Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) has made his opposition to federal funding — for everything from the Affordable Care Act to high-speed rail — extremely well known. As Igor Volsky has noted, Scott’s opposition to federal grants makes no sense, but that hasn’t stopped him from refusing them while claiming that they “ultimately create obligations that our taxpayers can’t afford.”
However, Scott may be slowly changing his mind when it comes to federal funding. As the Orlando Sentinel noted, Scott may direct the Florida legislature to accept funding from the Affordable Care Act that it had previously rejected in order to free Florida up to compete in the latest round of the Education Department’s Race to the Top program. The current round of RTTT allows states to apply for funding to enhance early childhood education programs:
Florida plans to compete for $100 million in the federal government’s latest Race to the Top program, assuming the Florida Legislature is willing to accept other federal money it had previously rejected.
To apply for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, which is designed to improve the care and education of young children, states must be taking part in a federal home-visiting program meant to prevent child abuse.
Florida won an earlier round of the Race to the Top program that it entered before Scott took office, earning itself $700 million, which Scott at the time made some noise about rejecting.
Meanwhile, the Sunshine State could undeniably benefit from additional investments in early childhood education. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research’s State of Preschool 2010 report, “Florida has one of the nation’s highest percentages of 4-year-olds in preschool programs…but state and local spending on those programs is among the worst in the nation.” “The problem in Florida isn’t quantity, it’s quality,” said W. Steven Barnett, co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research.
Scott has already made it quite clear that his opposition to federal funding is much more about politics than policy. In this case, if Scott is willing to look past political games for just a moment, Florida’s children may see the benefit.