In a blistering take-down of Rick Scott’s last-call signature on JD Alexander’s Polytechnic takeover, the editors of the Tampa Bay Times let the Florida governor have it in an editorial this morning:
Gov. Rick Scott’s commitment to cost-efficient government is as phony as his pledge to produce more math and engineering students. If the governor were sincere in those pursuits, he would have vetoed an expensive new university and endorsed a modest $2 million investment in a proven program to teach algebra to middle school students. Instead, the governor signed into law late Friday the creation of Florida Polytechnic University, just three days after vetoing the money to expand the innovative digital math effort. It adds up to just another calculating politician who says one thing and does another.
The new university will soak generations of taxpayers for untold millions, while the expanded algebra program could have bred generations of new engineers. Florida Polytech has no faculty, no students, no buildings and no hope of academic accreditation for years. Yet Scott handed Sen. JD Alexander his expensive trophy by spinning off the University of South Florida’s Lakeland branch into a new university and committing more than $50 million over this year and next to this grand illusion. The governor ignored the advice of the Florida Council of 100, a prominent business group that urged a veto and argued the state cannot afford a 12th public university as it cuts $300 million in higher education spending.
Scott argued in a signing statement that Florida Polytech fits within the State University System’s goals and claimed it will not divert money from other universities. Those assertions don’t square with reality, and they ring as hollow as his commitment to educating students in math and science. The governor embraced a monument to all that’s wrong with state politics and rejected a better way to teach algebra to middle school students. It’s clear which one would have yielded a better return on investment for Florida.
Scott’s entire governorship has been about selling out the state’s entire public education apparatus to the well-connected. From charter school operators to testing corporations to phony voucher tax-breaks for businesses, Scott and guys like Alexander have made the state’s children into their own little cash cows. Alexander’s acquisition of Polytech is just the latest wink and a nod transaction.