On the campaign trail, Charlie Crist has been hammering away at Rick Scott for the governor's education cuts, including his statement that Scott cut Bright Futures scholarships "in half" (a charge that PolitiFact has labeled "half-true," in part because it's roughly the number of scholarships that have been reduced in half under his watch, not funding for the program).
Now the Republican Party of Florida is seizing upon a comment made in Tampa on Monday by Annette Taddeo, his running mate, to turn the tables and be the aggressor regarding the scholarship program for aspiring Florida students..
At a roundtable discussion at the Marshall Center on the USF campus with Jill Biden regarding college affordability, Taddeo said she felt that Bright Futures scholarships needed to be based as much on financial need as on merit. “Let's review the eligibility based on need. That was the way it was originally meant to be," she said, adding later that she lives in a fancy Miami neighborhood and "I don't like it when one of my neighbors' kids who's very well off is getting one of those Bright Futures scholarships. We also need to look at that. But we need to restore the funding first and make sure that those 50,000 kids are back in school."
Later, the Crist camp cleaned up Taddeo's statement a bit, with press secretary Brendan Gilfillan telling the Tampa Tribune that Taddeo meant to refer to “more need-based financial aid in general, not specifically ... Bright Futures."
That's not the way the Republican Party of Florida is spinning it, however. They are shocked, shocked by her comments.
"Charlie Crist would launch the largest brain drain in the history of Florida by ending the Bright Futures Scholarship program as we know it," said RPOF Chairwoman Leslie Dougher in a statement issued out on Tuesday. "Bright Futures was created to help keep Florida’s highest-achieving students in the Sunshine State without regard to financial status. After increasing tuition on Florida students by 15 percent every year while he was governor — a tuition hike that Rick Scott repealed — it is appalling that Charlie Crist wants to take away these scholarships from our best and brightest students.”
At its peak in 2008, one in three Florida high school graduates qualified for a Bright Futures scholarship. However, according to estimates by the Florida College Access Network, just one in eight students now qualify for the program.