Gov.-elect Rick Scott will continue to push public funds to private schools through vouchers, charter schools and the Voluntary Pre-K Program. These Jeb Bush-era reforms coincided with laws to grade public schools and expand standardized tests such as the FCAT. The Foundation for Florida’s Future, chaired by Bush, parallels Scott’s education policies.
But, as the Sun-Sentinel reports, the budget deficit will have an effect on Scott’s agenda:
Florida’s budget woes, political and institutional intransigence in Tallahassee, and Scott’s own lack of experience could all work against expectations that his first year in office could mirror former Gov. Jeb Bush’s, which produced $1 billion in tax cuts and set the table for years of privatization and socially conservative policy debates.
In his campaign education plan (read the full document blow), Scott has indicated he supports the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Education Program, the largest voucher program in the state. About 82 percent of facilities that receive Voluntary Pre-K education are private or faith-based providers.
The Scott plan states that charter schools are key to reform: giving parents choices, increasing competition and providing clear success measurements and accountability as well as getting government out of the way.
According to Scott’s plan,
the Corporate Tax Credit and McKay scholarship programs are an integral part of Florida’s education system. I fully support publicly financed private education choices and will strive to remove barriers to access while also ensuring accountability and transparency.
The Mckay Scholarships for Students with Disabilites Program provides Florida students with special needs the means to attend a participating private or public school. During the 2008-09 school year, more than 20,000 students attended private schools through these scholarships.
State Sens. Evelyn Lynn and David Simmons, appointed respectively as Republican Conference chair and majority whip by incoming Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolis, R-Merritt Island, told the Sun Sentinel:
“We’ll try to live within our means and at the same time try to assure education is given a top priority,” said Senator–elect David Simmons, a Longwood Republican who previously served in the House of Representatives.
Scott wants to change how schools are funded, reducing school property taxes by up to 19 percent and filling the gap with other state funds.
Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, a former Volusia school administrator heavily involved in education issues during her stint in the Legislature, said that plan worries her.
“Certainly we want to reduce taxes, but we don’t want to hurt education,” Lynn said, adding that Scott may have to temper some of his [campaign] promises once in office.
Scott’s campaign plan: