Across Florida
What's happening on other political blogs?

public schools’

Scott to propose a $1.2 billion boost for schools

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday that he is proposing a $1.2 billion increase for Florida’s public schools, a boost that would hike per-pupil spending by about $400.

Scott’s proposal will be unveiled Thursday as part of his 2013-14 budget recommendation to the Legislature. More policy details also will be revealed then, showing more about how Scott found the cash for schools in a year that marks his first where he’s not staring at a budget shortfall.

“My top two priorities are jobs and education, and they are directly connected,” Scott said at the Associated Press’ annual planning meeting at the Florida Capitol.

Education under Scott has rollercoastered the past two years. Within months of his swearing in, Scott signed a budget that slashed public school spending by $1.3 billion — but last year he approved a $1 billion increase.

Scott said he is “doubling down” on the schools investment this year. His overall schools plan will include $480 million that will allow for $2,500 pay raises for Florida teachers and covers the 26,746 additional students who will fill Florida’s classrooms next
year at a cost of $172.9 million.

Scott’s proposal also would outstrip the $70-per-student increase sought by the state’s Board of Education. Scott said his per-pupil funding level will reach $6,800 — edging closer to the state’s record, $7,126 reached during the pre-recession 2006-07 school year.

“Investing in our teachers and our education system is our key to economic growth,” Scott said.

Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale, also speaking at the AP session, said he would welcome the boost for schools. But he mocked Scott for having an “epiphany” on education that was driven largely by concern over his re-election campaign next year.

Smith said Scott’s action showed he was effectively saying, “I was wrong to starve education and starve government so much.”

$1 billion boost for schools settled; university spending is not

Thursday, March 1st, 2012 by John Kennedy

Florida school funding is set — with per-pupil cash expected to rise 2.34 percent next year — but higher education dollars remain up-in-the-air as House and Senate budget negotiators worked Thursday night on dozens of details separating the two sides.

The agreed-on school cash represents a $1 billion increase — complying with Gov. Rick Scott’s demand for a big boost to partially offset last year’s $1.3 billion reduction. That brought classroom spending to its lowest level in six years.

“We’ve done well. Schools are well served,” said Senate Pre-K-12 budget chief David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.

The increase settled by Simmons and his House counterpart, Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, amounts to a $145.48 per-pupil hike, bringing average spending to $6,370 for each of Florida’s 2.7 million school kids. The funding level is closer to  the $141 level where the House started out, than the Senate’s more robust plan for increasing school cash by $1.3 billion, or  $192-per-student.

The fate of university dollars, though, remains unsettled.

The House and Senate have agreed to cut universities by $300 million, but how to apply the cuts has stumped negotiators. The final deal-cutting, involving scores of issues, was turned over Thursday night to Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, and House Appropriations Chair Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, to settle.

Florida Atlantic University is among several schools warily watching how the final deal is structured. Many also have questioned Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander’scharacterization that Florida’s 11 public universities have more than $800 million in reserves.

FAU President M.J. Saunders described the Senate’s initial plan to cut $400 million as “disastrous.” It would have sliced $47 million from the Boca Raton-based university, costing it about one-third of its operating budget.

Under the smaller reduction, FAU is looking at losing between $23.1 million and $27.2 million, officials said. But the school’s cushion for softening this cut isn’t as large as lawmakers claimed. FAU’s purported $66 million reserve is actually closer to $16 million, when a range of spending commitments and already planned reductions are deducted, official said.

Scott enlists aid of public school chiefs to get his budget passed

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 by Dara Kam

After slashing education spending by $1.3 billion earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott is now asking school superintendents to help get his $1 billion budget boost for public schools passed. And he reiterated his vow to veto any budget that “does not significantly increase state funding for education” in a letter to school superintendents sent today.

Scott included the $1 billion education increase in his $66.4 billion election-year budget proposal after hearing from Floridians that they want more spent on schools, he said. Scott also said that education is the cornerstone of his plan to bring more jobs to the state.

“If you support the budget I am proposing, please let your legislators know. Now that I have presented my budget recommendations, it’s their turn to listen, just as I have done. Please join me in advocating for the children of our state and Florida’s economic future,” Scott wrote.

More than 30,000 new students will enroll in Florida public schools, requiring an additional $200 million over current spending, Scott wrote. And school districts are facing a $220 million reduction in ad valorem taxes, meaning lawmakers will have to pump nearly $500 million more into education to break even.

His plan would bring average per-pupil spending in Florida to $6,372, a $142 increase over the current year but still well below the $7,126 high in 2008.

“As I have listened to the challenges described by teachers, parents and administrators during the past few months, all have urged me to increase the state’s commitment to education. That is my plan, and I ask for your help in making that plan a reality for Florida’s students,” Scott wrote.

The governor once again threw down the gauntlet to lawmakers, many of whom have balked at his plan to beef up education spending by squeezing $2 billion out of Medicaid payments to hospitals.

“Every educator, student, parent and business leader should know: I will not sign a budget from the Legislature that does not significantly increase state funding for education,” Scott wrote.

Senate school cuts not so deep after all

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

Cuts to public school funding won’t be nearly as bad as it appeared earlier this week under the Florida Senate plan, budget chief J.D. Alexander said Wednesday morning.

That’s because the spending allocations released this week don’t include about another $1 billion in savings Alexander said he’s making in state employees,’ including teachers’, pay and benefits.

It appears he’s funneling nearly half that to schools, bringing down the cuts to about $300 million from more than $700 proposed earlier this week, Alexander said. That’s the opposite direction the House is headed in with its K-12 spending plan.

“It depends on your view of the world, but in terms of what a school board will have to do to adjust to available funds, our proposal has a much lower broad cut. I think the $700 million was too high,” Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said.

Without being able to raise new revenue through taxes or fees, Alexander said the savings from cutting health care benefits or requiring state employees to contribute to their pensions is the only way to avoid deeper direct cuts to services and education.

Under Alexander’s plan, state workers would have to contribute less to their pensions than the 5% Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida House are asking.

Just how much?

All will be revealed Monday when Alexander releases his budget proposal.

Florida political tweeters
Video: Politics stories