During the first debate between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, Scott repeatedly hammered Crist for jobs lost during his tenure.
Scott said that 832,000 jobs were lost during Crist’s tenure. Crist -- who served from January 2007 through January 2011 as a Republican but is now running as a Democrat -- countered that he governed during a global economic meltdown.
"One of the decisions I made to get us through it was to work with the president so that we would have funds available to keep teachers on the job. Now, Rick Scott has said taking the recovery was an absolute mistake, which would have led to the firing of 20,000 teachers."
Crist used the term firing, which isn't quite accurate, since these would have been layoffs. However, we don't see this as a serious issue, because the context makes clear the kind of job losses he's talking about.
Is it true that by taking federal stimulus dollars Crist saved 20,000 teachers from being laid off?
Stimulus money saved jobs
Crist made a similar statement when he announced he was running for governor in St. Petersburg in November. It is one of many back-and-forth attacks about education funding and teacher layoffs hurled between the two candidates.
Crist’s statement refers to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the $787 billion federal stimulus bill pushed by President Barack Obama and passed by Congress in 2009.
The Florida Department of Education published information in 2010 about how many "instructional personnel" the Recovery Act affected. The department identified 19,166 full-time equivalent jobs affecting a total 31,003 employees for the quarter ending June 30, 2010. Instructional personnel included classroom teachers as well as other school employees including guidance counselors, librarians and audio-visual workers.
The state’s education commissioner at the time, Eric Smith, said that the stimulus dollars saved 26,000 teacher jobs. (Smith was appointed by Crist.)
The stimulus money was paid out over two years: In 2009-10, nearly $908 million went to K-12 education, and another $873 million the year after, according to Ruth Melton, director of government relations for the Florida School Boards Association.
"The infusion of this federal cash was tremendously important in keeping school districts solvent during the recession," Melton told PolitiFact Florida when we first looked into this claim in 2013.
But it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact number of teachers who would have been laid off without the federal infusion of money, because we can’t predict how each district would have handled their own budgets. Some districts with healthier reserves might have avoided or minimized layoffs more than other districts. Or perhaps they would have found ways other than teacher cuts to reduce their budgets.
"It could have meant actually more teachers than reported," Melton said. At the other extreme, some districts could have laid off more expensive teachers who were close to retirement -- and that could have lowered the number.
Crist said that if Florida had not taken the stimulus it "would have led to the firing of 20,000 teachers."
The Education Department identified 19,166 full-time equivalent jobs affected by the stimulus money. That’s close to what Crist said, but that figure includes not just teachers but other types of school workers as well.
In addition, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact number of teachers who would have been laid off statewide, since districts would have had discretion in how to handle budget cutting and may have had other options to reduce spending beyond laying off teachers.
The statement is accurate but needs clarification, so we rate it Mostly True.