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Adam Putnam weighs in on controversial education bill

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Adam Putnam, the leading Republican candidate for governor in 2018weighed in on the state’s massive K-12 public schools bill, which affects everything from charter schools to school uniforms.

Gov. Rick Scott “ought to take a hard look at vetoing [HB 7069],” Putnam said Tuesday according to AP reporter Gary Fineout.

Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner made his remarks before the monthly Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee, talking about the controversial 278-page bill passed earlier this month on the second to last night of the Legislative Session.

(You can see his comment via the Florida Channel here).

The bill’s premiere feature is $140 million for a new “Schools of Hope” program, which creates incentives for specialized charter schools to set up in low-income areas, which critics say will compete with struggling traditional public schools.

HB 7069 also gives $234 million in teacher bonuses, through both the contentious “Best & Brightest” program and a mechanism where “highly effective” teachers would get $1,200 in guaranteed bonuses for each of the next three school years.

Teachers ranked “effective” would potentially earn up to $800 each year, depending on available money.

While teachers’ unions, school board members and (seemingly) the entire Democratic Party establishment is against the bill, charter school and voucher advocates are strongly behind it.

“I have concerns about the way that bill, along with much of the budget, was fashioned completely in the dark and behind closed doors,” Putnam told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.

Putnam also criticized the process leading to the bill’s passage, saying: “Not only the public didn’t know what was in it, but some of the people voting didn’t know.”

His comments come a day after the Florida Democratic Party took Putnam to task, saying he was missing-in-action regarding his stand on what has become one of the most provocative bills to soon reach Scott’s desk.

“Florida voters deserve more than a feel-good bus tour from someone who claims he’s qualified to be the governor,” said FDP communications director Johanna Cervone said Monday. “Adam Putnam has been a politician since he was 22. He knows better, and he knows that he owes Florida voters an answer on HB 7069.

“Putnam needs to break his silence and give voters a straight answer: do you support a veto of HB 7069 — yes or no?”

The FDP said they were “demanding” Putnam issue a public statement on the matter immediately.

Chris King, Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham — three declared Democrats running for governor — have all publicly blasted HB 7069.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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