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Freedom to Learn

Charlie Crist’s plan to improve pre-K through 12 public education

Topline: As Florida’s last elected Commissioner of Education, Charlie will be a governor who guarantees a world class education for every Florida student. Just as he did when he was your Education Commissioner and your Governor, Charlie is going to put education first and invest in our children’s future.

As Governor, Charlie will:

  • Declare a teacher shortage emergency and aggressively begin recruiting teachers and education support staff to fill 9,000 empty classrooms and other critical education positions;
  • Listen to and respect parents while easing their pain of politicized classrooms and pandemic learning loss, including the reduction in reading scores over the past few years;
  • Invest in higher teacher pay by bringing starting salary beyond $47,500 and veteran salary to national average of $67,000; increase investments in students to enhance curriculum and improve ESE and CTE education;
  • Expand voluntary pre-kindergarten to 3-year-olds, increase availability of all-day pre-K;
  • Make schools safer by building a culture and climate of trust and respect
    between parents, teachers, students, non-instructional staff, elected officials, and law enforcement.

Charlie’s “Freedom to Learn” plan will put educating Florida’s children first.

Charlie’s Plan Will:

  • Declare 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 health care options
  • Qualify teachers for special risk retirement
  • Increase per-student spending to the national average
  • Stop the unwarranted politicization of our classrooms and attacks on educators
  • Improve Exceptional Student Education
  • Restore local control and respect the separation of powers under Florida’s
  • Make Education Commissioner an elected position
  • Harden schools against gun violence
  • Foster cooperation between schools and community partners to reduce threat of violence
  • Get students back on track after pandemic learning loss
  • Expand voluntary Pre-K to 3-year-olds and expand all day Pre-K
  • Expand access to AP, IB, and community college dual credits
  • Provide additional CTE flexibility to meet local workforce needs
  • Expand CTE to include entrepreneurial and leadership training
  • Hire more school counselors
  • Invest in STEM
  • Invest in reasoning, problem-solving, and life skills in the curriculum

More on the Freedom to Learn Plan:

Creates great classrooms.

Ending teacher and non-instructional staff shortage emergency.

  • Florida has 9,000 empty classrooms along with severe bus driver and custodial staff shortages.
  • Charlie’s mother and two sisters are public school teachers. He respects teachers and support staff for the professionals they are. While a governor cannot legislate respect, their words and actions set the tone.
  • Charlie will aggressively recruit teachers and school support staff with the same vigor that he’ll recruit new businesses to our state.With our beautiful weather, low taxes, environment, and quality of life, Florida should be the destination for education professionals.
  • Charlie will strengthen the pipeline for educators from high school to higher education to Florida classrooms. He’ll expand incentives to study in Florida colleges and stay and teach in Florida.
  • So many of us know a great teacher who was forced to leave the profession due to an unexpected expense or issue. As governor, Charlie will focus on what we need to keep teachers in place, with the goal of supporting and retaining educators. Charlie does not want one more teacher to have to make the choice between sticking with the profession they love and dealing with life’s unexpected moments.

Raising teacher and non-instructional staff pay, both starting and overall


  • Over 4 years as Governor, Charlie will invest over $5.5 billion to
    increase teacher pay to the national average.
  • He’ll bring starting salary beyond $47,500 and veteran salary to the
    national average of $67,000.
  • As salary compression leaves veteran teachers to fend for
    themselves or leave the profession altogether, Charlie wants to
    reward experienced educators and keep them in the classroom.

Increase health care options

  • After hearing from educators and support staff that healthcare costs continue to chip away at take-home pay, Charlie will give districts the option to enroll in the state employee health plan. Teachers and non-instructional staff are public employees, too.
  • The state will even pick up the tab if districts use existing expenditures to increase teacher and non-instructional staff pay.
  • The district and the union will decide how to allocate the salary increase.
  • If educators can have health insurance that costs less and delivers more, along with a meaningful pay increase, that is a win-win -win for teachers, students, and classrooms.

Qualify teachers for special risk retirement.

  • Florida teachers were essential to educating students during the darkest during the darkest days of the pandemic. Many teachers and support staff died from COVID.
  • Additionally, and unfortunately, school employees are the first line of defense during a school shooting.
  • It’s past time we recognize the enhanced risk of the education profession by qualifying teachers and support staff for special risk retirement.

Increase investment in per-student spending.

  • In real dollars, per-student spending was higher under Governor Crist, and he’ll do it again.
  • Investing billions of additional dollars in Florida students will expand curriculums, make classrooms safer, improve ESE, and prepare students to be successful in college, their jobs, and their lives.
  • With Florida poised to lead the nation in Space, the Crist Administration will redouble our efforts in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and will invest in students’ reasoning and problem-solving skills.
  • Charlie listens to parents and trusts that they want what is best for their children. Parents know that students learn life skills alongside their academics at school and at home.

Getting politics out of our schools.

  • Parents send their children to school to learn. Injecting politics into our schools hurts students and disrupts their education.
  • This is the real indoctrination happening in schools — not Critical Race Theory and Don’t Say Gay. Those are not and never have been taught in our public schools.
  • Classrooms should be above politics, and as Governor, Charlie will hold this principle sacrosanct.
  • As the last elected Education Commissioner, Charlie knows what it’s like to be accountable to the people. We’re seeing what happens when Education Commissioners are only accountable to the governor: banning books, micromanaging lessons, and disrupting learning. If elected, Charlie will work to put parents back in charge by once again letting the people elect their Education Commissioner.
  • Charlie will return power to elected local school boards, those closest to the community, to do the right thing for our schools and their communities. Local control means local decision-making.

Creating safe classrooms.

  • It’s not fair that Florida students master how to hide from active shooters before they learn how to read and write.
  • In Congress, Charlie secured funding to harden Florida schools, improving school safety, and making schools a much more difficult target for would-be shooters.
  • No student or teacher should feel unsafe because violence in the community spills over into school. Charlie will encourage cooperation between schools and community partners to reduce the threat of violence in the classroom.
  • Students deserve safe technology so they are not vulnerable to predators or privacy violations from large corporations or foreign countries.
  • Charlie will work to make school safe and accessible for all students. When he was Education Commissioner, he stood up against anti-gay bullying because we’re all children of God. Our public schools exist for all students, and ALL students should feel loved, safe, and supported. This isn’t “grooming” or “indoctrination.” This is the Golden Rule — treat others the way you want to be treated. Charlie will focus on teaching and learning — not making up imaginary culture war issues that divide and distract.

Delivers great outcomes for students.

Making up for the learning loss.

  • Between pandemic lockdowns, mental and behavioral health issues, and DeSantis’ teacher shortage emergency, students are falling behind.
  • 1 in 4 3rd graders scored the lowest mark possible on state language arts assessment this year — the worst since the test was introduced in 2015.
  • As Governor, Charlie will work to recruit community leaders, seniors, pastors, and business professionals and train them to tutor students and help get them back on track.
  • It should not just be on teachers and parents. Having students proficient in core subjects like reading matters to all of us and we all should be part of the solution.
  • If the achievement losses become permanent and we do not give districts and teachers the flexibility, time, and resources they need, there will be major implications on future earnings, crime, and other inequities.

Renewed commitment to Exceptional Student Education

  • Parents of ESE students want the same quality education as anyone else, but these days, ESE services are being scaled back.
  • With community fears that disability scholarships will serve fewer children and provide fewer options, it’s more important than ever that students are provided with a range of educational opportunities that meet their needs.
  • Governor Crist will invest in the individualized education and services ESE students need to succeed.

Expanding VPK (voluntary pre-kindergarten) to 3-year-olds.

  • By expanding investments in voluntary pre-kindergarten and making 3-year-olds eligible, more children in the State of Florida will be ready to hit the ground running in kindergarten.
  • This is especially critical for children with developmental disabilities, who often do not get the care and support they need until they’re eligible for VPK.
  • He’ll also work to increase availability for all-day pre-K so parents can work.

Enhancing partnerships with Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and community college dual credit, so Florida’s college-bound students can start with a leg up.

  • Politicizing classrooms and culture wars are jeopardizing Florida students’ access to Advanced Placement credit. As Governor, Charlie will encourage schools to offer more AP, IB, and dual credit partnerships with community colleges.

Increasing and improving career, technical, and entrepreneurial (CTE) training and apprenticeships.

  • Charlie will expand and support high-quality CTE programs staffed with highly trained and certified teachers and staff.
  • He’ll help districts set up new CTE programs with the flexibility to meet local workforce needs.
  • In Monroe County, getting students certified in boat engine repair does not count due to Tallahassee-knows-best regulations.
  • As early as middle school, students can find their path with the support of an adequate supply of school counselors.
  • Crist will expand CTE to include entrepreneurial and leadership training to equip students with the life skills they need to succeed.
  • Delivering on CTE is good for students, good for Florida’s workforce needs, and good for graduation rates — 93% of students who participate in a high quality CTE program graduate and 70% go on to college.


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