On the campaign trail for the U.S. Senate, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist defends his support for the federal stimulus by pointing to jobs saved by the emergency infusion. In a state that voted eight years ago to keep class sizes small, he’s especially fond of mentioning educators. He touted education jobs twice in a debate Oct. 24, 2010 — the second time adding detail about public safety workers.
In the first few minutes, he said:
"We utilized those moneys in order to stem the tide in losing jobs in the Sunshine State. 20,000 educators today would be out a job if we hadn't utilized the Recovery Act moneys. Another 60,000 of my fellow Floridians would be out of work today without the opportunity to be able to utilize those moneys in a responsible way."
Before the debate with Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek had reached its halfway point, he added:
"But I also agree with the congressman when he talks about the fact that the Recovery Act saved 60,000 jobs among law enforcement officials, firefighters in the state of Florida, plus another 20,000 educators."
A comment that specific just begs for the Truth-O-Meter. Did the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 really save 60,000 jobs among law enforcement officials and firefighters, plus 20,000 educators?
Crist’s campaign referred us to the governor’s office, where we caught up with press secretary Sterling Ivey. He sent us a link to the standard reference the governor would use for such data, the most recent Recovery Act Summary from the Florida Office of Economic Recovery. It breaks out two types of numbers for Florida: actual workers affected, and "jobs," measured in full-time equivalents.
Quickly, things spiraled downhill for the "60,000" claim. The count for the Department of Justice — 935 jobs — would include some law enforcement officials, Ivey said. So would some of the 617 jobs attributed to the Department of Law Enforcement. Firefighters might be counted with Department of Homeland Security, but DHS claimed zero jobs in Florida funded by its $4.6 million award.
As we looked at the document , Ivey summarized: "The numbers aren't going to add up for you."
The educator claim fared better.
A line item for "Education State Fiscal Stabilization" looked promising: It showed 19,767 jobs funded by the Recovery Act. Other state and federal education categories showed nearly 7,900 additional jobs.
But Ivey couldn’t tell us how much of that work belonged to "educators" vs. other types of personnel. For that, we would have to ask the Florida Department of Education directly.
The department was able to provide us with Recovery Act numbers for "instructional personnel," a reasonable synonym for "educators." In 16 categories, it identified 19,166 instructional full-time equivalent jobs affecting 31,003 employees for the quarter ending June 30, 2010. So, with a little rounding of the lower "jobs" number, Crist’s claim stands. And since he chose the word "educators," which refers to people, not jobs, he probably would have been safe even with the higher number. If he had widened his word choice to encompass all types of positions at the Department of Education, he could have touted support for 27,600 jobs or 42,600 workers.
So how was Crist close — even conservative — on one number, and so woefully off on the other? Campaign spokesman Danny Kanner didn’t answer our request for an explanation. But the number of "actual workers" affected by Recovery Act funds in the quarter ended in June was near 80,000. Subtract from that about 20,000 educator jobs, and you have what sounds like a reasonable number for the rest: 60,000. Of course, there are two major problems here: 80,000 wasn’t the "jobs" number, it was the higher "actual workers" measure. "Jobs" totaled just 34,298. So a true statement would have been that the Recovery Act funded 20,000 jobs for educators and 14,000 other jobs. Or that it benefited 31,000 educators and 48,000 other Floridians. Either way, it’s simply inaccurate to attribute every non-education job or worker to law enforcement and firefighting.
So how does the Truth-O-Meter rule? Crist absolutely mangled the claim about "60,000 jobs." He had a much better grasp on "20,000 educators." That makes him only a quarter right, so we rule his statement Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.