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Florida higher education upgrade: Do it right

“Nice guys finish last” is a rough bit of folk wisdom attributed to legendary baseball manager Leo Durocher. But it could describe what happened in Florida politics this past week.

Visiting an Orlando Catholic school on Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s No. 1 legislative priority, a sweeping 278-page education bill that included controversial provisions to benefit charter schools. Scott and Corcoran waged a bitter war of words for months over the governor’s top priority, funding for tourism marketing and economic development, before they came to a compromise in this month’s special session that included the dollars that Scott demanded.

Just a day before signing Corcoran’s bill, Scott vetoed one of Senate President Joe Negron’s priorities, an even-longer bill addressing higher education that significantly increased funding for universities and scholarships. Negron had supported the governor’s position on economic development, and refrained from attacking him over other policy disagreements. That civility didn’t bring him the policy victory he so coveted on higher education.

Scott’s veto was a cruel blow, not just to Negron. The bill would have established higher state funding levels for universities to invest in top faculty and research. It would have doubled need-based aid and Bright Futures scholarships for top students. It was a vehicle for Negron’s laudable goal of elevating Florida’s universities to elite status nationally.