U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s bid to retake the Governor’s Mansion this year is getting a big funding infusion from the American Federation of Teachers.
AFT, which boasts more than 1.7 million members across 3,000 local affiliates nationwide, is donating $500,000 to help him win the upcoming Democratic Primary and then defeat Gov. Ron DeSantis in November.
That’s the biggest check Crist’s campaign accepted this election cycle, according to his fundraising filings with the Division of Elections. It follows $50,000 worth of contributions since June from the Florida Education Association, which has endorsed Crist along with United Teachers of Dade, Democratic Public Education Caucus of Florida and other such unions throughout the state.
Crist, a former state Senator who served as Florida’s 21st Education Commissioner and 35th Attorney General before assuming the governorship in 2007, said he is “incredibly grateful” for the continued support he’s received from education professionals.
“It’s deeply meaningful that our campaign’s single largest donation comes from the teachers who are working so hard to give our kids a bright future,” he said in a statement announcing the donation Wednesday.
Last month, Crist unveiled his “Freedom to Learn” policy plan meant to strengthen Florida’s public education system. The plan prioritizes shoring up Florida’s shortage of teachers and educational support staff by raising wages and benefits, addressing the reduction in reading scores attributed to the pandemic, expanding voluntary pre-K, improving school safety and ending the “unwarranted politicization of our classrooms,” among other goals.
He also endorsed three incumbent School Board members and several candidates in Hillsborough, Indian River, Lee, Marion, Pinellas and Polk counties.
“Under Ron DeSantis, Florida’s schools, teachers, staff, parents, and children are suffering,” Crist said.
“With the first day of school less than two weeks away, 9,000 positions remain unfilled. Instead of addressing this crisis, including paying our teachers better, this Governor is waging culture wars on our schools. When I am Governor, we’ll take the politics out of our classrooms and make sure our kids have the freedom to learn.”
On June 22, DeSantis signed the Freedom First Budget, which included $800 million for teacher pay increases — a larger sum than he originally called for in November — and the largest year-over-year increase in per-student spending in a decade.
Including the new round of funding the Governor signed in March, teachers in Florida have received $2 billion in salary increases in the last three years.
The Primary Election is Aug. 23, followed by the General Election Nov. 8.