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Scott's Budget Includes Big Boost in Education Spending

January 31, 2013 | WMFE - Governor Rick Scott is calling for a $1.2 billion dollar increase in the state's K-12 the education budget. The Governor's proposal is being met with skepticism from state Democrats and from some legislative leaders from his own Republican Party. Governor Scott is expected to roll out his budget proposal today ahead of the upcoming legislative session which starts in a little over a month.

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Gov. Rick Scott wants to boost the state’s K-12 education spending by about $400 per student.

Included in the governor’s proposed $1.2 billion dollar increase is $480 million dollars he previously said wants to fund a $2500 pay raise for full-time Florida teachers.

“I support students, I support teachers.” Scott said. “Just like I had the opportunity growing up, I had the opportunity to go to a good school to get a great education I could get a great job. They’re clearly connected.”   

Enrollment in the state’s public schools is expected to increase next year by around 30 thousand students and the governor wouldn’t say whether funding for those extra students is included in his $1.2 billion dollar proposal or if the influx of students would require additional funds.

Not everyone is impressed with Governor Scott’s proposal.

Senate Minority leader Chris Smith says while he is encouraged by Scott’s efforts, he says the teacher pay raises and proposals for more money for education amount to an admission that Scott’s earlier policies, such as cutting a billion dollars from public education and mandating that teachers contribute to their pensions, were wrong.

“It’s great to do it, and trust me, I wish it were more.” Smith said. “But because he’s done things in the past to them, it’s not really putting them ahead. It’s bringing them to possibly, where they were when he came into office and to have this sudden epiphany, to me, reeks of election year’s coming.”    

The legislature’s top Republican leaders, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, say they applaud the governor for his efforts but they’re cautious about making guarantees. Weatherford says the state doesn’t have an extra $1.2 billion dollars in surplus and, in order to get to that number, there will have to be cuts in other areas,

“But we’re going to take his budget seriously. We’re going to look at it critically.” Weatherford said.  “We all want to pay teachers more. We all want to fund education better than we have over the past couple of years. We do have more revenue. But let me be clear: Our budget surplus is breathing room. It’s not enough room to put your feet up on the couch.”   

Senate President Don Gaetz warns that any extra money lawmakers may think they have for the upcoming year could disappear quickly if Congress can’t reach a deal on across-the-board federal budget cuts slated to go into effect in the next few months:

“If that happens, God forbid, if Congress and the President can’t get together and do the right thing,” Gaetz said. “Then Florida’s face could be forced down into a pool of red ink and the money that people have already mentally spend about 32 times will disappear in an instant.”    

Scott’s education funding proposal would increase the individual student spending to about $6800 dollars per student, the same level it was during the 2006-07 school year, according to the Florida Department of Education.

The state’s peak education funding came in 2007-08 at about $7100 dollars per student. The Governor will begin rolling out the details of his budget Thursday.



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