A day after the Republican Party released a Spanish-language ad touting Gov. Rick Scott's school-spending recording, Democrat Charlie Crist hit back by announcing his second English-language spot that draws attention to the education budget on Scott's watch.
Overall, the spot -- like the RPOF ad -- appears accurate. The education budget was reduced $1.3 billion under Scott (because of the federal stimulus money flameout) and PolitiFact Florida found that per-student education spending was slightly higher under Crist when adjusted for inflation.
But then Crist veers into hyperbole.
"Rick Scott's education cuts are closing that door on Florida's kids," Crist says. Then he pivots from talking per-pupil spending to higher-education scholarships called "Bright Futures," which Crist says were "cut in half."
But not on a per-student spending basis. Based on each recipient, Bright Future awards are about 2,086, which is an increase from Scott's first 2011-12 budget but a decrease of $2,364 under Crist's last budget in 2010-11.
In overall spending and student population, Bright Futures declined from about 180,000 recipients and $423 million under Crist's FY11 budget to 128,000 students for a total of $266 million.
Either way, it's not in half. And Crist made some cuts to Bright Futures as did Scott.
But going forward, Crist might have more of a point.
State data show that the number of newly eligible students (that is, high-school graduates) fell from 41,000 in 2012-13 to slightly more than 21,000 in 2013-14 as the new requirements -- largely passed under Scott and the GOP Legislature -- began to take hold. That’s a 48 percent drop.
Crist tinkered with Bright Futures in a different fashion. He agreed to tuition hikes (halted by Scott in an election year), which made part of the bill for college not covered by Bright Futures.
But the changes approved by Scott and Legislature are expected to have some dramatic impacts, especially on minorities qualifying for it. FSU's interim president recently said at the last trustees meeting that the changes were going to have a big impact at the university.
Let's also not forget that the Legislature appropriates, so it gets it's share of the credit or blame.
Crist's ad is potentially effective because he's talking direct to camera -- instead of using surrogates -- and the commercial initially seems positive in style. But then, voters respond more to negative ads. And people who hate Crist think anything with him is awful (ditto the opposite for Scott ads).