SWEETWATER (CBS4)- Governor Rick Scott invited the Miami-Dade legislative delegation to lunch Tuesday at a restaurant in Sweetwater. But Sweetwater cops providing security appeared to outnumber the luncheon guests.
No Democrats attended the function, and many Republicans were no-shows as Scott battles polling numbers that show he has the lowest approval rating of any governor in the country.
Scott brushed off the opinion polling, telling reporters he is “focused on creating jobs.”
The governor is catching criticism from many for a state budget that slashes funding to education in general, and to early education programs for pre-schoolers and young children from low-income families.
Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus and North Miami Beach Police Chief Rafael Hernandez recently decried cuts to early childhood education and daycare for disadvantaged kids.
“We have to make sure that we do something in early education,” Hernandez said at an event where he and Loftus read to kids in a program at a United Way facility that could feel the budget cuts. “We have to invest in our children.”
The top cops said it is a pay now or pay much later situation.
Loftus said kids who don’t get a good education, starting early, are more likely to go on to commit crime, end up in juvenile court, go to prison and cost taxpayers more in the long run.
“Let’s get these kids before they’re afflicted by this. Let’s get these kids early,” Loftus said.
Scott spoke with reporters outside The Catch of the Day restaurant at the Dolphin Mall in Sweetwater.
“Oh, gosh, we did a great job this year for needy children,” Scott said. “At the state level we kept our funding the way it was.”
In fact, the state budget cuts public education funding in the coming year by $1.35 Billion. Programs for pre-schoolers, and instruction and daycare for young children from low-come families, were cut by $68 million.
Reminded of this by a reporter, Scott nonetheless insisted that “we’ve put the money back into education. We’ve improved our education system.”
Scott also said he continues to support “good charter schools” – schools operated by private, for-profit firms at public expense – despite a CBS4 analysis of recent FCAT scores that showed charter schools received “F” grades at a rate more than seven times that of public schools.