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Gov. Rick Scott announced his budget plan at a tea party rally in Eustis on Feb. 7, 2011. (AP photo) Gov. Rick Scott announced his budget plan at a tea party rally in Eustis on Feb. 7, 2011. (AP photo)

Gov. Rick Scott announced his budget plan at a tea party rally in Eustis on Feb. 7, 2011. (AP photo)

Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin March 27, 2014

Charlie Crist says 'Rick Scott tried to slash school funding by $3.3 billion'

Both Charlie Crist and Rick Scott will have gubernatorial records to fuel the campaign fire this year. The attacks have already started, with Crist firing a shot about Scott’s budget actions over the years.

On a page titled "Top 5 reasons to make Florida Scott-free," Crist brings up education spending as No. 1. "Rick Scott tried to slash school funding by $3.3 billion," the site says. "To put that into perspective, $3.3 billion could pay the yearly salaries of more than 70,000 teachers in Florida."

Considering Scott came into office during the Great Recession, his budget cutting is well known. We thought we’d dive into the numbers to see whether he proposed that the state’s schools take a $3.3 billion hit.

Slash and learn

Scott entered office in 2011, facing a $3.6 billion shortfall in the state’s $70.5 billion budget. His solution in February 2011 was to propose cutting $4.6 billion in spending and $2.4 billion in state revenue by reducing taxes, regulations and fees. His budget came in at $65.9 billion.

His proposal, encompassing two fiscal years, recommended cutting per-pupil spending by about $700, a 10 percent reduction from the state’s current $6,899 spending per student at the time. Part of the cuts included a 10 percent cut in the required local effort portion of property taxes and a loss of more than $870 million in federal stimulus money. In all, that added up to a projected $4.8 billion in cuts to education over the two years.

The Scott plan attempted to offset some of those cuts with other federal aid and by requiring teachers to contribute 5 percent to their pension plans, adding back about $400 per student. We’ve broken down some of those dollar figures before. In all, funding would have been cut some $3.3 billion the first year.

Legislators did not respond well to such a drastic proposed budget reduction for schools.

"Are we looking at the cuts the governor is making? The answer is no, a resounding no," PreK-12 Education Appropriations subcommittee chairman Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, told the Gainesville Sun.

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After a contentious session, the Legislature passed and Scott signed a budget that included $1.3 billion in cuts to education, from $18.2 billion to $16.5 billion. The reduction ended up being about $540 per student, a 7.9 percent cut in funding.

The following year, Scott requested a $1 billion increase in education dollars, which was included in the 2012-2013 state budget. The increase was needed to make up for more than 30,000 new students and a decline in property taxes from a 3 percent drop in property values.

He then requested $1.2 billion more in 2013; the Legislature agreed to $1 billion. This year he has asked Tallahassee for $542 million more for next year, bringing the totals to $10.6 billion in state cash and $18.8 billion overall. This would be a record amount of spending in terms of dollars, but still less than the amount being spent per student when he took office.

The ruling

Crist said "Rick Scott tried to slash school funding by $3.3 billion," pointing to a budget proposal from 2011, Scott’s first year in office.

Scott did propose cutting $3.3 billion from the education budget, alienating members of his own party in the Legislature in the process. He even had suggested cutting $4.8 billion over two years. Part of the cuts were from the loss of federal stimulus dollars, but the state had the power to restore them had it chosen to. 

In the end, Tallahassee approved $1.3 billion in cuts. Scott has asked for increases in the three years since.

Crist’s statement was specifically phrased, saying Scott "tried" to reduce school funding. That is accurate, but it’s important to note that Scott's initial proposal died in the Legislature, and funding has increased since that attempt.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

Our Sources, "Top 5 reasons to make Florida Scott-free," March 25, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Gov. Rick Scott unveils budget of deep cuts to spending, taxes," Feb. 7, 2011

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "Florida Gov. Rick Scott proposes $4.6 billion in budget cuts," Feb. 7, 2011

CNN, "Florida Gov. Rick Scott: Slash taxes by $4 billion," Feb. 7, 2011

PolitiFact Florida, "Education cuts show up in Rick Scott's budget," Feb. 8, 2011

Palm Beach Post, "Gov. Rick Scott's proposed education budget: $1.75 billion in cuts," March 7, 2011

PolitiFact Florida, "Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith says Rick Scott's budget would result in layoffs for 20,000 teachers," March 9, 2011

Florida Senate, "Conference Committee on Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education Pre-K-12 Appropriations, House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee," April 20, 2011

Sunshine State News, "Both Chambers Pass Florida Budget Despite Session Collapse," May 7, 2011

Lakeland Ledger, "Florida Budget for 2011-2012: Threaten Worst, Take Step Back," May 7, 2011

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "Gov. Rick Scott lauds budget, line-item vetoes," May 28, 2011

Tampa Bay Times, "Scott's budget boosts schools, hits hospitals," Dec. 7, 2011

State Impact/NPR, "What They’re Saying About Gov. Rick Scott’s Budget," Dec. 8, 2011

PolitiFact Florida, "Rick Scott says he's adding $1 billion in new education funding," Jan. 10, 2012

PolitiFact Florida, "Rick Scott touts his education spending plan in third State of the State address," March 5, 2013

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession," Sept. 12, 2013

PolitiFact Florida, "Charlie Crist says Rick Scott cut K-12 by $1.3 billion in his first year and higher ed by $300 million in his second," Nov. 11, 2013

Tampa Bay Times, "Scott pitches $542 million school budget increase," Jan. 27, 2014

Palm Beach Post, "Scott schools’ budget big — but maybe not that big," Jan. 27, 2014

PolitiFact Florida, "Rick Scott says his K-12 education budget proposal is highest in Florida's history," Jan. 29, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Florida Gov. Rick Scott proposes $74 billion budget with new money going into tax relief," Jan. 29, 2014

Florida Fiscal Portal, Governor’s Budget Recommendations, released Feb. 7, 2011, accessed March 26, 2014

Florida Department of Education, "2013-14 Funding for Florida School Districts," accessed March 26, 2014

Florida Senate archive, HB 5001, accessed March 26, 2014

Interview with John Tupps, Rick Scott spokesman, March 26, 2014

Interview with Steven Geller, informal adviser to Charlie Crist, March 26, 2014

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Charlie Crist says 'Rick Scott tried to slash school funding by $3.3 billion'

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