Florida Governor Rick Scott has promised to spend a record amount on education if he wins this year’s election.
“My mom taught me that a good education was the way out of poverty and I want all Floridians to have the opportunity to receive a great education and have their shot at the American Dream,” Scott said in announcing his plan.
Scott said he is planning to spend $19.6 billion on education in 2015, which is $700 million more than what was spent this year in the state. That adds up to per-pupil spending of $7,176, which is $232 more per student than before.
“By increasing per-pupil spending to historic levels next year, school districts will have more resources to provide Florida children the best education possible.”
The last record on per-pupil spending was set in 2007 by ex-Governor Charlie Crist, who is currently running against Scott as a Democrat. Scott’s plan exceeds Crist’s record by about $50 per student.
Just last week Crist toured the state in a yellow school bus, criticizing Scott for the $1.3 billion in cuts he had made to the education budget in 2011. While the budget has increased since then, Crist claims that per-pupil spending remains lower than what it was when he was in office.
Scott has replied to these accusations siting a budget deficit when he initially came into office. He said that as the economy has improved, he “increased education funding every year.”
Crist has promised to increase the education budget, but did not offer any figures.
“No right-minded parent or teacher in this state believes Rick Scott – the same guy who cut K-12 education by $1.3 billion – cares about anything but holding on to power so he can keep giving away our tax dollars to corporations,” said Crist spokesman Brendan Gilfillan.
The Crist campaign claim that Scott is making promises he can only keep if a $1.1 billion increase in state revenue goes through.
Other critics of Scott believe it is an election-year promise he has no intention of keeping. In previous years, Scott has announced his budget proposals weeks before the start of the legislative session, something that is currently not set to begin for another six months.
“We believe he can read the polls as well as we can, and he thinks this will give him a leg up with parents and teachers,” said Joanne McCall, vice president of the statewide teachers union, which has endorsed Crist. “But we have a long memory.”
Earlier in the summer, Scott announced budget increases for transportation and environmental issues. Many believe he is tacking on the education budget increase at the last minute to win over parent votes.
While House Budget Chairman Erik Fresen said his plans are feasible, many still question how much he can, and will, do.
“He said he wanted to expand Medicaid, too,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith, of Fort Lauderdale. “He doesn’t have a good record of following through with these things.”