Governor Rick Scott Pitches $12 Billion Budget Investment in Florida Education
By Allison Nielsen, Sunshine State News // November 29, 2017
37 percent increase equates to $7,500 per student
TAMPA, FLORIDA — Gov. Rick Scott is making another push for increased funding for Florida’s education system, saying his new budget proposal will be the “highest ever” in Florida history.
Scott made the announcement Monday morning in Tampa, appearing at Mitchell Elementary School to make the pitch for the new education budget.
The two-term governor said he plans to push the state legislature to dedicate nearly $12 billion of his proposed $87.4 billion budget to education during the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
The increase in state funding would be a jump of nearly 37 percent for Florida’s K-12 public schools since Scott first took office, with over $21.4 billion going towards Florida’s public schools.
All in all, Scott’s funding numbers equate to around $7,500 per student, an increase of around $200 per student, a record for per-pupil spending.
Scott has other ambitions to propel Florida students into the future. The state education system would also receive $15 million for a new coding and computer science program designated especially for middle and high school students.
Coding is a rarely tapped area of education for Florida, which has tried in the past to promote STEM programs as part of its efforts to make students ready for a more advanced workforce environment.
Another $10 million of Scott’s proposal would be funneled towards school safety initiatives to promote a “safe learning environment” for students.
Hurricane Maria victims would have a special place carved out in Florida’s new education budget — $12 million would be set aside for a new “English Language Learners Summer Academics” program, which aims to improve students in grades 4-8’s reading comprehension.
Teachers, too, would benefit from Scott’s budget proposal. Around $18 million would go towards funding for the Teacher Classroom Supply Assistance Program, which would increase funding for teachers to buy school supplies from $250 to $350 each year.
Still, Scott acknowledged he could only make recommendations for the state budget — it’s up to state lawmakers to pass his proposal. The Florida House has already said it would not support the recommendation due to budgetary constraints.
Last year, Scott proposed spending around $58 million on a variety of education proposals, with a significant chunk of that money aimed at Florida teachers.
“We have the money in the budget,” he said. “I’m just going to fight hard to get it. We have a $3 billion surplus in this budget.”
The surplus Scott talks about may not be quite that large, however. Florida was expected to have a slight surplus heading into 2018, but Hurricane Irma threw a wrench into next year’s budget and the state now has to pay out $600 million in expenses related to the storm.
Further details about Scott’s education proposal will be available in the coming weeks. Legislators return for committee meetings at the beginning of December. The 2018 legislative session begins in January.
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