PolitiFact Florida on Gov. Scott's Claims on Record Education Spending

Oct 23, 2015
Originally published on October 21, 2015 11:21 am

Gov. Rick Scott didn't always want to be known as The Education Governor.  After all, in his first state-of-the-state address, the governor proposed some of the steepest cuts in public education funding in state history.

But since then, the recession ended and the economy improved. State tax revenues recovered, and Scott has pushed to move the budget back up each year since. So the governor is now boasting that Florida’s education system is getting record funding on his watch.

 

Governor Scott said, “Building on the record K-12 education funding and teacher pay raises and classroom debit cards of last year, I am committing an historic $18.8 billion in total funding K-12 education."

He says the proposed education funding is the highest in Florida history. But is it?  To find out, WUSF's Steve Newborn checks in with PolitiFact Florida's Amy Hollyfield.

Here's PolitiFact's ruling:

Total vs. per-pupil vs. inflation

The education budget has been a prickly issue for Scott since he recommended major cuts in his first year in office. State tax revenues have recovered with the end of the recession, and Scott has pushed to move the budget back up each year since, which has led to his current claim.

While Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist squabbled during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign over who held the spending record, we noted they both could stake a claim: Scott had the largest budget in total dollars, while Crist spent the most per student back in 2007-08.

With Scott well into his second term, the same is still true today.

After winning re-election, Scott wanted to bump up spending in his January 2015 budget proposal, to $19.75 billion total and $7,176 per pupil. That would have been about $850,000 higher than the previous year’s budget, and $50 higher per student than the record of $7,126 under Crist.

But the Legislature has the final say, and faced a budget deadlock over several issues, including a debate about potentially expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. After a special session in the summer to hammer out a budget, the Legislature didn’t give Scott the amount he wanted.

We checked the latest calculations for the Florida Education Finance Program, a pot of state and local money for schools that is adjusted periodically throughout the year to factor in tax receipts and enrollment. We found that for the 2015-16 school year, the K-12 system is getting a total budget of about $19.7 billion, or about $7,105 per student .

Let’s take a look at the past few years to get a better idea of how much money has been going to education spending.


Our ruling

Scott said, "We have the highest funding in (the) K-12 system in the history of the state."

That’s accurate in one sense, because the state’s total education budget is at an all-time high of $19.7 billion. But enrollment is also higher than in years past. Per-pupil spending is still below historic dollar totals and remains far below equitable levels when adjusted for inflation.

Education spending has essentially stood still over the last nine years. Scott’s claim obscures that.

The statement contains an element of truth, but ignores critical facts. We rate it Mostly False.

 

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