Florida teachers are backing former Gov. Charlie Crist in his effort to get his old job back.
Crist received the endorsement of the Florida Education Association (FEA) on Saturday, after he gave a speech to the group that represents more than 140,000 K-12 teachers, faculty and educational professionals throughout the state.
“As teachers, education staff professionals and supporters of public education, we must make a commitment to change,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “We believe that change is Charlie Crist. We need a governor who truly believes in the promise of quality public education, is experienced enough to envision an agenda that builds on that promise and is equipped with the political courage to insist that partisan politics yield to the needs of our public schools and our public school students.”
Ford cited his disappointment with incumbent Gov. Rick Scott as the main reason for Saturday’s announcement.
“Four years ago, Rick Scott said his top priority was to give corporations tax breaks,” he said. “And the very first thing he did as governor was cut $1.3 billion from our public schools and gave it away as corporate tax breaks. We need a governor who will make our schools a priority.”
In a statement, Ford said the FEA committee of members and leaders recommended Crist after declaring they needed a governor who believes “local public schools are one of our state’s greatest resources.”
“Charlie Crist understands that our public schools belong to all of us: the students who learn in them, the parents who support them, the educators and staff who work in them and the communities that they serve,” he added.
In response, Crist released the following statement:
“As a public school kid and graduate of our State University System, I am committed to public education. My dad served on the Pinellas County School Board, and two of my three sisters were public school teachers. There is nothing more important to our economy than improving our public schools, and as everyone knows, a world class education system is built on the foundation of a quality teacher for every student. Scott’s first budget attempted to cut $4.8 billion from our public schools, which would have cost tens of thousands of teachers their jobs.
“When I was Governor, I worked to save the jobs of 20,000 teachers, and we saw record high school graduation rates. My first budget will fully restore student funding to the high levels when I was Governor, because if you give me the honor of serving as your Governor, I will wake up every day asking the simple question: what are we doing today to help our students succeed.”