Gov. Rick Scott: parental school choice “makes everybody better”

It’s not news that Florida Gov. Rick Scott is a strong supporter of parental school choice. But some of his comments Wednesday night in Tampa are still noteworthy. Scott was the keynote speaker at the annual donor appreciation dinner for the state’s tax credit scholarship program, which now serves more than 50,000 low-income students.

In the excerpts below, Scott refers to John Kirtley, who founded Step Up For Students and now serves as its chairman. Step Up administers the scholarship program and co-hosts this blog. Scott also refers to results released this week from a test called PIRLS – the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, which is given to a representative sampling of fourth graders from around the world. In reading, Florida students finished second only to their peers in Hong Kong. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll hear from Scott in the video:

Over 50 percent of the families in our state make less than $50,000 a year. Every one of them has the same goal we have: They want to be able to choose where their child gets an education …

I tell people all the time: you can get anything passed in Florida you want, if you can explain how it impacts a family making $40,000 a year. This impacts families making $40,000 a year. Families like mine that lived in public housing. Families like mine that the father never had a job at Christmas. Families like mine that didn’t have the money to pay for junior college, college …

If every child has a choice, then the thing I ran on – getting the state back to work – will actually happen. There is no reason for this state not to be No. 1 in job creation. But the only way that’s going to happen is through a great education system. And a key component of that is choice, which makes everybody better and gives different students – like my daughters are both different – different opportunities. …

What John started, what you’re continuing, is forcing the rest of the country to change. Because they see how well Florida is doing. I don’t know if you saw the numbers yesterday, but everybody can be proud of our students. In the international test, we’re right at the top. We weren’t at the bottom. We were at the top.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at