Feds Reject Rick Scott's Early Learning Grant Request

Font Size A A A Print Email Share
16 December 2011

Rich, though, said it's "disingenuous" for Scott to claim he's proposing a $1 billion increase when schools are losing $634 million next year due to expiring federal stimulus and jobs bill funds while adding 30,000 new students.

"The bottom line is that you cut $1.35 billion last year," she said. "So this billion doesn't even come close to replacing what you cut last year."

Rich said it's just another example of Florida essentially giving away federal money to other states.

"We have a consistent pattern here of saying that we're not going to accept federal money because of one reason or another and the money goes to other states," she said.

Scott similarly cited worries that too much state funding would be needed to build and run a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando when he rejected $2.4 billion in federal funds for that project, killing it. The money then went to similar projects in other states.

The early learning grant winners are California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

Last year, before Scott took office, Florida received a $700 million Race to the Top grant for public schools. A key feature of that program is teacher merit pay linked to student performance, an idea long supported by many Republicans.

Florida initially had been turned down largely due to a lack of teacher support, but the state won in a second round of grant approvals. That was after then-Gov. Charlie Crist spearheaded efforts to bring teachers unions into the process.

Her organization's 3,800 members include faith-based and other private providers, public school teachers, agency heads and academics.

The grant would have provided many free services to providers but now "nobody'll be paying for them," she said.

Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, one of the Legislature's strongest backers of early learning, also disputed Scott's claim of burdensome regulations.

"That's a catch phrase for everything with this administration," the Weston lawmaker said.

The state Office of Early Learning wanted the grant to partner with private businesses in programs for high-risk children. States had to demonstrate a commitment to making early learning programs more accessible, coordinated and effective.

The grant money would have paid for much needed testing of children when they begin and finish preschool to determine their progress before entering kindergarten and to assess the quality of early learning programs, Rich said.

"We are disappointed the governor's budget targets K-12, which needs it, but so does early learning," Gellens said. She said recent spending cuts are putting some providers out of business.

Scott noted that last week he asked for a $1 billion increase for education in his budget request to the Legislature for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Before the 2011 legislative session, though, Scott proposed deep cuts in education spending as part of his drive to reduce taxes in the belief that that would kick-start Florida's economy and create jobs.

"Creating a world-class education system that prepares students for the workforce is my top priority," he said Friday. But he added, "We will accomplish this goal ... without sacrificing responsible spending."

Rich, though, said it's "disingenuous" for Scott to claim he's proposing a $1 billion increase when schools are losing $634 million next year due to expiring federal stimulus and jobs bill funds while adding 30,000 new students.

"The bottom line is that you cut $1.35 billion last year," she said. "So this billion doesn't even come close to replacing what you cut last year."

Rich said it's just another example of Florida essentially giving away federal money to other states.

"We have a consistent pattern here of saying that we're not going to accept federal money because of one reason or another and the money goes to other states," she said.

Scott similarly cited worries that too much state funding would be needed to build and run a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando when he rejected $2.4 billion in federal funds for that project, killing it. The money then went to similar projects in other states.

The early learning grant winners are California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

Last year, before Scott took office, Florida received a $700 million Race to the Top grant for public schools. A key feature of that program is teacher merit pay linked to student performance, an idea long supported by many Republicans.

Florida initially had been turned down largely due to a lack of teacher support, but the state won in a second round of grant approvals. That was after then-Gov. Charlie Crist spearheaded efforts to bring teachers unions into the process.

Click here to view this article in its original form.

Paid for by Florida Watch Action, Inc.
Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.
www.FloridaWatchAction.com