To paraphrase a hackneyed John McCain saying, Rick Scott has been spending (or more accurately, proposing to spend) more money than a drunken sailor on the 2014 campaign trail, and he made his boldest funding proposal of the campaign this morning, announcing an increase in total state funding for education to over $19.6 billion. That would amount to $7,176 per student — a $232 per student increase over this school year and a $50 increase over the 2007-08 per student funding level of $7,126, the previous record under former governor Charlie Crist.
"I am proud to announce that in the upcoming legislative session we will propose an increase in Florida’s per-pupil spending to the highest level in our state’s history," Scott said in a statement released early Thursday morning. "We already have the highest total spending in K-12 this year and gave every teacher the opportunity for a pay raise. Because we were able to get Florida’s economy back on track, revenues are now projected to stay at a strong enough rate to support historic investments in education.”
In a statement, Florida Education Association president Andy Ford called the governor's four-year record on public education spending "isn't pretty."
"This proposal, which would have to be approved by the Legislature long after November’s election, seems very much like a desperate attempt to win votes to cover his record of neglect of public school students," Ford added.
Charlie Crist has hammered Scott regarding his record on supporting education funding. In Scott's first year in office, he proposed cutting $3.3 billion in school funding. Ultimately the Legislature approved $1.3 billion in cuts. Since that time he has gradually increased funding, but never to the extent that today's announcement calls for.
A line that Crist has used against Scott for much of this year is that the current governor "still hasn't matched what I did during the recession for per-pupil funding for kids." But he can't use that line any longer.
His campaign team is saying this, however:
"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," Crist spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said in a statement. "In his taxpayer-funded campaign statement, he admits that Charlie Crist holds the record for per student funding, almost $200 higher than what Rick Scott is spending despite Scott collecting billions more in taxes."