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School Spending Under Spotlight in Florida Gubernatorial Race

Education spending has gotten a fair bit of attention in the heated Florida race for governor between incumbent Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and Democratic hopeful Charlie Crist, who was governor from 2007 to 2011. And just last week, Scott decided to make K-12 state aid a major part of his campaign, when he declared that he planned to increase per-student aid to record levels in 2015 if he's re-elected. (Florida's primary is Tuesday.)

In an Aug. 21 statement on his official state website, Scott said that he wanted to increase spending to $7,132 per student for fiscal 2016—the governor says that tops the previous spending level of $7,126 in fiscal 2008, which was approved during Crist's first year as governor. (Scott's record-setting figure, however, doesn't appear to be adjusted for inflation.) Total state funding for K-12 would rise to $19.6 billion in Scott's plan.

"By increasing per pupil spending to historic levels next year, school districts will have more resources to provide Florida children the best education possible," Scott said in the statement. He told the Tampa Bay Times that the state's job growth in recent months will allow Florida to increase its investment in public schools. 

Crist, meanwhile, is being vocal about K-12 spending as well. He started a statewide school bus tour earlier this month, the Miami Herald reported, and bashed Scott for cutting $1.3 billion from K-12 spending for fiscal 2012. But Scott shouldn't get all of the blame for that reduction, since there were also significant reductions in federal aid at the time, but the state's level of support for public schools did decline early in Scott's tenure.  

It's worth highlighting just how "state spending" on public schools work. As in most, if not all states, the actual method in Florida for calculating how the dollars flow can be quite complicated. The Florida Department of Education has a chart illustrating the different factors and funds that go into determining total state as well as local contributions to public schools:


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