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Crist Pushes ‘Freedom to Learn’ Plan to Improve Florida Public Education

As he was surrounded by parents, educators, and advocates, Democratic candidate Charlie Crist unveiled his newest plan, “Freedom to Learn,” aimed directly at strengthening Florida’s public education system so students can have the best opportunity to learn and succeed. Crist says his plan in the Florida Governor’s race puts students first to improve public education.

Crist also said Republican Governor Ron DeSantis was “failing Florida parents, students, and teachers.”

“Freedom to Learn is about focusing on great classrooms and great outcomes for our children — that’s what our Sunshine State families deserve,” said Charlie Crist. “Ron DeSanits has injected his right-wing politics into our classrooms to distract from his 9,000 empty classrooms and falling reading scores. Ron is failing Florida parents, students, and teachers. I’ll be an ‘Education Governor’ who improves our public education system, putting our students, parents, and teachers ahead of partisan politics.”

Crist’s Freedom to Learn, which has been endorsed by both the Democratic Public Education Caucus of Florida and the Florida Education Association, puts public education first and invests in the future of Florida’s children by declaring a teacher shortage emergency, ending the politicization of classrooms, investing in higher teacher and staff salaries, and expanding voluntary pre-k for Florida families.

Crist’s plan comes as Governor DeSantis continues his relentless attacks on public schools by punishing school boards, banning textbooks, and censoring history, all as Florida ranks 48th in teacher pay across the nation, including over 9,000 teacher and staff vacancies statewide for the upcoming school year.

“Every child, regardless of race, background, ZIP code or ability must receive the education they deserve and need. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of students in Florida are being robbed of that education due to a massive teacher and staff shortage that has gone un-responded to for far too long,” said FEA President Andrew Spar. “Congressman Crist’s Freedom to Learn plan, not only provides tangible actions and solutions to the massive teacher and staff shortage but goes further with real investments in high quality CTE programs and other supports for all of Florida’s children. This plan is the framework that should be used for all discussions around our public schools and the education of our kids.”

Crist’s Freedom to Learn Plan would:

  • Declare a teacher and staff shortage emergency
  • Increase teacher and non-instructional staff pay; starting salary beyond $47,500 and average veteran salary to the national average of $67,000 by 2026
  • Increase healthcare options
  • Increase per-student spending to the national average,
  • Stop the unwarranted politicization of our classrooms and attacks on educators,
  • Make Education Commissioner an elected position,
  • Harden schools against gun violence,
  • Get students back on track after pandemic learning loss
  • Expand voluntary Pre-K to 3-year-olds and expand all day Pre-K

“Over the past two decades, the Republican Party has created the current education crisis by failing to fully fund public education. Charlie Crist’s Freedom to Learn Plan is a welcome and overdue investment in our children’s and our economy’s future,” said Scott Hottenstein, President of the Democratic Public Education Caucus of Florida. “Charlie is not here for cultural wars, he’s here to deliver great outcomes for our students. Charlie knows that getting students back on track requires building a culture of trust and respect between parents, educators, students, and state and local officials. His plan to deliver better healthcare options to school districts is especially exciting because it is a tangible way to increase teacher pay immediately. While Governor DeSantis and Republicans seek to divide and conquer public education, Charlie Crist and Democrats seek to unite and create a better future for all our children. The Democratic Public Education Caucus of Florida looks forward to electing Charlie Crist as Governor so that he can fully fund public education, create great classrooms, and deliver great outcomes for students through his Freedom to Learn plan.”

Lawanna Gelzer for Orange County Commission District 6“As a parent, I was so impressed by Governor Crist’s Freedom to Learn Education plan. His plan addresses the true needs of our schools. Governor Crist recognizes that what parents want is the safe and high quality education that is guaranteed in the Florida Constitution. The Freedom to Learn plan addresses the massive teacher shortage that our state is facing. It addresses adequately funding our schools. And recognizes that no parent should have to worry about the safety of their children while they are away at school,” said Raegan Miller, education advocate and member of Parents for Crist. “Freedom to Learn is comprehensive and well thought out and I am truly excited about the positive impact it will have on education in the state of Florida.”

“There is no greater unifier than our children’s future,” said Brevard School Board Member Jennifer Jenkins. “Charlie Crist’s ‘Freedom to Learn’ agenda reestablishes the value of the most precious commodity in our communities, public education. He believes our schools perform when parents, educators, and students work together.  By preserving instructional autonomy, providing competitive compensation, and significantly increasing funding for special programs, Charlie Crist will ensure all of our children have a classroom with a qualified teacher, equipped with resources, at the forefront.”

Read more of the Crist education plan here.

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