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Democratic gubernatorial candidates take aim at Republicans on Teacher Appreciation Day

Andrew Gillum is tussling with his possible opponent in the Florida gubernatorial race, Adam Putnam, over his failure to back Gillum’s plan to raise pay for Florida teachers.

That’s part of a rollout by Democrats on Teacher Appreciation Day highlighting their support for teachers’ issues, while they accuse Republicans of falling behind the curve.

Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor running for the Democratic nod for governor, has proposed raising corporate taxes from 5.5 percent to 7.75 percent to fund that pay raise. Gillum claims the tax hike will allow the state’s teachers to make $50,000 per year minimum, and will also pay for school infrastructure.

When asked about Gillum’s proposal to raise taxes to fund a pay raise, Putnam said, “I don’t think that’s the right formula.” He went on to say, “Our teachers are doing an extraordinary job. They want respect, they want to be honored, and they want to be treated like the professionals that they are. That includes pay. But if you ask teachers who are leaving teaching as a profession, pay is about sixth on the list. They want a governor who will have their back.”

Gillum called out Putnam for that response: “Only a multimillionaire like Adam Putnam would think that teachers don’t want or deserve a raise, and he’s sadly out of touch with Florida’s working families and teachers. I’m the only candidate with a plan to invest at least $1 billion in our public schools, students and teachers to make sure our kids are ready to succeed, and to ensure our teachers start their careers with a salary of $50,000 as they do their critical work.”

The Tallahassee mayor followed that up with a new education ad, touting his K-12 proposals and also highlighting the fact he was first in his family to graduate high school and college. “He’ll be a champion for our public school students, teachers and schools as Governor,” a statement for his campaign reads.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine also got in on the action with a $1 million ad buy focusing on his aim to raise teacher pay by $10,000.

“For too long, teachers and school personnel in Florida have been under constant attack. In our state, teachers are underpaid, and worse, underappreciated,” said the Levine campaign. “As Governor, we will make sure that Florida’s teachers are treated with respect and we raise our salaries to be competitive with the national average. As a product of Broward public schools, I will be committed to fighting for our school children in every neighborhood, so every child can earn a world-class education.”

The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee also put the spotlight on Republicans’ calls to arm teachers following the Parkland shooting in February.

“State Republicans have repeatedly chosen to divert funding from public schools to unregulated private schools,” a statement from the FDLCC reads. “Now, in the name of safety, they are beefing up security to the point where school campuses will look more like prisons — complete with metal detectors, see-through backpacks, and armed school personnel.

“Policies like these have strapped our teachers with inadequate wages and low morale, crippled our schools with meager budgets, and left our kids without the resources they need to excel. Florida deserves better.”

The FDLCC followed that up with a petition to invest more in Florida’s teachers. “On this Teacher’s Day, say you’ll take a stand with Florida’s Democrats.” The party clearly hopes their proposals for Florida teachers will lead to voters standing with them in November as well.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to

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