Charlie Crist Launches ‘Freedom to Learn’ Policy for Florida Public Schools

Credit: Crist for Governor campaign

By Giselle Balido

July 20, 2022

After calling out Gov. DeSantis for banning classroom discussions on race and LGBTQ matters, Crist focused on low-level teacher pay and benefits.

Charlie Crist, the US Congressman running to unseat Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in November, has launched an education-focused policy platform called “Freedom to Learn.”

During a press conference held Tuesday in Tampa, the Democrat, who reminded his audience that he was Florida Education Commissioner in 2000, called out DeSantis for his handling of the state’s education system.

After criticizing DeSantis’ measures to ban classrooms discussions on race and LGBTQ matters, Crist focused on low-level teacher pay.

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“The conditions are not good. The pay is not right. Everything is wrong under Wrong Ron,” Crist said.

This sentiment is backed up by the Florida Education Association (FEA), a statewide teacher union that supports Crist. According to FEA, DeSantis’ pay increases have not done enough to raise the salaries of experienced veteran teachers.

“[DeSantis’] salary compression leaves veteran teachers out to dry,” Crist said.

In fact, based on 2021 data, the National Education Association research shows Florida’s average teacher pay at $51,009, ranking 48th in the nation.

Crist then laid out some of his policy plans for education, such as:

  • Investing $5.5 billion to increase teacher pay.
  • Giving districts the option of joining the state’s health plan. Under Crist’s plan, districts would use the money they save on health, to provide higher salaries for educators and non-instructional staff.
  • Reinstating the Commissioner of Education as an elected position, rather than appointed, as Florida Democratic lawmakers proposed in the 2022 legislative session. The bill did not pass in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
  • Raising per-student spending in the state budget. Florida ranks 44th in the nation with NEA data showing a per-student figure of $10,703.

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His interest in education is, Crist says, “in my DNA. My father was on the Pinellas County School Board. Two of my three sisters were public school teachers. I graduated from one of our great state universities (Florida State University) … I told you, I’m a public-school kid.”


  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.



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