Most of Florida Gov. Rick Scott's proposed boost to education spending would come from property taxes

January 29, 2014 

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday gave new details about his proposed $18.84 billion education budget.

The proposal includes a $542 million boost to K-12 funding.

Some of the boost -- about $54 million -- is needed because 12,529 new students are expected to enroll in Florida schools. But the proposal would also push Florida's average per-student funding to $6,949, an increase of $169 over the current level.

(Per-pupil spending would still fall short of the record high: $7,126 in 2007-08.)

Democrats were critical of the plan Wednesday, in part because two-thirds of the overall increase would be funded by property taxes. Scott has not recommended increasing the millage rate local school districts must levy, but property values are expected to rise, meaning tax collection will also increase.

Only about $167 million of the proposed boost would come from state funding.

“After cutting education by more than $1 billion in his first year of office, this year’s spending plan appears to be another education shell game that relies on property tax increases," House Minority Leader Perry Thurston said in a statement.

But Senate President Don Gaetz, a former Okaloosa County schools superintendent, said school districts would not differentiate between the two sources of funding.

"All of the dollars matter," he said.

The details of Scott's proposal for facilities funding also came under fire.

Scott has recommended $81.3 million in funding for charter school maintenance from the Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO, fund.

The governor proposed using $80 million in lottery funds to support maintenance in traditional public schools, and $72.1 million to support projects in seven small school districts.

Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, said he was disappointed that no PECO dollars had been earmarked for traditional public schools.

"Let the governor explain to the children in crumbling public schools across Florida why they don't count, too," he said.

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