The Miami Herald’s Higher-Ed Hustle investigation of for-profit colleges has attracted national attention. But for more than a month, Gov. Rick Scott didn't say a word about it.
In early May, the Herald asked Scott’s press office if the governor wanted to weigh in. There was no response.
Monday morning, Scott was in Miami at Carlos J. Finlay Elementary School. The topic: education. Scott used the appearance to pressure the Legislature to increase K-12 education funding, but when asked about Higher-Ed Hustle, the governor twice opted not to respond.
The first time, he kept on walking and posing for pictures. The second time, Scott chose to instead answer a TV reporter’s question on hurricane preparedness. After taking that one softball question, Scott abruptly walked away.
The Herald followed up with Scott’s press office. At 5:10 p.m., Scott spokeswoman Jeri Bustamante released a vague statement that failed to address the taxpayer fraud, political favors, and harm to students uncovered by the Herald's year-long investigation. Here is the statement:
"The department of education is looking into this. Gov. Scott's priority is to ensure all of Florida's educational institutions put students first and provide a quality education. Every great job starts with a great education and that is why Governor Scott will continue to work with the Legislature to lower the cost of higher education - including stopping tuition increases in our undergraduate programs."
The Herald’s year-long investigation identified more than $1.5 million in political contributions from the "career college" industry, which is mostly run for profit.
Of that total, $359,508 went to Scott.
Since 2009, Tallahassee lawmakers have passed at least 15 laws that benefited for-profit colleges. Florida politicians strongly support the industry despite thousands of student complaints – and alleged fraudulent activity by some school operators.
U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has also declined to comment on the Herald investigation. His press office has been asked twice.
- Michael Vasquez