TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott will call for a $1.2 billion boost to spending on education in his 2013 budget recommendations to be released Thursday.
The governor outlined his top spending priorities Wednesday during The Associated Press' 19th annual planning meeting.
"This funding commitment represents per-student funding of around $6,800 –- an increase of more than $400 per student, or around 6.5 percent, over the current fiscal year," Scott said in remarks to the AP, bringing the state's education budget to $10.7 billion, the highest level of school funding in history.
Scott says the $1.2 billion increase for K-12 schools would include a nearly $500 million boost in teacher salaries he has already proposed. The governor wants to give a $2,500 across the board pay raise to every teacher.
"In this budget, I am doubling down on our investment in K-12 education. This billion dollar investment more than doubles our billion-dollar investment from last year," Scott said.
The governor's critics said last year the additional $1 billion he added to the 2012-2013 budget simply replaced what he cut in his first year in office.
The announcement came as welcome news to Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti just as he was sitting down to talk about his priorities with members of Duval County's state lawmakers.
"In Florida, we are dramatically underfunded when it comes to public education as compared to other states throughout the country, so it's exciting to see the governor start to commit additional funds to education," Vitti said.
Members of the Duval legislative delegation agreed that increasing teacher salaries is a priority, but some were hesitant to endorse Scott's budget request.
"You're going to see that be a priority for the Legislature this year," Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said. "There is some positive news that, like in the past years, there was a lot of cutting."
"I have to see his overall budget," Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said. "As we talked about during our meeting here, the devil is always in the details."
"There's an old saying in the process that the governor proposes, the Legislature disposes, and so we will be carefully looking at his recommendations and go from there," Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, added.
Gov. Scott's other priorities
The Republican governor outlined other top priorities, including eliminating a new sales tax exemption for manufacturers that purchase industrial equipment and machinery.
Scott refused Wednesday to say whether he would recommend accepting federal aid in order to expand Medicaid coverage.
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