Minutes after meeting with teachers union representatives for the first time since taking office, Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday night that he will not support any cuts in education funding in the next budget.
Scott's office issued a press release that included the new edict shortly after he finished a press conference standing side-by-side with Florida Education Association president Andy Ford. That would be the teachers union that opposed his bid for governor and has several lawsuits pending against the state. Ford and other teachers union leaders had a two-hour dinner with Scott at the governor's mansion, and a follow-up meeting is scheduled for this week.
Scott spent lastweek on an educational listening tour, meeting in small groups with teachers, parents and students. He said the school visits were about listening and helping him shape his policy for the spring legislative session, but the statement released at 9:42 p.m. Friday puts a clear line in the sand when it comes to funding.
“In our dinner tonight, I told the FEA that as we continue to develop our education agenda we are going to at a minimum sustain current state funding for education in the next budget and depending on the state’s economic outlook, aim to increase education funding where we can improve student outcomes," the governor said in the news release.
In office for 20 months, Scott had never sat down with teachers union officials before. He was busy focusing on other things, he said tonight. Ford said he didn't expect the governor's call but was encouraged by the opportunity to work with him.
"Tonight was a good first step of having some dialogue that probably should've happened a long time ago," he said.
Here is the governor's full statement:
“In our dinner tonight, I told the FEA that as we continue to develop our education agenda we are going to at a minimum sustain current state funding for education in the next budget and depending on the state’s economic outlook, aim to increase education funding where we can improve student outcomes.“Our goal is to better prepare students for college and careers and our policies in the next budget and the next legislative session will be designed around that.
“We look forward to working more with these leaders here today – and all the parents, students, teachers, business community members and other educators throughout the state - in the weeks and months ahead as we finalize our education policy.”