"I try to avoid rankings," said Jim Palmer, a professor and editor of Grapevine. "You’ve got 50 different state systems ... you have to wonder what the rankings really mean. If one state ranks lower than another does that mean the higher education system is not as good? I can’t make that judgment."
We were surprised to find Florida gave more money per capita than Massachusetts and asked Palmer to elaborate.
"The history of education in Massachusetts is not as reliant on the public sector as it has been in Florida. The private sector looms large in Massachusetts going back to Harvard. ... Florida devoted itself to developing a strong community college system -- stronger than New England."
Palmer directed us to the State Higher Education Executive Officers, a group that publishes a report using Grapevine's state data along with other sources of funds, including local dollars and stimulus money. It also takes into account factors such as cost-of-living.
That report showed Florida at $5,130 -- ahead of about 20 states.
Rich said, "We’re 48th in K-12 funding and 50th in higher education."
There are lots of different valid ways to measure education funding. One way is to compare how much money a state provides for education per pupil, and by that measure Florida ranked 48th according to the Census. That’s a valid way to look at the numbers because it was in the context of Rich criticizing the governor who signs the state budget. However, it’s one of several ways to measure school spending.
For higher education spending, the National Education Association ranked Florida 50th for state and local expenditures in 2009-10. But other more recent analysis we reviewed showed Florida higher than 50th. One measure showed Florida ahead of about 20 states.
We rate this claim Half True.