Rick Scott’s proposed 2012-2013 education budget signaled a turnaround by the GOP governor, according to news and education analysts, but critics remain unconvinced.
The New York Times reported that “the governor’s 2012 budget plan was no less a turnaround. Mr. Scott, whose popularity has tumbled this year, proposed $1 billion in new money for Florida schools despite a yawning budget deficit. Putting heft behind his words, he vowed to veto any budget bill that did not ‘significantly increase state education funding.’”
The Times added:
The change is notable. Mr. Scott took office on a pledge to slash government financing, lay off thousands of government workers and push through $500 million in corporate tax cuts. His mantra was, and still is, job creation, which he views as vital to the state.
Education Week wrote: “Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who made deep cuts to school funding in his first year in office, is signaling that he wants to shift course pretty dramatically and provide more money to education. Scott’s record on school issues—which also included support for a law eliminating tenure and implementing merit pay—has proved deeply unpopular among teachers.”
The St. Petersburg Times reported Tuesday, a day before Scott released his budget proposal: “This governor, who sought a 10 percent cut in school spending a year ago, appears to have learned an important lesson: No matter how bad the economy gets, cutting money for schools never seems popular.”
Education Week added that Scott says his proposed budget “will raise education spending by $1 billion and increase the per-pupil amount by $142, to $6,372,” adding that “the governor’s plan would also boost spending on district reading programs and provide an additional 3,000 students with access to voluntary pre-kindergarten, he says.”
The Florida Education Association, which represents 140,000 state teachers and support professionals, said in a statement that if Scott’s “budget proposal is enacted, spending will still stand nearly $800 per student less than our state’s commitment to education five years ago, the unfunded mandates are still in place, pre-K remains woefully underfunded and the brain drain at our public colleges and universities continues as universities in other states continue to gobble up our professors. Meanwhile, Florida continues to languish at the bottom of the national rankings for funding for public education.”
The Florida House Democratic Office responded Wednesday that “the budget signed by Governor Rick Scott on May 26, 2011 cut $1.35 billion from education” and “as a result of the Fiscal Year 2011-12 state budget signed by Governor Rick Scott, current per-student funding in Florida is $6,267 — or nearly 8 percent less ($542 less per student) than in FY 2010-11.”