Scott gets serious about school funds Chronicle editorial / dec 8 2017

THE ISSUE: Scott proposes record budget for 2018 with more dollars for schools.

OUR OPINION: Money is sorely needed.

Gov. Rick Scott’s 2018 budget proposal will benefit Florida school districts, and despite criticisms, we feel the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Scott is in his final year as governor and this budget shifts sharply from the slashing style he’s exhibited in previous years. Perhaps, as Democrats in the state legislature suggest, Scott has suddenly become more magnanimous as he positions himself for a U.S. Senate run.

Scott’s budget proposal is for $87.4 billion, $21.4 billion of which will go to K-12 students. The extra money would give districts about $200 more per student and about $100 more per teacher to pay for school supplies.

There could be a fight in the Legislature as Scott is counting on extra revenue from rising property values to pay for the additional revenue being funneled toward school districts. In years past, House Republicans have criticized this as a tax increase.

When it comes to spending on education, Florida has always been tight with its bucks. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 Florida spent $9,490 per student. This year, they are hoping to gain an additional $200 with Scott’s new budget to increase spending to $7,497. That is still over 20 percent less than what we spent at the beginning of Scott’s tenure.

We are willing to overlook Scott’s dubious generosity and somewhat ignore his previous record of deep cuts to education because we feel this budget is needed for our schools.

The school budget is a morass of state mandated edicts on how much money is allowed to be collected and how it should be spent. State lawmakers squeeze school districts by dreaming up unpopular teacher bonuses instead of giving them enough flexibility for regular pay raises.

They offer little recompense other than the opportunity to place widely unpopular sales tax referendums on the local ballot in order to provide the funding needed to properly operate the school district.

Florida’s education commissioner on Thursday warned the Senate budget committee that without the increase in property tax collections, school districts would fall well short of the money needed to operate.

We urge legislators to at least approve the increased spending for education proposed in Scott’s 2018 budget.

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