Rick Scott’s education proposal is all smoke and mirrors

From the Gainsville Sun’s editorial board

Gov. Rick Scott has had an epiphany: Education is important to Florida’s future.

So he’s recommending an additional $1 billion for schools in the coming year and vows “I’m not signing a budget unless it has a significant increase for education.”

Sounds impressive at first blush.

Until you consider that the last budget Scott signed cut school funding by $1.35 billion. The additional $1 billion he’s promising won’t even begin to get school funding back to where it was five years ago, before the Legislature decided that handing out tax cuts was a bigger priority than educating children.

When you throw in the “smoke and mirrors” portion of Scott’s proposal it sounds even less impressive.

As Scott Ward, CFO of Alachua County schools, pointed out this week, much of the governor’s proposed increase would come from local property taxes and assumes that school taxable property values in this county will increase by $550 million. “We just don’t believe the housing market has turned around like that,” Ward said.

Even under the governor’s rosy assumption, our school district is projecting a $6.8 million shortfall this coming year; perhaps $10.9 million, if Scott and the Legislature lose a lawsuit contesting a new requirement that state employees pay into the retirement system. If that happens, the district’s retirement contributions will increase by $3.66 million.

Scott’s epiphany notwithstanding, returning pennies on the educational dollars hacked away from the public schools in recent years is not much of an investment in Florida’s future.

Scott, and the Legislature, can do better.


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