Politics
6:15 pm
Wed October 17, 2012

Analyst: Rick Scott Begins Unofficial Reelection Bid With Focus On Teachers

Gov. Rick Scott is trying to appease educators.

They didn’t like it when he chopped $1.3 billion in education funding from the state budget.

They liked it even less when he called for an expansion of charter schools and other alternatives to traditional public schools.

So, while most people are focused on the November ballot, USF Political Scientist Seth McKee says Scott appears to be ramping up his 2014 reelection campaign by extending an olive branch to teachers.

“I think when you’re running ads about education and that you’re trying to improve it, clearly that looks like a campaign ad,” McKee says. “To me, that’s the best anecdotal evidence I’ve seen just from the perspective of a voter that he’s running for reelection.”

Scott has hobnobbed with union leaders and hosted listening sessions with public school teachers.

He also put $1 billion back into education this year.

Now, he’s pledging $2 million  for teacher training next year.

McKee thinks the turnaround may be connected to Scott’s low approval ratings, which are below 40 percent.

“You’ve got to do something fantastic if that’s where you tend to sit as an approval rating to having any chance of winning reelection,” McKee says.

Scott could get an inadvertent boost in his reelection bid as the economy makes a slow plod toward recovery.

McKee says any improvement will help Scott, even if the majority of voters still don’t like him.

“When the economy improves, it generically helps politicians almost regardless of who they are,” McKee says. “So, if things turn the corner and this job growth can heat up, he will benefit. I mean, there’s no question about that. The question is, is it enough?”

The governor has said his efforts are all related to job creation. He says a strong education system will lure companies and high-paying jobs to the state.