to honor our teachers and not demoralize the heck out of them,” he said last month.

Although Scott slashed the education budget in his first year of office, he has since restored the department’s budget, pushed for teacher raises, and, most recently,  promoted the largest education budget in the state’s history.

 

Democrats quickly pointed out that Crist spent more money per student in 2007-2008 when he was the governor of Florida.

All in all, says Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Herald-Tribune, Florida’s voters should look for plenty of discussion concerning the state budget in the coming months of the campaign.  This year’s budget has risen 3.75% from last year to $77 billion, the largest in the state’s history, an increase of $2.8 billion from 2013.  TaxWatch, a nonpartisan watchdog organization with ties to Florida businesses, provides fodder for both candidates’ camps.

“After several very tight budget years, slowly recovering national and state economies have led to stronger growth of state revenues,” the guide noted.

TaxWatch notes that Florida’s education budget will be $22.6 billion for the upcoming year. The most recent polls have the governor’s race in a dead heat with a little less than four months to go.

Education in Florida has been a topic of interest to voters, in part because of the the change from the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) to the new Florida Standards Assessment (FSA).  Florida is one of a group of states that has changed, altered, or abandoned the federally initiated Common Core standards.

The FSA will be aligned to the new Florida Common Core standards, which have been slightly modified from the federal Common Core standards, says Leslie Postal, reporting for the Sun-Sentinel.

An Internet site has been launched to answer questions concerning the test, provide sample questions, familiarize teachers with the test’s delivery system (mostly computer delivery), and explain the format, and types of questions which will be asked at each participating grade level.

The new tests will begin in March 2015.