What role do you see stakeholders - particularly parents, students, teachers, and child development professionals - having in the decision making process concerning education and children's services?
Governor Scott: Governor Scott will continue to listen to parents, students, teachers, school administrators, early learning coalitions, early learning providers, on issues and concerns related to education and children's services. Governor Scott has a proven record of involving all concerned Floridians in developing solutions for challenges and ideas for the future.
Governor Crist: My family has always had very close ties with education. My dad served on the Pinellas County School Board, and two of my three sisters were public school teachers. I also had the honor of serving Florida's parents, teachers, and students as the state's Education Commissioner. As such, I know that Florida's education is at its best when we collaborate with each other - and make decisions together - on how to best prepare our children for their futures.
I'm deeply concerned about Florida's excessive reliance on testing and how it has undermined the role that parents, teachers, students and education professionals have in the decision making process.
Input from parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders must not be ignored. Collaboration with our stakeholders is not a 'nice-to-have'; it's an essential, necessary part of improving our schools.
If you allow me the honor of serving you again as your governor, we will empower our stakeholders so they'll have a strong voice in the education of our children once again.
Other than funding, what is your top priority issue(s) regarding early childhood development and K-12 education?
Governor Scott: In addition to continuing to fight for historic funding levels for school readiness, public schools, state colleges and state universities Governor Scott will pursue additional strategies to increase the quality of our early childhood development programs. Access for early child development programs, which is in large part tied to funding will also be a priority.
Governor Crist: Pre-kindergarten is one of the best investments we can make in our children's future. Every dollar we invest returns more than $7 in benefits, such as increased lifetime earnings and reduced crime and delinquency. As governor, I will focus on improving the quality of Pre-K and early childhood development programs, so our young children will have the best chance to succeed.
Funding is also critical. Rick Scott slashed pre-kindergarten by $20 million, which is inexcusable. As governor, I will restore the per-child funding level for Pre-K to at least $2,562, the amount it was during my first term.
Do you believe all schools in Florida should be held to the same accountability measures and standards?
Governor Scott: All K-12 public schools that receive funding in our state' K-12 education budget should be held to the same accountability measures and standards. Our school accountability system should be fair to our students and teachers and Florida's teacher evaluations should reflect the extent, that student learning is occurring in the classroom and be fair.
Governor Crist: Yes. We should set the same high standards for all Florida schools and students - and our teachers should be allowed to focus on teaching, not testing.
I support high, consistent standards because I think every child deserves a great education. We ought to expect the best from all of our kids and then give our teachers the resources they need to help our children meet those expectations.
Testing, however, has gotten out of control - teachers are forced to spend far too much time teaching to the test and not enough time making sure our kids are actually learning what they need to be successful.
Rick Scott is directly responsible for that. He signed a very flawed bill that put far too much emphasis on testing, which gives teachers basically no choice but to teach to the test.
As governor I vetoed the same bill my opponent later signed because it was unfair to teachers and gave Tallahassee more control over our schools. As governor, I will bring Republicans and Democrats together to pass legislation that will undo Rick Scott's changes and bring responsible, reasonable standards back to Florida's schools.
Providing all of Florida's children a safe, high-quality, free public education is guaranteed in Florida's Constitution. What do you plan to do to uphold the Constitution with regard to public education and public schools in Florida?
Governor Scott: All of Florida's K-12 education students should have the expectation and opportunity to receive a free education in a safe school and a high- quality classroom. Florida has great teachers, principals and public schools. Governor Scott is a proud supporter of Florida's public schools.
Governor Crist: My three sisters and I went to public schools in Florida, and I know firsthand that a quality education is the key to ensuring every kid has a fair shot at success. That's why I brought Republicans and Democrats together to fund education at historic levels.
Rick Scott cut $1.3 billion from public schools in his first year in office, bringing Florida's contribution to education to its lowest level since 2003. If he had had his way, he would have cut our children's education even further -- between $3.3 and $4.8 billion.
Thanks to the national economic recovery, the state had $2.6 billion in new revenue this year, but Governor Scott and the legislature allocated less than 7% of that revenue for K-12 education. Funding education isn't a revenue problem: it's a priorities problem. Rick Scott cares so little about education that he didn't even attend his own education summit, but he did take the time to go to a Tea Party Convention the same week.
Accounting for inflation, I funded education every year at higher levels than Rick Scott has.As governor, I will make Florida's children a priority again. We'll reverse Rick Scott's devastating cuts to public schools by returning per-child funding to the levels they were when I was governor, so our children will have the skills they need to be successful.
Recent changes have been made to the Bright Futures Scholarship program. Will you make additional changes to the program? If so, what would they be?
Governor Scott: The Bright Futures Scholarship program was created to help ensure that our best and brightest student's did not leave the state to pursue their college dreams. Governor Scott has focused on making sure college is more affordable for all Floridian's by creating $10,000 degree programs at our state colleges, eliminating the annual 15% tuition increase at our state universities, significantly reducing the college prepaid plans, allowing all students that have lived in Florida and attended a Florida public high school to pay instate fees for higher education, and pursuing strategies to reduce the exorbitant cost of textbooks and instructional materials in our public state colleges and universities. By decreasing the cost of college for all Floridians, all students and families will have the opportunity to achieve the American dream.
Governor Crist: Rick Scott slashed $300 million from higher education and made college more expensive by cutting Bright Futures funding every year. After four years of Rick Scott's cuts to Bright Futures, funding has fallen 37% and 50,000 fewer students are receiving a Bright Futures scholarship than when I was Governor. His cuts to Bright Futures hurt minority students most. As noted by the Miami Herald, "Nearly half of Hispanic freshmen and two-thirds of black freshman who would have qualified in past years did not receive an award last year."
I will restore Bright Futures to the record levels they reached under my Administration. To do so, I will urge the legislature to restore per student funding and expand eligibility so that 180,000 students will receive Bright Futures scholarships.
Do you support replacing daily physical education for in-class instruction?
Governor Scott: Governor Scott does not have any legislative recommendation's or second term proposal's that would support replacing daily physical education for in-class instruction, this should be a local decision.
Governor Crist: I consider physical education a requisite part of our children's school curriculum. As Governor, I signed legislation in 2007 to combat the growing epidemic of child obesity by requiring elementary schools to provide 30 minutes of physical education each day, and 150 minutes each week.
A bill was filed last Legislative Session authorizing a school designee or designees to carry a concealed weapon or firearm on school property. Do you support concealed guns or weapons in schools?
Governor Scott: School safety is a priority for Governor Scott and once again he plans on asking for a $10 million increase in school safety funds for our public schools to further ensure our schools are safe. Governor Scott is a strong supporter of the second amendment, supports our state's self-defense laws and is committed to ensuring our schools are safe.
Governor Crist: I grew up in a sportsmen family and I support the Second Amendment. I support real background checks and tougher penalties for criminals who use high capacity magazines to commit a crime. I believe the state is the proper place to regulate weapons, and that local communities can have a stronger voice in certain limited situations, such as protecting against gun violence in schools, etc.