Rick Scott’s doublspeak on education

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

Florida’s governor made the rounds last week. He met with a group of teachers in Kissimmee, wrote an education policy op-ed and spoke with the editorial board of the Lakeland Ledger. One can never blame a governor for advancing general themes or using talking points when communicating with constituents, but they should be scrutinized for condor, clarity and wisdom.

Lets take a look at his meeting with teachers. This from the Orlando Sun-Sentinel piece:

Scott, holding a roundtable discussion with the teachers, said he is a strong supporter of education. “If we’re going to do well as a state, if our families are going to do well, it’s going to be tied to education.”

But he said the public views the public-education system as one unwilling to police itself. “The perception is that it’s not an accountable system,” he said, and too many people feel “we’re not getting value for the dollars we’re putting in the government.”

Now this from the editors of the Lakeland Ledger:

Asked about local businesses having to charge state sales tax while many Internet sellers do not collect the tax, Scott said, “It’s not fair.” He added: “I’m hopeful this will get resolved, but what I don’t want to be in the position of doing is, I don’t want to take more tax dollars. I think families are spending enough money on government.”

So Scott is using the same anti-government populism to defend both his education policy and his stance on collecting internet sales tax. He used vague identifying groups – many people on education and families with collecting sales tax – to imply there’s some sort of consensus for his ideas.

Can the two issues – education and internet sales tax – be dealt with through the same guiding principles? Rick Scott obviously thinks so, but his rhetoric on education policy is disconnected. This from his op-ed piece:

In spite of this bleak budget picture, I am committed to increasing Florida’s investment in the education of our young people. As I see it, investing in education provides a return on investment we simply cannot ignore.

To gain a better understanding of how Florida needs to invest in education, I am meeting with teachers across our state to hear their ideas about to improve our schools and encourage student achievement.

Teachers are essential to the success of our schools and our students, and I am confident that those who daily work to inspire children and young people to learn and achieve their dreams can show us the best way to invest Florida’s education dollars.

Education pays, and we clearly must find a way to increase our investment in Florida’s students.

I highlighted Scott’s use of ”invest” or “investment” in a blog post yesterday regarding the money Florida’s taxpayers lost investing in charter schools that are now closed. Scott’s saying on one hand the we need to “invest in education” while on the other hand say that we’re “not getting value for the dollars we’re putting into government?”

The contradiction is clear. Perhaps Scott’s just shielding his real privatization agenda. Scott’s hubris was on display with ”the perception is that it’s not an accountable system.” Apparently he presumes to be the sole arbiter of perception. With Scott’s own education commissioner saying that previous poor performance of a charter school shouldn’t count, his acountability angle doesn’t pass the smell test.

There’s really nothing new in Rick Scott’s education agenda, except that fact he’s having to create the perception that he’s reaching out to stakeholders. He’s use of investment rhetoric with respect to education is meant to make him seem reasonable. But Scott didn’t say what he meant by investment. The only thing new from Scott on education is that he wants parent trigger legislation. This will only serve to further empower his charter school cronies whom gets to operate without the same accountability that does the public school system for which he is so contemptuous. How this passes as an investment, accountability, or has the slightest thing to do with smart government spending is still left for Scott to explain.


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