Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ELECTION 2010; Top Candidates Reveal Agendas for Education SCOTT He Calls for Expanding Use of Vouchers, Charter Schools and Virtual Education. SINK She Wants to Overhaul Public Schools, Starting in Preschool, and Boost Standards

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ELECTION 2010; Top Candidates Reveal Agendas for Education SCOTT He Calls for Expanding Use of Vouchers, Charter Schools and Virtual Education. SINK She Wants to Overhaul Public Schools, Starting in Preschool, and Boost Standards

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

TALLAHASSEE - While there are a few similarities in the public education plans of the two major-party candidates for governor, the agendas are focused on different paths to boosting education achievement.

Both Rick Scott, a former health-care executive and the Republican nominee, and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate, have unveiled lengthy plans for addressing education.

Scott's program largely reflects the free-market thinking that anchors most of his agenda: It focuses on expanding the use of school vouchers, charter schools and virtual education as part of his drive to tie education resources to individual children.

"It is time we recognize changes in society and technology are driving a need for change in our public education system, and our students need to take center stage," Scott said in unveiling his plan for the state's schools. "And it is time that the money follows the student and not the system."

Meanwhile, Sink's plan focuses more on an overhaul of public schools, from boosting standards for educators to strengthening the state's curriculum. Sink also focuses heavily on local control of schools.

"We will build a stronger, more accountable education system by focusing at the local level - instead of the top-down system of micromanagement and unfunded mandates that we have seen for too long from Tallahassee politicians," Sink said.

She said her plan is "built on the principles of innovation, excellence and accountability, with defined goals to drive better results for our students and accountability for how our education dollars are spent."

'MONEY FOLLOWS THE STUDENT'

Much of Scott's agenda focuses on alternatives to local public school systems. He nods toward home-schooling and private schools; promises to allow even greater flexibility to high-performing public charter schools; and suggests a push to expand access to voucher programs.

Scott also proposes expanding the use of online education.

He proposes overhauling the funding formula for public education, "blurring the lines between secondary and postsecondary education" with more opportunities for high school students to earn college credits and to boost mentoring programs.

But Scott's plan also seems to include two contradictory goals: Eliminating the corporate income tax while continuing support for voucher programs that draw heavily from corporate tax credits granted to businesses who donate to school-choice programs.

Scott says he will find a way to keep funding the program, which currently serves more than 30,000 students, at the same time he phases out scholarships.

Jon East, a spokesman for Step Up For Schools, the state's main voucher program, said the group trusts Scott will make good on his promise. …

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