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Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, greets students at the Dr. Carlos J. Finlay elementary school, Monday, June 1, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, greets students at the Dr. Carlos J. Finlay elementary school, Monday, June 1, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, greets students at the Dr. Carlos J. Finlay elementary school, Monday, June 1, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman September 28, 2018

Bill Nelson cherry-picks Rick Scott's education funding record

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says that under Gov. Rick Scott’s leadership, Florida has fallen short on education funding.

"Rick Scott subtracted $1.3 billion from public schools," Nelson’s campaign said in a September Facebook post on the page Not for Florida.

A narrator in the attached video makes the timeframe a little more clear, saying "when Rick Scott became governor he subtracted more than $1 billion from local public schools." Beside the words "$1.3 billion" in Florida ink, there’s a citation for a 2013 PolitiFact fact-check.

Scott, the Republican challenging Nelson in November, has defended his education funding record.

We found Nelson is cherry-picking Scott’s record on education funding by zeroing in on his first year and ignoring the next several years.

Education funding under Scott

The video cites our fact-check of former Gov. Charlie Crist, who unsuccessfully sought his old job against Scott in 2014. Crist said Scott "cut education by $1.3 billion" — in his first year — which we rated Mostly True.

Nelson’s ad focused on Scott’s budget but left out what happened with the next seven budgets Scott signed.

As Scott approached his first legislative session in 2011, he unveiled a budget proposal at a tea party rally that included billions of dollars in spending cuts, including to education. The Republican-led Legislature backed some of those cuts.

The $1.3 billion figure included the reduction in state money and the expiration of the federal stimulus funds, which was the largest chunk of the cut.

By the end of his first year, Scott changed his tune on education funding. He called for a $1 billion boost to education.

The K-12 budget has since risen every year of Scott’s tenure, whether we count total K-12 funds or only the state share. Scott’s spokesman pointed to the fact that the total state share of K-12 funds rose from $8.7 billion in his first year to $11.9 billion in 2018-19, an increase of $3.2 billion.

 

Fiscal year

Total K-12 state share

Total K-12 funds

K-12 enrollment

Per-pupil spending

2007-08

$9.7 billion

$18.7 billion

2.63 million

$7,126

2008-09

$8.6 billion

$17.9 billion

2.62 million

$6,846

2009-10

$8.1 billion

$18 billion

2.63 million

$6,846

2010-11

$8.91 billion

$18.2 billion

2.64 million

$6,897

2011-12*

Featured Fact-check

$8.71 billion

$16.6 billion

2.67 million

$6,217

2012-13

$9.5 billion

$17.2 billion

2.7 million

$6,376

2013-14

$10.5 billion

$18.3 billion

2.705 million

$6,769

2014-15

$10.7 billion

$18.9 billion

2.74 million

$6,915

2015-16

$10.93 billion

$19.7 billion

2.77 million

$7,105

2016-17

$11.3 billion

$20.2 billion

2.8 million

$7,196

2017-18

$11.6 billion

$20.6 billion

2.82 million

$7,221

2018-19

$11.9 billion

$21.1 billion

2.8 million

$7,407

* Scott’s first budget.

The $21.1 billion for K-12 schools approved earlier this year included an increase of about $485 million, including for school safety following the Parkland shooting.

While Scott has promoted the increases each year, his critics have said that the state’s education budget is underfunded and pointed out that Florida ranks 41st in per student expenditures nationwide.

As we’ve concluded in similar fact-checks, the state’s total K-12 education budget has increased in raw dollars every year for the last several years. However, adjusting for inflation, we found per-pupil spending is not as high as it was before the recession crippled state tax revenues.

Our ruling

Nelson’s campaign said in a Facebook post that "Rick Scott subtracted $1.3 billion from public schools."

Nelson is repeating a familiar attack line against Scott, but this attack has become increasingly inaccurate as we get further away from Scott’s first year in office.

Scott did oversee a $1.3 billion education cut, in 2011. Over the next seven years with Scott as governor, the education budget grew each year. That's severe cherry-picking. Because the statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, we rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

Sen. Bill Nelson campaign, Facebook post, Sept. 7, 2018

National Education Association, Rankings of the States 2017 and Estimates of School Statistics 2018, April 2018

Florida Association of District School Superintendents, Letter to Gov. Rick Scott, March 14, 2018

Tampa Bay Times The Buzz, "Debate time: Bill Nelson, Rick Scott set to face off Oct. 2," Sept. 10, 2018

PolitiFact, "Rick Scott says K-12, state university funding is highest in last six years," March 2018

PolitiFact Florida, Rick Scott says K-12 education funding is highest in Florida's history, Oct. 15, 2015

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

PolitiFact Florida, Florida House speaker touts record education spending, but there's more to grade, May 15, 2017

PolitiFact Florida, Rick Scott says K-12 education funding is highest in Florida's history, Oct. 15, 2015

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

PolitiFact Florida, Florida House speaker touts record education spending, but there's more to grade, May 15, 2017

Interview, McKinley Lewis, Gov. Rick Scott office spokesman, Sept. 24, 2018

Interview, Meghan Collins, Florida Department of Education spokeswoman, Sept. 24, 2018

Interview, Dan McLaughlin, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson campaign spokesman, Sept. 24, 2018

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Bill Nelson cherry-picks Rick Scott's education funding record

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