Rick Scott previews education agenda

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Gov. Rick Scott will make several education proposals this week, including expanded access to charter schools and issuing debit cards to teachers for buying supplies, reports David Royse of the News Service of Florida.

Scott said he’ll roll out a more detailed agenda on Thursday at an education conference in Fort Myers, but gave a preview to reporters on Tuesday.

During his tour of schools around the state earlier this year, when Scott talked to several teachers, one of the things that he was most surprised by was the number who said they spent their own money on school supplies. It was the example most often mentioned by the governor when asked what he learned on the listening tour.

On Tuesday he said he’ll propose a program to issue debit cards to public school teachers for supplies with at least some of the money to pay the bills coming from private donations. Scott didn’t go into specifics during a short conversation on how much money would be available for such a program, but said he was hoping to get companies to donate money to put on the cards.

“You could set it up where businesses and even individuals can be helpful to teachers,” Scott said. He didn’t say whether he envisioned using any taxpayer dollars to pay for the supplies.

Scott also confirmed earlier reports that he plans to push for ending a limit on enrollment in charter schools statewide, and will make school choice a major underpinning of his education agenda.

“Let’s create more options for parents,” Scott said. “Let’s allow school districts to do their own charters so we have more options for students and their parents. I think with more options we’ll have a better education system.”

Scott said he developed his education blueprint after speaking with parents, teachers, administrators and reminded reporters he’d even solicited the input of the state’s teachers union, the Florida Education Association, which traditionally has been at odds with many Republican state leaders.

Scott also said he learned on his education tour that teachers have been frustrated by repeated changes in testing requirements and said he’ll suggest that Florida not make any changes in tests between now and when the state switches fully to national common core standards.

“We’ve just been constantly changing things, basically changing things by year,” Scott said about testing.

Scott also repeated something he has said earlier, that he plans to ask lawmakers to put $2 million into an ongoing professional training program for teachers.

“They want to be respected and they want to do more professional training,” Scott said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.