Florida’s Scott Offers $500+ Million Increase To Education Budget

Florida Governor Rick Scott has released some of the educational spending highlights of his proposed budget for the new fiscal year. On Monday, the Governor announced one of his proposals to increase public school spending by $542 million and stated that with his proposed budget, education spending would reach a record high of $18.84 billion, making the plan “historic.”

Said Scott: “Our students deserve the best quality education, and this funding will help to ensure that every degree achieved is followed by a great career.”

Overall, there were not many details released about the proposed education budget; neither the governor’s office nor the state’s department of education could say if the proposal included money for technology upgrades or incentive pay in way of performance for teachers. The proposed spending per pupil has yet to be revealed, especially in how it will compare to last year’s $6,776 in funds allotted per student.

Kathleen McGrory of The Miami Herald writes that one detail that was released was Scott’s desire to spend $8.4 million in professional development for principals and assistant principals.

His suggested higher education budget includes spending $2 billion for state colleges and about $3.6 billion for the state university system. Of the total for universities, $40 million would be set aside for performance-based incentives.

In addition to increased education spending, Scott will also reportedly focus on tax cuts. He has unveiled a proposal to reduce taxes and fees statewide by $500 million.

There are a number of critics who have watched his previous proposals for education spending closely and argue that the funds will not be enough to cover the new costs for school districts, costs such as those for technology upgrades in preparation for the new computer based Florida Standard tests that will be based on the newly-adopted controversial Common Core State Standards.

Scott, a Republican, will be seeking reelection against former governor Charlie Crist this year, which is drawing more attention from critics such as Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant, who called this recent proposed increase in spending Scott’s “latest reelection campaign stunt.”

“Rick Scott thinks he needs to begin this election year by rewriting his record,” Tant said. “But Floridians remember Rick Scott’s record. Scott has consistently put corporate tax giveaways first and put the needs of Florida’s kids last.”

In his first year in office, Scott proposed nearly $3.3 billion in cuts to education. About $1.3 billion of those cuts were included in the final budget. The following year, Scott reversed course and said the Legislature should inject $1 billion back into the education budget.

He recommended another $1.2 billion be added to education spending last year. Lawmakers ultimately agreed to add $1 billion, including $480 million that was set aside for teacher raises.

State economists are predicting that this upcoming year the state will collect more than $850 million more in revenue, making it the largest increase since the economic downturn. Scott has already said he will seek $30 million next year for a new workforce training initiative focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, as well as $130 million for Everglades-related projects.