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Gov. Scott Wins the Florida Governor's Race

Florida-Rick-Scott-wins-500.jpgGov. Rick Scott has won the Florida's governor's race over Democrat Charlie Crist, according to the Associated Press. 

One of the most closely fought and bitter gubernatorial campaigs in the country, the battle between Scott and Crist included a stew of allegations over K-12 spending, anxiety about testing in Florida, and a complicated legal battle over the state's school-choice program. Teachers' unions, which have bitterly opposed Scott on many occasions, pushed hard to elect Crist, who served as a Republican governor from 2007 to 2011 before switching to the Democratic Party. But many of those who support the state's tax-credit scholarship program have backed Scott, who signed a bill earlier this year that will broaden access to the program. 

Although there's been some political pushback to the Common Core State Standards over the last year or so in Florida, it didn't become a major campaign issue. The state dropped out of a federally funded consortium developing tests aligned to the standards, and the state approved some additions to the standards earlier this year. 

In winning a second term, Scott beat the man who preceded him, Crist, who was a Republican while governor but switched to the Democratic Party two years ago. Although Scott enacted a $1.3 billion cut to K-12 in the first budget he signed, fiscal 2012, he repeatedly stressed on the campaign trail that he increased per-pupil spending in each of the three subsequent state budgets he enacted. He also highlighted a state K-12 budget increase he pushed for that was specifically intended for teacher pay raises. 

Having won a second term, Scott will be confronted with a campaign promise he made that he will raise K-12 per-student spending to $7,132 in fiscal 2016. That's just above the record of $7,126 Crist approved for fiscal 2008, right before the Great Recession cut a big hole in state revenues. However, Scott will be working with a legislature also controlled by the GOP, so he might find it a particularly difficult promise to keep.

Republican legislators could push Scott to approve new policies strengthening the power of charter schools and virtual education in Florida. At least a few GOP lawmakers are also interested in radically overhauling state K-12 spending so that schools are directly funded without funneling the money through districts. Will Scott have to decide whether or not to sign such a fundamental overhaul of how schools are funded?

Regardless of who's governor, it's an important year for Florida public schools. In addition to shifting to the common core, they'll be using a new assessment from the American Institutes for Research. That test hasn't had the usual development and field-testing process as past state assessments—essentially, Florida will be relying a lot on the AIR common-core field-testing process that took place in Utah to get the test ready for Sunshine State students. 

There's been a fair bit of backlash to testing in Florida. A group of districts in the state asked for a break on high-stakes state assessments for the 2014-15 school year, and earlier this year, Lee County school board members voted to opt out of administering state tests. (The board soon reversed that vote.) 

Photo: Florida Gov. Rick Scott celebrates Tuesday night at a victory party in Bonita Springs, Fla., after defeating Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.—Wilfredo Lee/AP

Don't forget to join us Nov. 12 for After the Storm: What the 2014 Election Results Mean for K-12 Policy, a live Education Week event at Gallup headquarters in Washington

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