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- 2012 - October - 24th -

Scott releases education agenda

by David Royse, The News Service of Florida

Gov. Rick Scott will make several education proposals this week, including expanded access to charter schools and issuing debit cards to teachers for buying supplies. 

Scott said he'll roll out a more detailed agenda Thursday at an education conference in Fort Myers, but gave a preview to reporters Tuesday.

During his tour of schools around the state earlier this year, when Scott talked to several teachers, one of the points was the number who said they spent their own money on school supplies. It was the example most often mentioned by the governor when asked what he learned on the listening tour.

On Tuesday, he said he'll propose a program to issue debit cards to public school teachers for supplies, with at least some of the funds coming from private donations.

Scott did not discuss specifics during a short conversation on how much money would be available for such a program, but said he was hoping to have companies donate money to put on the cards. 

"You could set it up where businesses and even individuals can be helpful to teachers," Scott said. He didn't say whether he envisioned using any taxpayer dollars to pay for the supplies. 

Scott also confirmed earlier reports that he plans to push for ending a limit on enrollment in charter schools statewide, and will make school choice a major underpinning of his education agenda. 

"Let's create more options for parents," Scott said. "Let's allow school districts to do their own charters so we have more options for students and their parents. I think with more options we'll have a better education system." 

Scott said he developed his education blueprint after speaking with parents, teachers and administrators and reminded reporters he'd even solicited the input of the state's teachers union, the Florida Education Association, which traditionally has been at odds with many Republican state leaders. 

Scott also said he learned on his education tour that teachers have been frustrated by repeated changes in testing requirements and said he'll suggest that Florida not make any changes in tests between now and when the state fully switches to national common core standards. 

"We've just been constantly changing things, basically changing things by year," Scott said about testing. 

He also repeated an earlier statement that he plans to ask lawmakers to put $2 million into an ongoing professional training program for teachers. 

"They want to be respected and they want to do more professional training," Scott said. 

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