As Gov. Rick Scott prepared to sign the state budget Friday afternoon, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran noted that it includes a “record amount” for K-12 funding, and increases per-pupil spending on average by $101.50. And if school district superintendents aren’t satisfied with the offering because of “grossly mismanaging their budgets,” Corcoran said, they should resign.
“The reality is there isn’t a single superintendent that doesn’t have enough money,” he told reporters after speaking to a Lakewood Ranch Republican Club luncheon Friday. “What we have is a bunch of superintendents who are grossly inefficient, grossly mismanaging their budgets, and if they can’t live within their means, they ought to go out to the public and say, ‘I’m sorry, I stink at this. I can’t live within my means.’”
Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, continued by saying Florida’s school superintendents should “(do) the honorable thing and step away and let someone who can get in there who can run the system efficiently, take over and protect our kids.”
When asked if that’s what Manatee County should do, as it heads into a special election on March 20 that will ask voters to increase taxes to support its school district, Corcoran said, “Absolutely. Absolutely.”
The increase of per-pupil spending for Manatee County in the 2018-19 state budget is $83.90, below the statewide average.
This follows calls across the state from superintendents who say the focus on students’ safety, while important, restricts funding for other needs. The increase for funds that schools use for general operations is just 47 cents per student.
“The easy thing to do would be to return an insult for an insult,” Manatee County Superintendent Diana Greene said in an email to the Bradenton Herald in response to Corcoran’s comments. “Instead, I will say it is disappointing that he would show so much disdain for the 67 school superintendents in Florida who successfully serve some of the largest school districts in the nation. I would hope we could have civil debate and dialogue that would result in strong advocacy for all students, because as superintendents we work every day for every student.”
Greene attended a multi-district meeting in Tampa Thursday, saying that the 47 cents won’t allow for her district to pay teachers and fund classroom resources, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Corcoran cited his typical example of school district financial mismanagement: Hillsborough County. Funded by the Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation, the school district had used millions of dollars — and had to match it — to change the way it evaluated teachers, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The costs got out of their control, and the agreement was dissolved.
“(The) money is going to follow the student,” Corcoran said. “We’re not sending it to some black hole administration.”
Corcoran just completed an eight-year term in Tallahassee representing House District 37, which encompasses Pasco County, rounded out by two years as Speaker of the Florida House. The visit to the Polo Grill, on his 53rd birthday for which he was given a cupcake by the club, was one of several post-legislature talks he has planned before an expected announcement in April that he’s running for governor. If he does, he faces 12 other Republicans vying for the nomination, including Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Trump-endorsed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, FL-6.
During his talk Friday, Corcoran spoke of his family — wife, Ann, and six children — as well as his parents, who were World War II veterans.
Their tried-and-true advice passed down to him: “(Either) you know your philosophy, and you know it inside and out. And if you don’t know your philosophy someone who has one will absolutely move you in directions you’ll never want to go. And the second thing they would say is if you know your philosophy, and you know it inside and out, but you don’t have the courage to fight for it, you’re no better than somebody who has no philosophy at all. You have to stand and fight.”
Conservative principles and philosophy, Corcoran said, led to Florida’s success over the past eight years.
He added that the Florida Senate hasn’t been “as aggressive on conservative policy as I’d like them to be.” But he finds confidence knowing that Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, will become the next Senate President, who he said was instrumental in helping “game-changing education reform” and property tax cuts.
“If it wasn’t for Bill Galvano, we probably would not have gotten out of the last two sessions, because we would have just stayed there forever until they passed our conservative policy,” he said.