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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan January 10, 2012

Rick Scott says he's adding $1 billion in new education funding

Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked the Legislature to send more money to education during his State of the State address on Jan. 10, 2012 -- and he said he’s not kidding.

"My recommended budget includes $1 billion in new state funding for education," Scott said. "And I ask you to please consider that recommendation very carefully. On this point, I just cannot budge. … This is the single most important decision we can make today for Florida’s future."

But the $1 billion isn’t purely "new" additional funding as Scott said. About $190 million is needed to pay for 30,000 more students expected for next year, and another $220 million goes to make up for a 3 percent drop in property values.

Another problem with Scott’s claim to support "new" education funding: It doesn’t make up for budget cuts that Scott signed into law just last year.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by Democrats in state government. Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, called Scott’s fervor for education funding "new-found."

"The bottom line is that we would still be funding education at a level hundreds of millions of dollars less than we did in 2007 if the governor’s proposal is passed. It won’t make up for the $1.35 billion that the Legislature cut from K-12 education last session," Rich said in a newsletter to constituents in December.

We went looking for budget documents and news reports on the matter, and we soon confirmed last year’s education cuts. We even found evidence of the decline in Scott’s own budget documents on his Let’s Get to Work website. (See page 33 of this chart.)

Scott’s data shows a few interesting trends. Starting with fiscal year 2003, total education funding climbed every year, reaching $18.75 billion in 2007. It then dipped to $17.92 billion in 2008, before climbing again to $18 billion in 2009 and $18.22 billion in 2010, thanks largely to federal economic stimulus funds.

In 2011, funding dropped to $16.58 billion, according to interim calculations. Scott’s proposal to add state funds would push total funding to $17.15 billion in 2012. As Rich noted, that’s still below pre-recession levels.

Scott is right that he wants to add roughly $1 billion in funding for schools this year, but we think it’s disingenuous to call that money "new" -- a descriptor that gives people a distinct impression that education funding is up. Some of that $1 billion in funding is to pay for new students and to close a gap created by lost funding from declining property values. And it doesn’t quite make up for the deeper cuts Scott signed off on a year ago. We rate his statement Half True.

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Rick Scott says he's adding $1 billion in new education funding

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