If Republicans believe in smaller government and world-class education, why do we have neither?
In one breath Rubio complains about people paying “taxes they can’t afford to pay.” In the next, he laments the lack of investment in “a world-class curriculum.”
Right after Rubio spoke to the business writers, Senate President Ken Pruitt came up. He totally avoided the smaller-government routine (which should give you an idea of where any grand ideas of Rubio & Co. might end up). But he echoed the theme of business-purposed education.
“It’s about education — world-class education,” he said, adding his support for giving universities “the base funding they need” and pointing to Florida’s “more knowledge-based economy.” Then he mused, “How many more philosophers do we have to have in the state of Florida?”
He really said that. Maybe if we cut out all the philosophy departments, we could produce world-class physics departments? Hey, how about English lit? If we don’t need Aristotle, why Shakespeare and Faulkner? They probably don’t read that in China anyway.
Crist, meanwhile, was crowing about an Education Week ranking that he said put Florida 14th in the nation in education performance, up from 31st the year before. Well, OK. The Education Week “Quality Counts” report gave Florida a C+, while the nation as a whole got a C. We got an F in college readiness, C’s in achievement, B’s in standards. We got a C- in education funding.
But wait — there’s more
And it’s not just education that’s getting more rhetoric than investment.
If we doubled the general taxes of this state for a year, it would not pay for the backlog in transportation needs that has built up over years of unmanaged growth and underfunded road building.
And growth management? “Do away with DCA,” someone in the audience called out during Rubio’s talk. DCA is the Department of Community Affairs, which reviews local-government decisions on major developments.
“Anything you want,” replied Rubio, but first a House review process has to work through the possibilities. DCA would at least be a bold proposal. It certainly counts as one of the least effective government agencies in that responsibility, mainly because developer-loving governors of both parties have never really and truly wanted it to be anything else.
“I obviously believe with all my heart,” Rubio said, that this year presents “more than just challenges and crisis ... an opportunity to redefine Florida’s economy, to redefine Florida’s government and set it up for the next 50 years.”
But higher ambition requires clarity of vision and the same salesmanship that Crist and others put into tax cuts. Will we see, out of this Legislature or in this election year, a political leader crisscrossing the state advocating a serious investment in “world-class education”? Or in other fundamental challenges like transportation and growth?
Nah. Talk is much cheaper.