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Governor Scott Unveils 2013 Education Agenda

Governor Rick Scott says he doesn’t want to see any funding cuts to education. In fact, he wants more money for teacher training and pre-paid debit cards for teachers to purchase classroom supplies.  The Governor officially unveiled his 2013 education goals Thursday.

Governor Rick Scott gave credit for the ideas to the teachers, principals and students he spoke with during his education tour a few months ago. The Governor says he frequently heard that they’re burdened with outdated rules. And Scott, citing his business background, says that’s something he wants lawmakers to tackle during the upcoming 2013 legislative session:

“Teachers and students tell us they waste time on unnecessary rules and outdated regulations that could be better spent on helping students in the classroom. We will eliminate many regulations recommended to us by a panel of seven superintendents to streamline the work of Florida educators.”

The Governor wants to give schools greater flexibility in making purchasing decisions, citing the state’s plan to transition to digital materials and away from paper-based textbooks. He also wants to get rid of enrollment caps for charter schools, and give local districts the ability to start their own.

Scott even earned some applause for recommending a moratorium on testing changes until the state fully transitions to national education standards.

"As I traveled the state on the listening tour, they explained to me that each year we had new and new testing requirements and expectations. We need to give teachers time to transition to Common Core standards, because these are much better measures for how students will succeed in college and career.”  

The issue of testing has been thorny in Florida, where just this year, more than 70-percent of students taking the state writing test failed it. It’s gotten harder for students to pass certain tests. The state is raising expectations on student learning as part of its transition to the national education standards which are called the Common Core. And Holding off on more testing changes is something teacher Carol Bucher says she can get behind:

"I was glad to hear the assessment piece that we had spoken about, that you were planning on doing something about it, so thank you for listening, we appreciate it, as teachers.” 

And the state’s largest teacher’s union, the Florida Education Association, expressed some cautious optimism with the Governor’s education plan. Union President Andy Ford says it’s too early to tell what the end result of the governor’s plans will look like:

“It’s too early to tell. The proof is going to be in the details, and when the budgeting process starts, we’ll see where the real priorities are.”   

But Ford adds that he appreciated Governor Scott referenced preparing students for college AND careers, noting not all students will go to college. And Ford says he wants to know more about the governor’s plans for public and private partnerships to fund things like teacher classroom supplies:

“I think if we can have the public-private partnership work, it could lead to other models as long as we make sure all schools are treated fairly because it’s a lot easier to get business partners in the suburbs than it is in the inner city.”    

So far, reaction to Governor Scott’s 2013 education agenda has gotten full support by groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce and former Governor Jeb Bush’s Education think tank, the Foundation for Florida’s Future.  But Democratic legislative leaders aren’t impressed.  In a statement, House minority leader Perry Thurston called the Governor’s education goals and attempt to, quote, “disguise his horrific education record.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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