Florida is applying for Race to the top Funds. Race to the Top is a competitive grant program from the federal government designed to reward states that are leading the way on education reforms that are new and innovative. Florida’s application is being spearheaded by Governor Rick Scott, a move that is a significant reversal of previous positions on federal grant funding.
Since taking office, Governor Rick Scott has openly and loudly rejected federal grant programs in his state, even going so far as to re-allocate the way stimulus funds approved before his tenure are being managed in the state budget. The Governor made news earlier this year for rejecting high-speed rail funds along with sending back money for child welfare visits. Scott says those moves were justified as is his Race to the Top application because it is a one-time influx of cash – a reversal of his previous position on single use funding.
However, even applying might not be so easy. When the state rejected funds for child welfare visits they became ineligible to apply for Race to the Top grants. In order to apply, they’d have to reverse course and accept the child welfare funds and then apply for Race to the Top. Both items would have to be approved by the conservative budget committee which sides with Scott on rejecting federal funding.
The budget committee opposes the child welfare grants because they are tied to federal health care reform. Florida is part of the group of states currently challenging the constitutionality of federal health care reform and the committee has so far rejected anything from the federal government that is tied to the bill. Early indications from the committee are that they have no intention of approving the funds regardless of the need for Race to the Top.
Florida’s Race to the Top application focuses on early childhood education programs. Florida has previously applied for and won Race to the top funding to reform its public schools.