Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) has had a very on-again, off-again relationship with his desire to collect federal funds. He turned down money for high-speed rail funding that could have created 71,000 jobs, said he would reject funding from President Obama’s jobs act, and flirted with rejecting money from the first phase of the administration’s Race to the Top education program (which Florida won under the tenure of Scott’s predecessor).
Now, Race to the Top is back for a second phase, this time aimed toward early childhood education. In order to apply for this phase at all, Scott has to direct the Florida legislature to accept funding for child abuse prevention that he had previously rejected. But now, even though Florida has already applied for the Race to the Top early childhood education funds, Scott says he may well not accept them:
Gov. Rick Scott said Florida will reject a federal early learning grant if it comes with strings attached.
The state submitted an application for up to $100 million Wednesday. The early learning grants are part of President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program. [...]
Scott issued a statement saying the state would not accept the money if it came with requirements that include any state funding or future legislative action.
Scott’s protestations aside, Florida could benefit from new 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.”
Scott likes to change his political rhetoric entirely depending on which way the wind is blowing. (After all, he went from promising to create 700,000 jobs in addition to what Florida’s natural economic growth would create to saying, “I don’t have to create any jobs.”) But this latest turn really is dizzying, as he’s saying that just because he applied for federal funding (that already had preconditions on it) doesn’t mean that he actually wants it, if it comes with any preconditions.