Writing for PolitiFact, the joint Miami Herald-Tampa Bay Times venture, Joshua Gillin and Amy Sherman have a useful overview of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s budgetary initiatives for education. There’s good and bad. Let’s take a look:
(Scott) pledged to investigate every standardized test, and he’s taken action on this even before the session.Scott asked the Department of Education to prepare a report about every district’s testing data. After the report was released on Feb. 18, Scott issued an executive order suspending an 11th-grade language arts test. His agency is also asking the Legislature to consider several other recommendations about end-of-course exams and progress monitoring. Meanwhile, a Department-led focus group will discuss issues about implementing the controversial new Florida Standards, which are similar to the Common Core.
Scathing Purple Musings agrees.
But Floridians must be ready for more high-stakes testing drama. This year’s “pilot tests” have been “rented” from Utah for three years, and some Utah republican legislators are ready to scrap the whole thing. It may turn out that Florida’s teachers pull republicans chestnuts out of the fire as they are battle-hardened by the narrow expectation of testing. Yet they have no idea what these new tests look like. Stay tuned.
The “focus group” won’t be an actual focus group if it’s dominated by education commissioner Pam Stewart. But at least for once, naysayers will have a seat at the table.
Two other promises Scott made for K-12 education are to increase school security spending and double investment in digital learning initiatives. Scott is recommending increasing the Safe Schools Allocation, a fund that school districts use to pay for after-school programs, school resource officers and detection dogs, as well as programs aimed at preventing suicide or bullying. Scott is recommending a $14.25 million increase to bring the total up to $78.7 million. On digital learning, more money will go toward improving school district information technology infrastructure and providing computers for students. Scott is proposing doubling that money, from $40 million to $80 million.
Scathing Purple Musings gives kudos to Scott on proposing new funding for both of these need areas.
Scott’s recognition that “after-school programs, school resource officers and detection dogs, as well as programs aimed at preventing suicide or bullying” is indeed timely – especially so with social media becoming a part of every young person’s lives. Resource officers and drug dogs have proved to be a deterrent. And any funding which goes towards upgrading “technology infrastructure and computers” is welcome.
During the campaign, Scott repeatedly pledged to raise per-pupil education spending to an all-time high after cutting it during his first year in office by $1.3 billion. His latest budget proposes raising K-12 spending to $7,176 per pupil, about a $261 increase compared with the current year. That would be the highest per-pupil spending only if you don’t account for inflation. If you count inflation, school spending still won’t rebound to pre-recession levels.
Scathing Purple Musings gives Scott after school detention for this turkey. And Taxpayers may want to suspend Scott for his proposal to increase property taxes – to help pay for this faux increase in per-pupil funding. Moreover, there is no real way to calculate the financial impact which Scott’s massive expansion of the high-stakes test dominated accountability system actually has on public schools. With Scott’s per pupil funding not even keeping up with inflation, his costly regime is essentially an unfunded mandate.